Graduation Rates among Football Athlete Students

NCAA Division I College Male Football and Basketball Players Receiving Financial Compensation for Playing in Games

Much controversy and disagreement surrounds pay for play for football and basketball players in the NCAA Division I of college sports. And while it does at first thought appear to be something that would not be in the opinion of most intelligent individuals to be what would be called ‘best practice’ upon conduction of research one finds that there are very good reasons for college players to receive pay for play. One reason is based on the fact that, these players, unlike other scholarship players do not have time for part-time jobs due to the stringent demands placed upon them in relation to training and practice and not to even mention academic requirements. Also stated is that many times there is a gap between the scholarship provisions and the cost of school. The questions which arise when conducting research of what do the young men from low-income families do for their spending money and how do those who are not eligible for loans pay for the costs that are not covered in the scholarship provisions? The argument from both sides of this debate have valid points for consideration and there are several ways of looking at or perceiving this topic. This work in research attempts to present each side of the debate as to whether college student-athletes in the NCAA Division I should be entitled to receive pay for play.

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Graduation Rates among Football Athlete Students
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There is plenty of evidence available to support college student athletes receiving pay or compensation due to the many hours that they are tied up with training, practice, review of games, and the actual playing of college sports however, just as many valid arguments it seems exist are the basis or reason that these college student-athletes should not receive compensation including the complications that would inherently exist when Title IX is considered. The monies are readily available to provide these college student-athletes with some type of compensation if nothing other than filling in the gap between scholarship provisions and the actual costs of attending college and it is certain that the NCAA must critically address some of these financial problems that exist for the college student-athletes and it is just as certain that with a 300% increase in revenue over the past decade that the colleges have the means to assist these young college student-athletes. The debate is an intense one and supported on both sides with rational and cognitive thinking concerning the issue and yet, the issue remains unsolved.


NCAA – National College Association of Athletes

Title IX – Legislation that forbids discrimination in college sports based on the gender of a player.

Pay-for-Play- Compensation paid to a college student-athlete for playing college sports.

NFL – National Football League


The scope of this study encompasses a review of all available literature containing facts relating to this study that has been published in newspapers (both online and offline) journal articles, special reports, sports reports and any literature that is from a valid and respected source which relates to the debate of whether NCAA college student-athletes should receive ‘pay-for-play’ or compensation for playing college sports.


This study is limited only in that there may be literature not readily available for the review of the researcher due to limitations of time and limitations in access to certain information or publications at this time unknown to the researcher.


All Division I colleges have the money to pay Division I football and Basketball players if they budget properly and cut programs.


All information reviewed in this study is from reliable sources and it is the actual belief of the researcher in this study that college student-athletes should receive compensation for playing college sports due to the demands upon the athletes in terms of the expenditure of time required.


Studies previously conducted in this area that examine the revenue of NCAA colleges suggest that there is more than enough money to pay the Division I football and basketball players.




The methodology of this research is one of a qualitative nature. Qualitative research is investigative and interpretive research and is considered a valid form of research for a study that seeks to examine social phenomena such as is illustrated in the debate surrounding ‘pay-for-play’ for college student-athletes.


Over the past few years the issue of compensation or ‘pay-for-play’ has generated quite a debate and yet with no solution. It is believed that this study will add to previous research conducted in this subject area.


The instrument used in this research initiative is that of a review of literature. The research was conducted through the search engine ‘Google’ and with the search terms inclusive of the following phrases:



College student-athletes

NCAA Division I


Many of the college student-athletes attending colleges across the country and participating in sports are attending college on scholarships that do not completely pay for the costs in attending the college. The college student-athlete, if allowed to do so, does not have the time available to work even part-time in combination with their academic requirements and athletic demands. Some believe that college student-athletes should receive compensation or ‘pay-for-play’ while other vehemently believe that these college student-athletes should not receive any compensation whatsoever for the time expended practicing, training, and playing college sports.




The work of Carolton Weatherby and Macharia Edmonds entitled: “Student Athletes: America’s Unpaid WorkForce” states that: “For the student athlete in America, life in college is not easy at all. As a matter of fact, referring to the life of a collegiate student-athlete as difficult would be an absolute understatement. In addition to the everyday struggles of the average student, whom does not represent their university in intercollegiate athletics, the student-athlete must fulfill a major commitment to the sports team he or she represents for the good of the institution. With the constant academic commitment to lectures, sections, papers, problem sets, office hours, programs midterms, finals, and other strenuous curricular responsibilities expected of today’s standard college students, the student-athlete engages in additional arduous athletic obligations such as training, traveling, meeting, practicing and playing with their respected teams. This coupled commitment makes the life of a student-athlete very stressful, tiring and sometimes impossible to the point where you must pick one or the other. ” (nd) This work goes on to relate the fact that the sport is equivalent to a full-time job for these athletes who spend countless hours in training instead of doing what other college students do in their free time. Many times these athletes are not free to spend holidays at home due to games or tournaments that are scheduled closely around the holidays. Weatherby and Edmonds state that “…there is no question that more time is spent on the field or court than in the classroom. Studies have estimated that student-athletes in the revenue-generating sports of college athletics spend approximately forty hours per week in preparation for their respective sports, which is an incredible amount of time towards work considering that simultaneously a great deal of time is required for attending class and class preparation. In truth, athletics have a clear dominance of priority over academics in the life of the student-athlete. A student must make sincere effort and take the initiative toward finding time available for academics.” (nd) Weatherby and Edmonds severely question the policy of colleges in not paying their college athletes by stating that “…it is pretty commonly accepted that the U.S. is a capitalistic society. Many people argue every day for getting ‘their fair share’ or ‘what they deserve’ through their labor.” (nd) Therefore the work of Weatherby and Edmonds examine is the “revenues of the college athletics departments and compare those to the amount of financial aid athletes receive” (nd) The following chart labeled Figure 1 in this study shows the Men’s program revenues in Football and Basketball as cited by Weatherby and Edmonds (nd).

Revenues by Athletics Program Division I-A

Fiscal Years 1989, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001

Dollars in Thousands)

Source: Weatherby & Edmonds (nd)

As seen in the above chart the sports of football and basketball generate large revenues and have almost tripled their revenues between the years of 1989 and 2001. The following chart labeled Figure 2 illustrates the ‘largest reported revenues by sport’ in Division I — A for football and men’s basketball.

Largest Reported Revenues by Sport

Division I-A

Dollars in Thousands)

Weatherby & Edmonds (nd)

The foregoing chart illustrates the fact that “top programs are able to generate extremely large revenues each year and again, the revenues are getting bigger.” (Weatherby & Edmonds, nd) Weatherby & Edmonds (nd) One argument consistently made by individuals that are against paying student-athletes is that the student-athlete receives a free education so in effect they are receiving something for their services. But examining graduation rats of some universities does not support this statement at all. The following is a list with an accompanying chart showing the graduation rates from several universities across the United States basketball teams.

School Basketball Percentage Graduated

Stanford University 100%

UCLA 36%

University of South California 36%

University of Oregon 33%

Washington State University 33%

Arizona State University 33%

Oregon State University 23%

University of Washington 22%

University of Arizona 15%

University of California-Berkley 15% (Weatherby & Edmonds, nd)

Graduation Rates among Basketball Athlete Students

Chapter 4: Measuring Results – 4%

Weatherby & Edmonds (nd)

Source: Weatherby & Edmonds (nd)

The rates for athlete-students football players graduation rates do not look much better as the following list and accompanying chart will illustrate.

School Football Percentage Graduated

Stanford University 82%

University of Oregon 68%

University of Southern California 65%

University of Arizona 61%

UCLA 61%

University of Washington 60%

Washington State University 54%

University of California-Berkeley 49%

Arizona State University 44%

Oregon State University 35% (Weatherby & Edmonds, nd)

Graduation Rates among Football Athlete Students

Source: Weatherby & Edmonds (nd)

Examination of the foregoing statistics does not present a basis upon which to support the argument that states that college athletes receive a free education because many of them in the long run are not in actuality receiving an education. (Weatherby & Edmonds, nd; paraphrased) The Journal of the Business Law Society published an article on March 23, 2005 entitled: “Pay to Play: Should College Athletes Be Paid?” attempts an answer to this dilemma and states that: “The reality is that college sports programs, namely the “big name” programs such as football and basketball programs at marquee schools, are businesses that stand to make a large amount of money for their respective schools.” (2005)

According to an article in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, “[i]n the past twelve years, the amount of money generated by these two sports has increased nearly 300%, such that they now fund almost all other sports programs. 41 Harv. J. On Legis. 319. The student-athletes who participate in these programs are part of the reason why these schools stand to make such handsome profits: through ticket sales, endorsement deals, broadcasting deals, and jersey sales (although player names cannot be represented on jerseys), among other things.” (The Journal of the Business Law Society, 2005)

Again the arguments arise that student athletes are receiving scholarships however this journal article states that the truth is that “full scholarships do not always entirely cover tuition and the cost of living. However, these students can still do what a majority of students do, which is to get loans. Still some of these student-athletes do not qualify for such loans, so there is still a gap between the money they get and the total cost of attendance. This gap, coupled with the fact that football and basketball players help generate so much revenue, has caused some intercollegiate teams to provide their athletes with extra compensation, which is in direct violation of NCAA bylaws. 41 Harv. J. On Legis. 319. ” (Ibid) However, there are substantial arguments existing against paying student-athletes which of course include the Title IX issue which would cause all kinds of complications specifically if male athletes were paid more than female athletes. Other arguments pointed out by The Journal of the Business Law Society (2005) are the “significant gap in talent” that would result between the rich and poor schools as well as the lessening of competition which would effectively lessen the attendance at games and the resulting revenue as well.

The main problem states The Journal of the Business Law Society is “that it is not the college’s primary function. The primary function of academic institutions is to educate, and not to hire student-athletes for their contributions.” (2005) Stated as well is the inequity it would cause in the long-run for the athletes themselves as they were unduly influenced for a college and against another due to financial matters. The journal article does relate that even though there are strong arguments against paying student-athletes still “there are certain problems with the current NCAA system which can and should be cured. The gap between a full scholarship and the cost of attendance should be covered by the academic institution, especially when the student athlete does not qualify for a loan.” (Ibid) This would ensure that students don’t leave college with an unfinished education to play professional sports. (The Journal of the Business Law Society, 2005)

USA Today Sports in the article entitled: “Pros, Cons on Pay for Play” states the following points as to “Why Pay for Play is Good” Players are entitled to some compensation because of the revenue they bring in and the risk of injury they face.

Athletes from poor backgrounds cannot rely on their families for money, and because of the demand of the sport, they have no time for jobs.

The money that football and men’s basketball programs make should go back to those athletes rather than pay for the other sports at school.

Paying athletes might help stem the tide of those going pro-early.

Paying athletes could curb abuses such as players taking money from boosters or agents. (USA Today Sports, 2004)

Listed under ‘what they say’ is “They are unpaid workers, and in big-time college athletics, not just football, there are no amateurs. Whenever you get something of value for performing athletically, you’re a professional. They call it a scholarship, fees, books, tuition and so forth. What I want is the athlete to have some spendable money.” (Nebraska, Senator Ernie Chambers, a longtime supporter of providing stipends to college athletes, who submitted a bill 2003 that would allow football players at Nebraska to be paid a stipend)

Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair. I’m at the No. 1 football school in the country right now, and I’m struggling to get groceries every month.” (Oklahoma center Vince Carter before his football played LSU in the BCS national championship) (USA Today Sports, 2004)

Listed as reasons why pay for play won’t work are those as follows:

Paying only men’s basketball and football players would be challenged in court. Title IX suits would be filed because female athletes wouldn’t get similar funds.

Where would the money come from? Most athletic departments do not make a profit.

Non-revenue sports would have to be cut because there wouldn’t be sufficient funds.(USA Today Sports, 2004)

The work entitled: “Despite NCAA Concessions, Pay for Play is Wrong Way” states that college football “is not a minor league for the NFL, and it’s not a place for athletes to make money playing a game. College football is passion and pageantry and everything the NFL is not.” Stated further is that while the athletic budget for the University of Florida is $44 million for the 2000-2001-year there will only be a surplus of $400,000 and the majority of that will be used for “repaving the track.” (Hayes, The Sporting News, 2001)




It is the opinion of this researcher that college student-athletes should receive pay or at the very least some type of compensation for the time expended in practicing, training, and playing college sports. The reason this is believed is because of the gap that exist in scholarships and the actual costs of attending college and the fact that there is not time whatsoever available in the schedule of these students to work even part-time and most colleges do not allow their student-athletes to work due to the conflict that is incurred insofar as practice, training and game schedules.


It is the belief of the research that substantial evidence has been offered as proof that the college student-athlete deserves compensation of some form for the time expended related to playing college sports on the part of the student-athlete.


The researcher holds that future studies in this area are critical if a reasonable and satisfactory method of compensating college student-athletes is to be established.


Cody, Jason (1997) Getting Paid To Play – Cyburr Online Available at http://Burr.Kent.Edu/Archives/1997/Fall/Ncaa.html

Recent Developments Payment For College Football Players In Nebraska (2002) Online available at http://Www.Law.Harvard.Edu/Students/Orgs/Jol/Vol41_1/Skidmore.Php

Lopiano, Donna (2004)Football Doesn’t Need Title IX Protection Wed” Online available at; Http://Www.Womensportsfoundation.Org/Cgi-Bin/Iowa/Issues/Rights/Article.Html?Record=131

Pay To Play: Should College Athletes Be Paid? (2005) The Journal Of The Business Law Society Online Available at http://Iblsjournal.Typepad.Com/Illinois_Business_Law_Soc/2005/03/Does_It_ Make_Se.html

Pros, Cons On Pay For Play (2004) USA Today Sports Online available at http://Www.Usatoday.Com/Sports/2004-08-31-Pros-Cons-Pay_X.htm

Hayes, Matt (2001) Despite NCAA Concessions -Pay For Play Is Wrong Way – The Sporting News. May 14, 2001. Online Available at http://Www.Findarticles.Com/P/Articles/Mi_M1208/Is_20_225/Ai_74800763

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