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Jake Fischer Headshot

Paying NCAA Athletes: Stop Ignoring The 99%

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This week, I walked 25 minutes from the center of Northeastern University's campus in Boston to the school's multi-purpose field in Brookline to watch the men's soccer team take on the Fordham Rams. I'm tag-teaming the soccer beat with another college kid for the school's independent student newspaper, The Huntington News.

After I climbed up the flight of aluminum bleacher stairs to the field's press box, settled into my seat and plugged the tangled yellow Ethernet cord into my laptop, I took a moment to breath in the beautiful autumn afternoon. Then a sharp glare struck me out of the brief moment of reflection, a blaze that was bouncing off the vacant bleachers from the sun and directly into my eyes.

According to the school's athletics website, the attendance at the match was a whopping 187.

Bullshit.

Aside from a few of the Huskies players' families and a few students who schlepped to the field -- spectators who all viewed the game free of charge -- nobody was attending this early-season Division I men's soccer contest, despite the recent success of Northeastern's program that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.

Which got me thinking, if the likes of Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Doug McDermott and Andrew Wiggins are to be paid as NCAA Division I student-athletes, then so should the Northeastern soccer players, right? Those same soccer players who participated in a game that generated absolutely zero income for Northeastern University and, when you consider scholarship money and several other expenses, frankly cost them plenty of Benjamin Franklins.

Now, the concept and argument that NCAA student-athletes should be paid is one that is vastly complex and even confusing. But essentially, it comes down to the fact that people -- mostly "esteemed national journalists" -- feel it's unjust that the NCAA and its thousands of institutions reap financial benefit off of the student-athletes that give so much to their respective teams for no compensation whatsoever.

Jay Bilas did his best to embarrass the NCAA for selling players' football and basketball jerseys online just a few weeks ago.

And, while I agree with Bilas that the NCAA is more often a blood-sucking, ruthless corporation than a humble organization that helps student-athletes receive educations that they often couldn't afford otherwise, simply stating that NCAA student-athletes should be paid because Texas A&M, his coach, the local media, and the College Station economy are all benefitting financially from Johnny Manziel without him making a dime is nothing but asinine.

Simply making that argument and using Manziel as an example is ignorant. Referencing the phenomena of Johnny Football to blanket the entire spectrum of collegiate athletics is moronic.

I admit, there are people who are more passionate about and have done more research on this topic than myself, but it's getting ridiculously annoying to hear the national media complain that student-athletes should be paid while simultaneously ignoring the vast majority of student-athletes who's jerseys never get sold, who have never played in front of a sell-out crowd and have never even appeared in their respective NCAA Tournament.

Essentially, stop ignoring the 99% of NCAA student-athletes.

There are so many counterpoints that can be made to the argument: because Player X has brought School Y so much attention and so much money, he should be paid.

Take the ever-newsworthy Texas A&M, for example.

Should Johnny Manziel's backup quarterback, Matt Joeckel, who's tallied a staggering 30 passing attempts in his career as an Aggie, be paid in addition to the estimated $42,000 9-month tuition and fees at A&M?

What about junior wideout LeKendrick Williams, who's racked in 6 receptions throughout his whole career?

And Gaston Lamascus, who apparently was a "valuable contributor" to the Aggies last season?

How can you calculate exactly how much revenue Manziel himself, a single player on a 112-man roster, according to the team's website, generated for an entire school?

Move past Texas A&M.

Peyton Siva received a scholarship to Louisville and was the starting point guard for Rick Pitino's club that won this past season's National Championship. Being an out-of-state student, Siva's scholarship can be estimated to be worth about $127,000 in tuition over the four years he spent at Louisville, or roughly $32,000 per year. So, to clarify, that doesn't include fees like housing, books, meals, etc. and doesn't even factor the amount of free airfare and other travel expenses they receive without questioning.

Siva was drafted by the Detroit Pistons as the 56th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft this June. Being the fifth-to-last player taken, he signed an unguaranteed rookie contract with the Pistons that guarantees him just $150,000 with no set guarantee date, per ShamSports.com

As a professional athlete.

How much more should a kid whose title has the word "student" hyphenated before the word "athlete" make than around $50,000, if a former national champion can only be guaranteed three times as much as a professional.

Again, we're talking about two major power schools in the two most profitable and popular college sports.

We're not even talking about kids who are NCAA student-athletes who are essentially paid to play field hockey, row, cheerlead, throw javelin, bowl and play handball.

I'm not saying NCAA student-athletes shouldn't be paid. I'm not saying NCAA student-athletes should be paid. Honestly, the matter is so misconstrued, and twisted and tangled that I refuse to form an unwavering and concrete opinion on the matter.

But, it's completely ludicrous to say, "NCAA student-athletes should be paid because schools and the NCAA profit off of them while the kids don't get paid," without considering the thousands of student-athletes who aren't worth a cent to their respective institution of higher education.