Opinion: Why collegiate athletes deserve payment

Posted on May 4 2017 - 8:00am by Nestor Delgado

Every year except this one, I have watched the NFL draft – a time when prospective professional football players are put to the test in a grueling combine where their strength, stamina and football IQ are put to the test.

When I realized this year that I had missed the draft, at first I was upset, but then I realized that, just like the Super Bowl, there will be one every year.

I began to think about the process in which these young men, no older than many current students here at Ole Miss, are potentially about to make millions of dollars, putting their health and safety on the line so we can enjoy America’s finest sport.

Just think about the potential damage to their bodies that they are willing to endure to play professional football, provide for their families and make their local community proud.

And yet there is something flawed with the process. Why is it that we make collegiate athletes go through this same physically, psychologically and emotionally draining process without adequate financial compensation?

It’s because of the structure and hierarchy of the NCAA.

I was watching an interview conducted in the 2000s with former University of Tennessee running back Arian Foster, who went on to say there would be game days where he would score three touchdowns, win the Volunteers the game and then was unable to eat because his meal plan was insufficient, and if a coach brought him food, then that would be a NCAA violation of receiving gifts.

The bottom line is that the NCAA is taking advantage of talented athletes nationwide by giving them scholarships that have unreasonable stipulations.

Now I can’t speak on behalf of Ross Bjork or Hugh Freeze, but I’m sure they can agree the football players here at Ole Miss bring in millions of dollars in revenue annually.

And with this in mind, it is only logical to recommend that collegiate athletes, specifically those playing Division I sports that bring in millions of dollars annually for universities, deserve to be financially compensated for their services.

Just this past February, the National Labor Relations Board concluded that top-level college football players at private universities are employees entitled to request improved working conditions and even to seek pay for their efforts.

This conclusion includes players at Northwestern, Stanford and Notre Dame. However, what’s to say that players at the University of Mississippi should not be included as employees of the state, similar to their own head football coach or athletic director?

I encourage all current and incoming collegiate athletes to explore their options regarding payment and compensation, as professional baseball provides the opportunity for high schoolers to enter the draft immediately.

A new alternative to playing uncompensated college football is the southern California-based Pacific Pro Football League, which provides talented high school football players payment of $50,000 per year, health insurance and a free community college education.

While football is a beautifully brutal game, we are approaching a point in our society where the truth is coming out about the dangers of the game, and it is only right that athletes are aware of their options and that universities provide all of their employees, including football players, health insurance, as well as a fair and negotiated annual salary.

Nestor Delgado is a sophomore public policy leadership major from Pascagoula.