Student-Athletes Deserve Pay

Darren Zaslau, Sports editor

College sports video games have been out of sight, out of mind for the past three years. Not since the release of NCAA Football 14 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have sports fans been able to play with their favorite collegiate athletes. The cancellation of this series, along with the NCAA Basketball and NCAA Baseball video games, has sparked controversy among athletes and fans.

The debate centers around video game companies’ failure to compensate athletes for the use of their likenesses. Talk of bringing these games back has recently begun to surface, but if companies plan to revive these games, players must be paid.

Video game companies such as EA Sports want their games to be as realistic as possible. From the players on the field to their uniforms and stadiums, these details provide sports fans with the closest possible experience to the games they watch on television every day.

Unlike in Madden NFL and other professional sports video games, college video games were never allowed to feature players’ last names. Instead, only their numbers were used. This irritated student-athletes because, while their names didn’t appear on the screen, their physical features and jersey numbers created a likeness for which they weren’t compensated.

Despite being accused of exploitation, EA Sports seems poised to produce another college sports video game in the near future.

“One day, I know we’ll be back,” EA’s Chief Competition Officer Peter Moore said in an interview with IGN in 2016.

Interestingly, Moore also admitted that the debate over paying players for their likenesses has become representative of the broader debate over whether college athletes should be compensated for their play.

NCAA Football became the lightning rod for bigger issues regarding college athletes getting paid for their performances, not only in football, but in all college sports,” Moore said.

The biggest questions surrounding this controversy are how much college athletes should be paid and which ones receive compensation.

I believe that Division I college athletes should be paid because their practice and game schedules are the most hectic. Division I schools draw in significantly more athletic revenue than Division II and Division III schools, so their players should be rewarded accordingly. Division I student-athletes deserve a yearly compensation of $15,000, which would cover room and board, in addition to books, school supplies and traveling expenses.

The $15,000 would then be added to however much video game companies are willing to pay players in order to use them in the games. During 2014, when EA Sports and the NCAA reached a settlement over the use of images of collegiate players, it was proposed that men’s basketball and football athletes could earn up to $5,000 for their likenesses. That $5,000 plus $15,000 from their universities would add up to a total of $20,000 yearly, without adding in merit or need-based aid.

That amount is reasonable given the amount of time student-athletes put into their sports. A study facilitated by the NCAA in 2011 found that Division I football players practiced 43 hours per week. Add on time traveling to and from games and hours of schoolwork — student-athletes are essentially working nonstop.

Also, student-athletes help their schools make large sums of money solely based off of their talents. According to ESPN, in 2008, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Florida and Ohio State all made over $100 million in revenues from their athletic departments. In ticket sales alone, Texas and Michigan totaled over $40 million.

Plans to bring back college sports video games could bode well for student-athletes and give support to their movement to receive the compensation they need and deserve.