Article Type:
Statistical Data Included
College athletes (Finance)
Sports (Finance)
Scholarships (Evaluation)
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Name: College Student Journal Publisher: Project Innovation (Alabama) Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2001 Project Innovation (Alabama) ISSN: 0146-3934
Date: June, 2001 Source Volume: 35 Source Issue: 2
Organization: NCAA
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

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This investigation used the survey method to analyze college students' (n = 458) perceptions on additional payments, beyond an athletic scholarship, to intercollegiate student-athletes. Four components of college students' perceptions were examined: Whether student-athletes should be allowed to receive payment, proponents' arguments, opponents' arguments, and the revenue source that should provide the funding if the NCAA were to allow payment. Results revealed: (a) College students' supported payment to college student-athletes, (b) College students' perceived illegal payments would decline if payment was allowed, (c) Opponents' of payment believed an athletic scholarship is adequate payment, and (d) The additional funding should come from the athletic department of the university. These findings suggest that for athletic conferences exhibiting high levels of "corporate athleticism" (Hart-Nibbring & Cottingham, 1986) college students' support paying intercollegiate student-athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), formed in 1905, set bylaws requiring college student-athletes to be amateurs in order to be eligible for intercollegiate athletics competition (NCAA Manual, 1999). According to the NCAA, requiring college student-athletes to be amateurs protects them from being exploited by professional and commercial enterprises. However, intercollegiate athletics have changed dramatically over the past ninety-five years. Presently intercollegiate athletics generate tremendous amounts of gross revenue, especially football and basketball players. Hart-Nibbrig & Cottingham (1986) termed the current influx of revenue into intercollegiate athletics as corporate athleticism.

Corporate athleticism represents the increasing influence of the business ethic causing the commercialization of intercollegiate athletics (Li, LaPoint & Mawson, 1998; Hart-Nibbrig & Cottingham, 1986). Several examples clearly signify the existence of corporate athleticism in intercollegiate athletics today. First, the revenue that the NCAA and some member institutions receive from television contracts and sponsorship agreements signify the prominence of professional and commercial enterprises. Since 1988 the NCAA has received in excess of $150 million per year from CBS for rights to broadcast the NCAA men's basketball tournament (Byers, 1995). Furthermore, in the mid-1990's it became commonplace for universities to sign exclusive sponsorship contracts. Florida State University, Penn State University, and the University of Michigan are just three examples of schools signing sponsorship agreements, worth over $2 million each, with the shoe and apparel company Nike (Ellis, 1995).

Coaches' salaries are a second indication that professional and commercial enterprises are abound in intercollegiate athletics. Many head coaches, specifically men's basketball, football, and women's basketball, earn salaries well above $100,000 annually. Total compensation packages including endorsement contracts often exceed $1 million for coaches at top programs. Rabalais (2000) reported at least 10 head football coaches have total compensation packages worth over $1 million per season and expected that number to increase each season. Just one example of how lucrative endorsement contracts have become in intercollegiate athletics is Rick Pitono, then head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, receiving $300,000 per year that his team wore Adidas brand basketballshoes (Fish, 1997).

Another indication of an increasing corporate presence in intercollegiate athletics is the proliferation of cavernous stadiums crowned by luxury boxes sponsored by corporations (Schneider, 2000). Examples of new stadia construction include Ohio State Universities new $105 million Schottenstein Center, 110 luxury boxes at Neyland Stadium (University of Tennessee), and the University of Michigan spending $7.4 million to renovate Michigan Stadium. New, larger stadia mean increased seating capacity and increased corporate presence in luxury suites. The University of Texas plans to raise just under $3 million per season from the sale of the 50 luxury boxes built into their stadium in 1997 (Windle, 1998).

As intercollegiate athletics have progressed toward a model that includes, and in many cases depends upon, the presence of professional and commercial enterprises other debates have arisen. Among the most frequently debated issues is whether the NCAA should abolish its long standing amateur principles and allow direct cash payments to college student-athletes (Beauchamp, 1996; DeShazier, 2000; Fish, 1997; Moran, 2000; Rushin, 1997; Sheehan, 1996; Steiber, 1991, VanderZwaag, 1988; Zimbalist, 1999).

Proponents of payment to college athletes question why the NCAA, many coaches, and administrators are allowed to earn large amounts of money and the student-athlete is limited to an athletic scholarship (DeVenzio, 1986; Fish, 1997; Moran, 2000; Rhoden, 1994; Rushin 1997; Sage 1990). Other frequently advanced arguments supporting payment include illegal payments to athletes would decline if athletes were paid (Adams, 1996; Clemons, 1996: Cooper, 1994; Goldstein, 1996; Isenberg, 1994; Moran, 2000; Steiber, 1991) and that an athletic scholarship (commonly referred to as a "full ride") does not cover all costs associated with attending college (Benner, 1994; Blackstone, 1995; Bradley, 1994; Byers, 1995; Lapchick, 1997, Rushin, 1997).

Just as there are many supporters of payment to college athletes the issue has many opponents. Commonly placed arguments against payment include: Student-athletes receive adequate pay in the form of an athletic scholarship (Baker, 1996: Beauchamp, 1996; DeShazier, 2000; Dooley, 1995; Gerdy, 1995; Mott, 1994; Wolff, 1994); The current financial status of most, if not all, athletic departments prohibits any additional financial outlays such as payment (Benner, 1994; Blum, 1994; Bradley, 1994; Looney, 1996; Thompson, 1995); Payment to student-athletes would require the NCAA to lose its current nonprofit status (Bradley, 1994: Fish. 1997; Rushin. 1997) and Title IX bylaws would require payment to all athletes making total payments unachievable (Benner, 1994: Isenberg, 1994: Mott, 1994: Rushin. 1997).

While popular and professional literature has debated this issue frequently, Schneider (2000) found that little attempt has been made to ascertain the opinions of the individuals associated with this controversy and called for additional research in this area. While little research had been conducted to determine student-athletes perceptions on this issue, no research had focused tin the perceptions of college students' and their support or opposition of payment to college student-athletes beyond and athletic scholarship.

Mangan (1994) noted that the rising costs of athletic programs are being passed on to college students in the form of increasing tuition and fees. According to the NCAA, student fees (that did not pay for athletic tickets) provided an average of 3% of an athletics department's revenues in 1989. That number grew to 6% in just three years and is expected to continue to further increase yearly (Mangan, 1994). Such a reliance on student fees to support athletic programs only underscores the need to determine whether college students would support paying student-athletes. Furthermore, Levine and Cureton (1998) reported that the two principal issues of student unrest over the past two years included the rising costs of college and multiculturalism. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the opinions of college students' regarding payment, in addition to an athletic scholarship, to intercollegiate student-athletes. Specifically, the following research questions were addressed: (a) Do college students' support payment of student-athletes? (b) What arguments do college students' advance to support their opinions? and (c) Where do college students believe revenue should come from, if student-athletes were to be paid?


The present investigation was a part of a larger research agenda examining perceptions of direct cash payments to intercollegiate student-athletes.


The population for this study was college students from a premier Division I athletics conference. The conference was comprised of universities that displayed the characteristics of corporate athleticism including lavish, revenue-generating stadia, high salaries for coaches and administrators, frequent television appearances and high ticket sales. Student directories were obtained from each of the universities in the selected conference and the directories were used to randomly select 2,000 college students.


The instrument used in this study was comprised of a questionnaire with two sections. The first section elicited responses to four forced choice questions: (a) Should student-athletes receive direct cash payments for intercollegiate athletics participation? (b) Why should student-athletes receive direct cash payments? (c) Why should student-athletes not receive direct cash payments? and (d) If cash payments were permitted, what revenue stream(s) should provide the additional money? Section I of the instrument was derived from the literature that has discussed the concept of paying intercollegiate student-athletes (Beauchamp, 1996; DeVenzio, 1986; Fish, 1997; Rushin, 1997: Sheehan, 1996; Steiber, 1991; VanderZwaag, 1988). A comprehensive list of choices for each question was gained through the literature review. Participants in the study were asked to select the choice(s) to each question based on their perception. Subjects were also allowed to write in additional responses if their choice was not found on the list provided.

The second section of the questionnaire included respondents' demographics (age, gender, year in school) and socioeconomies (methods) of paying for college.


Questionnaires were mailed to each of the 2,000 randomly selected college students along with a cover letter and a pre-addressed, stamped envelope. The cover letter included the purpose of this investigation, directions to complete the questionnaire, and assurance of confidentiality. A total of 458 useable surveys were returned for an overall response rate of 23%.

Data Analysis

First, the returned questionnaires were screened for completeness. Second the data were entered into a database using the SPSS Statistical Package. Overall frequencies to each of the four questions were analyzed to determine college students' perceptions on the issue. Additional analysis was competed to determine if there was a difference in perceptions between female and male college students. Chi-square tests of homogeneity (alpha=.01) were used to determine whether there was a significant difference in perceptions between females and males on each of the questions.


Complete and useable questionnaires were received from 458 college students for a response rate of 23%. A majority of the students were male (60%). The distribution of education level was consistent with 28% seniors, 27% juniors, 26% sophomores, and 19% freshmen.

Overall, 54% of all respondents believed student-athletes should be paid for intercollegiate athletics participation. A chi-square test of homogeneity revealed males (57%) and females (49%) were equally likely to support payment ([X.sup.2](1), N=458) = 2.99, p [is less than] .001). The most often advanced reasons that student-athletes should be paid were cheating would decline if student-athletes were paid (76%) and student-athletes generate large amounts of revenue and deserve payment (63%). As shown in Table 1, chi-square analysis also revealed that of those who supported cash payments, females (41%) were significantly more likely than males (23%) to base their position of the perception that a scholarship does not cover the total cost of attending college ([X.sup.2](1), N=248) = 9.13, p [is less than] .001).

Of those who opposed cash payments to student-athletes (n=210) the most often selected answers were that athletes are already paid through an athletic scholarship (49%) and athletic departments do not have enough money for additional payment beyond a scholarship (39%). Table 2 shows males were significantly more likely than females to perceive Title IX implications would make payment impossible ([X.sup.2](1). N=210) = 6.62, p [is less than] .001).

If the NCAA were to allow payment, college students' most frequently believed the additional money should come from the athletics department (56%) and additional revenue generating contracts such a shoe and television contracts (50%). Increasing tuition to pay college athletes was selected by 24% of respondents. As shown in Table 3, females were significantly more likely than males to support obtaining the additional funding to pay athletes from the athletic department (X2(1), N=458) = 25.46, p [is less than] .001), the general fund ([X.sup.2](1), N=458) = 8.581, p [is less than] .001) and other contracts ([X.sup.2](1), N=458) = 136.29, p [is less than] .001).


The major purpose of this investigation was to determine the perceptions of college students' on the issue of paying intercollegiate student-athletes. In this study college students supported paying student-athletes. This indicates that, for the conference studied, college students' valued the athletes, athletic programs, and the attention intercollegiate athletics brings to their institutions. Furthermore, while some authors (Levine & Cureton, 1998; Mangan, 1994) discussed college students' dissatisfaction with increasing costs, this study revealed that students', to a smaller extent, supported increasing tuition and fees to pay student-athletes.

It has been suggested that paying college student-athletes would reduce illegal payments (Adams, 1996; Clemons, 1996; Cooper, 1994; Goldstein, 1996; Isenberg, 1994; Moran, 2000; Steiber, 1991). Examination of the results found that the primary reason advanced by students for supporting payment of athletes was that cheating, in the form of illegal payments, would decline. This indicates that college students believe, or are aware of, frequent illegal payments to athletes and are seeking methods to reduce the level of illegal payments. College students also advanced that athletes should be paid because of the revenue they generate. These supporters may be basing their perception on the amount of gross income athletic departments receive rather than net income. While athletic programs do generate large amounts of revenue through sponsorships, ticket sales, and merchandise sales, excluding funding from the university itself, Division I-A athletic departments averaged a $823,000 loss in recent years (Suggs, 1998).

As shown in Table 2, opponents of payment believed that student-athletes were already paid, and paid well through an athletic scholarship. DeShazier (2000) reported that in addition to an athletic scholarship, academic tutoring, special computer laboratories, and other benefits student-athletes receive, a college degree will earn and employee, on average. $17,089 per year more than one without a college degree.

Among the 210 college students who opposed payment only 42 considered Title IX implications as a reason not to pay athletes and males were more likely to choose that reason than females. This is an issue that needs serious consideration. Proponents of payment have argued for payment to football and men's basketball players because of the revenue they generate (DeVenzio, 1986). However implementation of this plan may violate Title IX (Rushin, 1997). Rushin (1997) estimated providing a $200 per month stipend to all NCAA student-athletes receiving a scholarship would cost over $540 million. Additionally, the fact that males were more likely to select this option than females may be because males had been exposed the issue of Title IX to a greater extent and were aware of the number of men's sports that had been dropped recently.

Of particular interest to this study was the source of revenue that would be used if student-athletes were to receive payment. While there were significant differences between females and males regarding almost all possible sources (see Table 3) several trends were found in this study. College students' perception that the money should come from the athletic department is consistent with the finding that they perceive athletic departments generate large amounts of revenue. While it is well documented that most athletic departments lose money annually, reducing spending in some areas may save enough money to allow for stipends to student-athletes. Examples of how money could be saved include football teams staying in hotels the night, before home games, traveling by bus rather than flying, and eating at less lavish restaurants. The difference in perceptions between females and males may indicate a difference in interest level and knowledge level about the issue of paying college student-athletes. It is anticipated that as this issue is increasingly discussed, females and males may have similar perceptions.

Perhaps the most noteworthy finding of this study is that 24% of college students selected increasing tuition as a method to pay college athletes. Although this is a small percentage, when combined with the fact a majority of college students in this study support payment, it can be anticipated college students would favor the payment of college athletes. It is anticipated that college students' supporting payment to student-athletes is higher for the population in this study than other athletic conferences due to its exposure to "corporate athleticism" (Hart-Nibbring & Cottingham, 1986).

The results of this study suggest college students' believe student-athletes should be paid in addition to an athletic scholarship. Awareness of college students' perceptions may allow educators, administrators, and the NCAA to anticipate students' reactions if the NCAA were to allow payment to intercollegiate student-athletes.

Schneider (2000) discussed the intensity over the debate of payment to student-athletes mandates the issue must be addressed further. College students, whose fees provide a majority of the revenue to athletic departments, must be studied further in order to find solutions and anticipate potential opposition, if the NCAA changes its bylaws to allow payment to college student-athletes.


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Table 1
Reasons Male and Female College Students Believe Intercollegiate
Athletes Should Receive Direct Cash Payments

                                                Males    Females
             Reason                   All Ss    n=159     n=89

A scholarship does not cover costs      74       37        37
Student-athletes generate revenue      157       107       50
Cheating would decline                 189       127       62


A scholarship does not cover costs          9.13(*)
Student-athletes generate revenue            3.04
Cheating would decline                       3.28

(*) p < .001

S = subjects

Table 2
Reasons Male and Female College Students Believe Intercollegiate
Athletes Should Not Receive Direct Cash Payments

                                       Males   Females    [X.sup.2]
         Reason              All Ss    n=118    n=92

Athletes are already paid     103       55       48          .64
Not enough money to pay        82       49       33          .70
Title IX implications          42       31       11         6.62(*)
Tax implications               61       28       33         3.70

(*) p < .001

S = Subjects

Table 3
Revenue Source Male and Female College Students Believe Should Be
Used to Fund Payment of the NCAA were to allow Direct Cash Payments

                                        Males    Females   [X.sup.2]
          Reason              All Ss    n=277     n=181

Athletics Department           255       128       127      25.46(*)
General Fund of University     111       54        57        8.58(*)
Shoe, Television Contracts     231       119       112     136.29(*)
Increased Tuition              112       70        42         .253
Additional Playoff Systems     158       151        7      124.26(*)

(*) p < .001

S = Subjects

Assistant Professor
Bowling Green State University
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