By Jason Hortsch
After years of listening to calls for reform, the NCAA recently voted on a package of sweeping changes, the largest of which gives conferences the ability to vote to add a $2,000 stipend to college athletic scholarships. It's about time. Critics are calling the stipend pay-for-play. NCAA President Mark Emmert vehemently denies this. He is correct. For decades, college athletes have been generating huge sums of revenue for their respective universities and have gone largely unpaid for this service. You don't have to look much further for evidence than the consistently packed football stadiums housing up to 100,000 rabid fans Saturday after Saturday at any major university. It is only fair that these money-making athletes are properly compensated. Yes, tuition, books, room and board were previously covered, but no matter how you slice it, the athletes got the rough side of the pineapple since they were earning their respective universities amounts of money far greater than these benefits. Even athletes who are not part of huge money-making teams such as basketball and football stand to benefit greatly from the stipend. Athletes of any sport have to put in countless hours practicing and training. They simply do not have the time or the same opportunities to hold more traditional jobs. The new stipend will help alleviate this discrepancy. According to the Department of Education, during the 2009-2010 academic year, seven schools generated more than $70 million in revenue from their football teams alone, with profit exceeding $40 million in each case. Assuming a typical college football roster has 100 players, each player was responsible for roughly $400,000 in profit over one year. Taking even a high estimate of $25,000 a year for the basic costs of attendance that players were previously getting compensated for, that is still only $100,000 over the course of a four-year career that colleges gave football athletes in compensation. A mere $2,000 stipend isn't the birth of a pay-for-play system. It is simply one step closer to fairness for college athletes. Compared to the millions that any major college rakes in from athletics, an additional $2,000 a year for one athlete is pennies for these schools. Such a stipend is simply fair. The problem is that athletes, particularly football players, generally have no other alternative to the NCAA once they graduate high school. The NCAA has a monopoly on their talents. There is no viable non-NFL option for football players to turn toward after high school if they want to continue playing. Basketball is little better. Players are forced to wait one year after high school in order to be eligible for the NBA draft. If players want to stay in the country and not deal with the hassle of playing overseas (Ã la Brandon Jennings), they are essentially forced to play for the NCAA for that interim year. We have to look no further than the world's largest sport, soccer, to see a stark contrast. From the time they are children, instead of dealing with high school systems and the NCAA, soccer players usually attend teams' training academies where they hone their skills. This past summer Real Madrid, a Spanish-based soccer team, went as far as to sign a prodigy who was only seven years old. While that may be extreme, it is apparent that the team recognized the future ability of the kid to generate money, and justly compensated him for it. This at least seems fairer than what we have in America, where college-level athletes are compensated far below their true worth. What about those athletes that are not going to turn professional? For these players, the system is still not fair. They work just as hard, and are an integral part of a team that can earn a university millions of dollars. While their talents may not be enough to eventually make it to the pros, they are still substantial enough to draw a paying crowd. The NCAA and its system have been taking advantage of college athletes for years. Athletes have been compensated at a far lower rate than what their talents are worth. The new $2,000 stipend is a step in the right direction towards fixing this situation.