Snyder: Pay student-athletes to play


Blake Lanser/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s defensive line tackles NDSU running back John Crockett during the North Dakota State game Aug. 30. The Cyclones fell to the Bison with a final score of 14-34.

Stephen Snyder

The NCAA has recently given the “Power 5” conferences free reign to determine their own guidelines for student-athlete compensation. The Big 12 is one of these conferences, so the decisions will hit very close to home for Iowa State and its athletes. The compensation of college athletes for their generation is long overdue and this decision is a step in the right direction.

The compensation of athletes or so called “pay for play” incentives have become a hot topic around colleges all across the NCAA’s Division I schools ever since student-athletes at Northwestern University in Illinois made clear that they wished to unionize, claiming that they should qualify as employees of the university.

The athletes at Northwestern had their request approved by the National Labor Relations Board and the decision will eventually end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. But for at least this season, they will play as a unionized organization.

The NCAA is unflinchingly opposed to the decision but will allow the court to make the final ruling, saying that they will take no part in the case. However, this latest move does seem to be an attempt by the NCAA to get out in front of the coming changes in an attempt to control the future of their leagues.

The five largest conferences in the NCAA — SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and the ACC — will now be able to decide if athletes should receive benefits such as stipends and guaranteed scholarships.

The decisions will not just affect the major revenue-generating sports but nearly every, if not all, sanctioned sport at the various universities. The money will be taken from the funds generated by the athletic events and programs themselves and could result in players being paid between $2,000 and $5,000 for their participation.

This adjustment is necessary not only for the well-being of the athletes but also for the fairness of recruiting throughout the country. Every few years, a university or individual student-athlete will be reprimanded by the NCAA for accepting “illegitimate” gifts from schools or even boosters who give money to the schools, but now that there could be monetary incentives for attending any major university, the “below the table” conduct should diminish.

The assertion that university student-athletes are not employees of the university is a claim that is hard to stand behind. Although it is easy to list all of the benefits that student-athletes are given, it is far too easy to overlook the things they miss out on. These young men and women spend 40 to 50 hours every week practicing and performing their sport for the sake of their school and lose out on countless opportunities that are made available to students.

Kain Colter, the Northwestern University quarterback who became the face of the unionization movement, has even claimed that due to responsibilities he had as an athlete, he was unable to pursue his goal of joining the Northwestern pre-medical program.

The decisions regarding compensation have not yet been made, but when they are, each university will be given the ability to decide for itself which of the rules will apply at its school. Given the fact that Iowa State can apply all of the rules or none of them, it is important that the student body, athletic department, university alumni and truly every person involved with Iowa State make their opinions as to what the best move for the university would be regarding these decisions.

The acceptance of the compensation programs would undoubtedly lead to recruiting benefits for the university whereas the rejection of compensation rules would, in the minds of those who are opposed to the pay for play concept, uphold the traditions and spirit of college athletics.

While I do believe that the opinions of the general public of the involved universities should be taken into consideration, the final decision should be made by the athletic departments and athletes of each individual university.