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College athletes getting paid: What do Duquesne's athletes have to say?

By Rebekah Coleman
On April 14, 2011

College athletes are expected to balance early morning practices, long trips to other states and school with playing a collegiate sport. Recently, controversy has stemmed within the sports world about whether or not student athletes are receiving enough money for their dedication.

The dispute had grounds on both sides. Those in favor of paying athletes a salary point to the large amount of income college athletic departments bring in to colleges. The opposition, who think that scholarships, free board and meals are sufficient, say that the athletes are already receiving enough gratis from the University.

Alex Gensler, junior guard for the women's basketball team, said she thinks additional money would be excessive, but base scholarships are still necessary.

"A lot of people take for granted what it takes to be a student athlete. For basketball, it's like a job," Gensler said, explaining that the team has extra work out sessions, travel and off-season practices. "People underestimate what it takes to be a student athlete, and they should get their education paid on top of that."

While Gensler does appreciate receiving a full scholarship, she said Duquesne provides enough for her on top of the expected tuition and board.

"I'm not one to think that we should get paid. We already get a lot of our stuff paid for. It would be an extra source of income … since we already get a lot of things paid for," she said.

On top of receiving food, clothing and travel extras, players are offered additional funds when necessary, according to Rick Christensen, assistant athletic director of compliance.

Christensen said the NCAA already provides additional money for students with financial need. Each school decides how it will be dispersed, and it can go toward emergency travels, hardships during family events and even healthcare.

Eric Evans, junior guard for the men's basketball team, said he doesn't think players should get any additional money. Instead, Evans thinks the revenue from sporting events and teams should go towards benefiting other sports departments within the university.

"If the school is bringing in a lot of extra money, then they should help out the people that have partial scholarships," Evans said. "[The school should] worry about them first, then worry about people with full scholarships."

Evans said getting a job during the summer, which he has done for the past two years, provides him with enough money to provide for any other additional expenses. If something arises, he simply asks his parents for money, but that doesn't happen often.

"You don't need a lot of money," he said.

Associate athletic director Dave Saba said he personally cannot see the justification for paying some athletes and not the others. Choosing to pay men's basketball players and not tennis players would be unfair, he said.

Christensen agreed that paying athletes becomes difficult when differentiating between sports.

"You have all these varying levels of scholarship total. How do you decide who gets what and how do they get it?" he said. "I think those are the kinds of challenges."

According to Christensen, Duquesne has roughly 375 student athletes. This large number becomes a problem when instituting major changes in policy.

"If you are going to talk about paying student athletes, you need to think about all 375 of them. Who gets what? And how does every institution pay for that?" Christensen questioned.

Akeem Moore, sophomore wide receiver on the football team, agreed. Moore said getting a paycheck would be nice, but it really doesn't matter to him. He said that choosing which players to pay would cause be the biggest problem.

"If you are paying some of the sports and not all the sports, and some of the players and not all the players, then that would be an issue," Moore said.

Moore said that although he thinks it is unnecessary, he does see the payment as an incentive to play a better game. Yet, in the end, he appreciates what he has, especially when comparing himself to other students who do have to pay for an education.

"Not having to pay for schooling and taking out loans — that's a huge benefit to me," Moore said.

Christensen believes the benefits which some athletes receive, such as scholarships, free meal plans and textbooks and free board should be highlighted rather than receiving a salary.

"I don't think it's fair to put a dollar amount on a student athlete," Christensen said. "We don't discriminate between different sports. Every student gets the same support."

Although every sport does not elicit the same amount of income for Duquesne, the department still treats each athlete in a similar fashion.

"They all represent our school well. They all have the same commitment level," Christensen said.

According to CNN education contributor Steve Perry, college athletes earn about $120,000 a year when factoring in medical help, tuition, training and tutoring. For some, this is a heavy cost, while others find it to be the bare minimum for a large business. 

Some students find additional ways of earning money, as in the Ohio State case where several football players were suspended after selling merchandise of their own. They sold items bearing their name — a name they tirelessly worked to improve.

Moore said he disagreed with their suspension.

"That's their own personal merchandise," Moore said. "I feel that they should have the leeway to do that. It's their property they should be able to do whatever they want with it."

The bottom line for the controversy comes down to two simple words: student athlete. According to the NCAA, student athletes are amateurs and are not allowed to receive the monetary benefits of professional athletes. Unless the division rewrites the rules, students are not legally allowed to receive any sort of "pay for play."

"Every student-athlete is considered an amateur. Once you start talking about compensation and promoting them you are starting to get into an area where they are almost professionalizing themselves," Christensen said. "It clouds the aspect of what it means to be a student athlete."


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