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ON THE FRONT LINES: It is time to pay our players their fair share

School of Arts and Sciences senior Geo Baker, who plays guard on the Rutgers men's basketball team, is one of the many college athletes who bring in money for schools but reap none of the rewards. – Photo by Rutgers Men’s Basketball / Twitter

As the Big Ten Conference and other college conferences struggle to finish seasons through a pandemic, the outcry for college athletes to be paid grows. Millions upon millions of dollars in revenue are generated by these student-athletes, but they get no piece of it. They were not even allowed to use their likenesses to make money until 2019.

People like National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) President Mark Emmert have said that paying the players would lead to corruption in college sports.

“This would create a huge imbalance among schools and could lead to corruption in the recruiting process,” Emmert said

Imbalance? There is already an imbalance. The imbalance is clear when the University of Alabama has the best recruiting class in college football history, replacing players, who just won a national championship and are off to the NFL, with more NFL-ready prospects.

The imbalance is clear when the University of Alabama and Clemson University play for the national championship almost every year, with an occasional surprise appearance from a team like that of Ohio State University. 

Corruption in the recruiting process? Emmert does not understand a simple fact that most of the fans have come to terms with. The best players are probably already being paid. More than a quarter of Division I schools committed recruiting violations from 2006-2015, with major schools and players being implicated.

The University of Notre Dame, whose football team recently appeared in the College Football Playoff as 1 of the top 4 teams in the nation, was punished for recruiting violations just weeks ago. Emmert needs to understand that corruption goes with college football just as much as a noon kickoff.

Even if some players were not already getting paid, the players deserve a piece of the revenue that they bring in. Rutgers Athletics spent $114 million to fund its athletics program in the 2019-20 academic year, according to NJ Advance Media.

In that year, Geo Baker, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, who plays guard on the Rutgers men's basketball team, helped lead the program to its best basketball season of my lifetime, hitting buzzer-beaters and game-winners along the way, bringing the team to the cusp of the NCAA Tournament.

For all of his efforts to help consistently sell out the Rutgers Athletic Center and bring the program up, he received a total of zero dollars. He could not feed himself or his family, he could not buy books, he could not even go see a movie.

It becomes more and more understandable to hear athletes like Baker lash out against the NCAA, referring to its practices as “modern-day slavery” in an Instagram comment. While the comparison seems very macabre, the similarities are there. Especially during this pandemic, these players are being taken away from their family and friends to perform services for which they receive no payment.

While a few players may be able to continue into professional basketball, most will not, and many face the prospect of going into the real world with limited experience and no money to start off. If these schools can make millions off of their players' abilities, then the players should be compensated.

“(You) realize that we are playing in a pandemic (and) being told to stay away from everyone we love,” Baker said in another Instagram comment. “But, I can't sell my own jersey with my last name on it to help my future financially. That makes sense to (you)?”

No, it does not, Baker. Pay the players.

Dylan McCoy is the associate Sports editor of The Daily Targum.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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