Colleges Should Be Allowed To Pay Their Student Athletes | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Sean Gregory during a Newsweek podcast debate on paying college athletes. You can listen to the podcast here:

It's so great that we're having this discussion and it's come such a long way. Time Magazine in 2014 put on the cover, "It's Time To Pay College Athletes," and it's happening.

It's been a long slog, but with NIL [name, image and likeness] happening, yes. College athletes can now be compensated by third parties. I think what we're going to hone in on today is whether schools should directly pay athletes a salary. I think that there's a nuance here about whether schools should do it, or should be allowed to do it.

Where I come down, after doing a lot of reporting on this, is it's hard to find an argument that schools shouldn't be allowed to make a decision to fairly compensate athletes. Yes, in revenue-generating sports, athletes should be paid for the unbelievable millions and millions of dollars they helped bring in. That money is currently going, largely, to coaches and administrators and to facilities. You see schools, all over the country, particularly football—Alabama, Oregon, etc—using ostentatious weight rooms and those kinds of things are recruiting tools. I think, if you talk to college football players doing the work, sacrificing so much of their time, I think most would say a little cash in the pocket is deserved.

A high angle view of the Pac-12
A high angle view of the Pac-12 logo on the field at Stanford Stadium during an NCAA Pac-12 college football game between the Stanford Cardinal and the UCLA Bruins on September 26, 2021 in Palo Alto, California. David Madison/Getty Images

I might prefer that. But, you know, we've come a long way. I always thought that name, image and likeness would be the first step in this. That's kind of the Olympic model. And so whether we open it up totally to allow schools to be able to compensate athletes directly, there's not the same urgency that it has to happen tomorrow.

There is a concern that if schools were to redirect funds to athletes, that other sports that don't generate revenues would be cut. I'm skeptical of that. Because again, we're not saying schools have to pay folks—it's giving them a right to do so. Many schools won't, and the schools that will have so much money coming in, then it's just a simple redirection of funds from things like facilities and coaches' salaries to the players. That seems like a fair world.

Sean Gregory is senior sports correspondent for Time Magazine and an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.