Paying Student Athletes Salaries Would Exacerbate Unfortunate Divides | Opinion

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

My view on this is, I think it's great that student athletes have an opportunity to be compensated. I also think there are a lot of concerns that we haven't taken into account.

This is something that's going to largely benefit student athletes who were going to be paid anyway—the top 1 percent—and where you have student athletes that are not in those—what we refer to as revenue-generating sports, men's basketball and football—by and large, they're left out of this. Division 1 college athletics generally doesn't change. If it does change, it changes to their detriment. Now that's speculative, admittedly. We have to see how that's going to play out, but there's a real concern here that we are increasing the chasm that exists between men's football and men's basketball and everybody else.

And that's a real concern. And that's where I fall on this. I think that it's great that student athletes are going to be paid—but by and large, it was the student athletes who were already going to be paid. So what are we doing here? Are we benefiting capitalism in college athletics?

Is that what we're doing? So we can get a bunch of get-rich-quick schemes? Is that what's going on, or is this truly about the betterment of student athletes? And we'll get into this more.

The NCAA logo is seen on the
The NCAA logo is seen on the basket stanchion before the game between the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and the Florida Gators in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I'd imagine most schools in the Power Five conferences could pay. This is speculative—I haven't done this—but probably between $20,000 and $50,000 a student athlete annually. That would be pushing it, again, because you're talking about at least 300 student athletes per program.

And we've seen, over the pandemic, where schools in the Power Five, like Stanford, cut a lot of sports because they were restricted in their income. We saw that. So would they be able to pay athletes over a sustained period of time? I don't know. It's all speculative, but over the 300-plus schools in Division 1, there's no chance that all of them could do it.

This is where Sean talks about, whether there should be an option to opt in to paying athletes. If there's an option that they can do it, then there is some nuance. I would push back on that and say, well, the keeping up with the Joneses mentality is a very real thing in college athletics.

If you want to remain an athletic director, if you want to remain a coach, it's all about pushing the envelope, right? Bowling Green doesn't want to stay Bowling Green forever. Bowling Green wants to be Ohio State. And to do that, they have to recruit athletes—meaning that they have to find some way to incentivize the three-star athletes who could be five-star athletes to come to them (instead of going to be a fifth guy off the bench at Ohio State). Meaning, they are going to have to provide some kind of financial incentive, similar to what Ohio State does—although they'll never be able to do it. There are so many questions that come out of that.

Cody McDavis is a former Division I college basketball player for the University of Northern Colorado.

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