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TheStreet Open House

NCAA Athletes Must Be Paid Before the System Crumbles

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There is this romantic notion out there that student athletes should play for the love of the game and an education. I understand that, but this is real life. The NCAA and member universities around the nation are exploiting their best athletes and offering pennies on the dollar in return. Believe me, the term exploitation is not too strong a word. It is a business and they are fully taking advantage of their "employees."

Let's look at Florida State quarterback, and 2013 Heisman trophy winner, Jameis Winston. He is arguably the poster child for why student athletes deserve rewards for their athletic prowess. Florida State University, the NCAA, and all the memorabilia collectors out there are making millions off of his likeness. Why shouldn't he get a share of that profit?

Yes, I know he's getting an education. Currently, he'd likely be the first pick in the NFL draft, which would net him a several million dollar contract if he were allowed to move to the NFL. The problem is that athletes like him make too much money for their employers. The NCAA and its member universities can't allow such an asset to leave so soon. Because of this, they've made this crazy rule that he has to stay under their control for another year.

Meantime, they'll make much more money off of him. Should he blow out his knee or shoulder, tough luck. There's no empathy there. His stock would plummet and the university could very well rescind his scholarship. Heck, they'll do it to athletes who just aren't living up to their standards without regards to the kid's future.

Are you aware of how many athletes will sign with a university like Alabama, show up to camp, get cut, and lose their scholarship? What makes it worse is that they then have to transfer and lose a year of eligibility just because Nick Saban, for example, and coaches like him, offer more scholarships than they can provide. The schools never know exactly who will end up signing with them and who will not. These kids are just hopeful employees.

Of course, the vast majority of college athletes do not bring in this kind of money for their institution. The question is: How do we make it fair?

Easy. Allow athletes to profit off of their own names. For example, let athletes do commercials or sign their jerseys. It doesn't hurt the institution, and athletes can capitalize on their own fame.

No other profession prevents people from leaving early to start their career. If you still want to hold onto the notion that it is an amateur event, just remember that the ultimate "amateur" competition, the Olympics, allows athletes to profit off of their names. This is an outdated concept and simple exploitation.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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