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Will Houston Athletes Ever Get Paid to Play in College?

TaShawn Thomas dreams of one day becoming a professional after college. He's a junior and a forward on the University of Houston's men's basketball team. Without his scholarship he wouldn't be in college, he says. With the money he receives his housing and food are paid for. Still, he thinks it would be fair for athletes to get paid while in college because they bring a lot of money to the school.

The debate on whether or not a college athlete should get paid won't seem to die down anytime soon. In January football players from Northwestern University tried to start a union seeking more financial benefits. The players came together to try to prove they are employees of the university and that they should be compensated as college athletes recognized by the National Labor Relations Board.

"The overwhelming majority of student-athletes, across all sports, participate in college athletics to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, as opposed to a desire to be paid to play college sports," Donald Remy, NCAA Chief Legal Officer said in an email. "The NCAA is not a part of the proceeding, but it is our hope that after reviewing the record, the NLRB will agree with Northwestern that student-athletes are first and foremost students of the university, not employees."

Last month a judge ordered settlement talks between a former college basketball player and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This case adds to the fact that more and more athletes are pushing to get paid while in college. In 1996 Ed O'Bannon played basketball for the University of California, Los Angeles. He filed a lawsuit four years ago against the NCAA for restrictions on player's receiving compensation. Several other former players who also thought they should've been paid are also listed as plaintiffs in this case. They want the NCAA to pay up for using their likeness and name in video games long after they have stopped playing for the school. The case is set to go to trial in June.

 

Some athletes argue that scholarships are just not enough and they have other financial responsibilities. Last month at the NFL combine all eyes were not just on Johnny Manziel. Jadeveon Clowney, former South Carolina defensive end, has the potential to be the Texans' top choice in the upcoming NFL draft. Clowney told Jim Rome he would've stayed in school had he gotten paid. He mentioned how he has to provide for his family and how the school makes profit off sales from tickets and their jerseys.

While talk continues on college athletes getting paid for their sportsmanship, what about the people who help make it happen? Granted, some college coaches have salaries in the millions of dollars, but should they get a bump in salary every time a player makes it to the pros?

"Their ultimate goal is to make them better players, make them better people, and provide educational resources for them," Rick Leddy says. "I just don't believe our coaches are looking to make additional money or bonuses if they get a player and the player goes to professional ranks," says Leddy, Senior Director of Communications of National Association of Basketball Coaches,.

The relationships coaches build with their athletes can carry off the football field or basketball court. In his eighth season as UH women's basketball head coach Wade Scott enjoys the relationships with the staff, athletes, and also watching the athletes grow not only as players but also as people. He's partly responsible for Sancho Lyttle playing in the WNBA by bringing her from Saint Vincent. After playing two years at UH Lyttle was the 5th overall pick in the WNBA draft in 2005.

James Dickey, the UH men's basketball coach in his fourth season, loves being able to advance his athletes: academically, socially, and athletically. Dickey says he is completely against student athletes getting paid to play while in college and feels the same way about coaches receiving a bonus if their athlete makes it to the big leagues.

"I think it's our job to work hard to develop these young men," said Dickey.

Who knows what will happen in the future and what if any changes will me made to benefit the players. The NCAA is adamant that they will not pay any college athlete because that isn't something they believe in. These athlete are given a world class education and the opportunity to play the sport they love. As much as they want to get paid to play, you don't always get what you ask for.


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