Stacey Olson.JPG

As Kansans, we are used to being asked ‘Are you a University of Kansas (KU) or Kansas State University (K-State) fan?’ Personally, I grew up watching my father chant and yell for KU and watched him care about the careers and skills of specific athletes.

But at the end of the day, how likely are those student-athletes likely to have a professional career in their chosen sport? Less than 2% of student-athletes in their association go pro, according to the National Collegiate Athlete Association (NCAA).

Universities make massive profits off athletic departments across the nation. The NCAA reported that their revenue in 2019 was $18.91 billion. What do the students get out of this multi-billion dollar industry? Until this last summer, the only payout they received was scholarships.

Now the NCAA is allowing students to make their own money through sponsorships and selling their likeness for their own profit. While that should’ve happened ages ago, I don’t think it’s enough.

Student-athletes have large time commitments with conditioning, practices, tournaments, games and, depending on the sport, even more. With that kind of commitment, it makes it difficult to balance their lives. Not to mention if they have bills and need a job. Being a student-athlete can impede one’s ability to work which puts them at a large financial disadvantage.

There are many wonderful things about being an athlete, I myself enjoyed years of being an athlete in multiple sports, but it is not what will feed and shelter our students. According to Jasmine Linabary, co-chair of the Basic Needs Coalition and director of Emporia At the Table (EAT), 37% of ESU‘s athletes have food insecurity.

Something has to give. Either student-athletes need better compensation through scholarships or they need fewer time commitments so they can have the opportunity to work and thrive off the field and court.

Not every student-athlete will be able to get a sponsorship, so we have to find other ways of protecting and caring for them. If athletic departments are going to demand so much from their student, they need to give a better payout. Universities must do better to provide for their athletes. Those KU or Emporia State athletes aren’t our personal entertainment, they’re people just like us.

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