Fairly Compensating College Athletes Proposal


1. Media Artifact

Infographic - Should College Athletes Be Paid? 

2. Persona and POV statement Persona: Persona name: Jerry Ross Age: 20 School/occupation: University of Western Michigan   Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan   Quote: "I don’t have time to study or get a job, and I don’t have enough money to pay for enough food for myself"      About:
  • Struggles with food and financial insecurity on campus 

  • One of the stars of the football team, but the team is not great and does not get lots of media attention

  • Doesn't have much time to do work or study due to his football obligations, as he dedicates nearly 40 hours per week to the team

  • Make it to the NFL and play professional football

  • Have a steady source of income 

  • To always know where his next meal is coming from


POV Statement:
  • User: Jerry Ross, a hard-working college athlete, 
  • Need: Needs the NCAA to change its policies regarding compensation for student-athletes
  • Insight: Because without pay, will continue to struggle with food/financial insecurity as an undergraduate.
3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.


1. A possible solution to getting college athletes to be paid is to get state legislatures to mandate their colleges to pay their athletes through passing laws. State legislatures are considering passing these laws because they will help athletes coming from poor backgrounds. Even with the scholarship these players receive, paying for other college expenses including school materials, food, and transportation may be very hard. California recently passed a law to “require major financial reforms in college athletics” in all California universities. This law specifically makes these universities allow their college athletes to receive endorsement deals. This has created conflict with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and university presidents. The NCAA claims that if different states place different laws regarding this issue then it will make it impossible for all of these universities to play on a level playing field. This is because universities in states with these laws will attract more players than universities without these laws. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, says that negotiations over this bill will continue with the NCAA for the three years before this bill goes into effect. Laws like this being passed in states all over the country would help college athletes greatly.  



2. Another potential solution to this problem is getting rid of the “one and done” rule the NBA imposes. This rule makes high school basketball players play one year in college in order to go to the NBA. Getting rid of this rule would allow athletes with higher skill levels to receive payment for their work without spending a year in college. Repealing this rule would also get rid of the risk certain athletes face of injuring themselves before making it pro, costing themselves potential millions of dollars. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that he believes this rule has its issues and that the 2022 draft may allow high school basketball players to go straight to play in the NBA. Silver also plans on having the NBA’s player association, USA Basketball, be more involved in preparing skilled high school basketball players for going straight to the NBA.  



3. A third potential solution to this problem is college athletes forming unions in order to collectively bargain to be paid. If large amounts of college athletes refused to play if they did not receive pay, the universities and the organizations they play for would have to do something about it. In 2014, a majority of the Northwestern football team decided to sign union cards. Northwestern players justified this by claiming that they were employees. These players were worried about their health and demanded medical insurance from the school. Northwestern gives its players a supplemented health policy to a player’s already existing health plan, but these players also needed to initially have their own health insurance. Other things this union was interested in was fighting for stipend checks for these players since tuition costs do not cover the daily costs college athletes have to pay for. Handing in these signed union cards resulted in this incident receiving national media attention, leading to more people learning about the issues college athletes face. However, Northwestern refused to recognize the players as employees and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “unanimously agreed not to exert the board’s jurisdiction over whether Northwestern’s football players were university employees.” This means the union was dead. The fact that this union was very close to being made shows hope that it is possible in the near future that other college athlete unions will emerge and may even succeed.  



Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:


New legislation announced this past Wednesday that is extremely relevant to the proposal. 

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

There are thousands of collegiate athletes in the State of Michigan. This proposal would provide relief to a large portion of them who are low-income individuals and suffer from food insecurity. These individuals are not ones that benefit from the new NCAA regulations, as they are not superstars who get national media attention.  

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

My whole life I have been an avid sports fan and the topic of compensating college athletes is a debate that no sports fan could avoid for the past several years. I really began to see how unfair the system was when I noticed that coaches and athletic staff were signing huge contracts and reaping the rewards of the player's hard work. This has been a really fun topic to do a project on, as there have been multiple major announcements in the past weeks that have opened the doors to compensating student-athletes in the state of Michigan. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

I have been doing my service at Food Gatherers, a non-profit that is battling food insecurity in the greater Ann Arbor area. I feel that this relates quite closely to our proposal, as food insecurity is really at the root of the issue for low-income college athletes, such as Jerry Ross. While completing my service activity I have learned from experts about the various ways that food-insecure individuals can gain access to food. I also had the opportunity to hear different stories about what it is really like to be uncertain of where your next meal will come from. My experience with Food Gatherers was very positive, and I look forward to continuing to work with them. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Our infographic media artifact:



Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Andrew - Basketball Team Manager - He is a family friend and has been the team manager for the UofM varsity basketball team for the last four years. He was able to give me insight related to the daily lives of student-athletes. He told me that the players are really full-time basketball players and how much they sacrifice t for the team. For me, this solidified the fact that it's impossible for students to have a job and be a student-athlete at the same time. 

CONSULTATION 2: College Football Player- Prefers To Remain Anonymous - This is a kid who played on Brett's high school football team. We spoke to him about what it is like to play sports at a smaller school and how it differs from playing for a team at Michigan. He explained to us how the commitment is pretty similar, yet they do not receive the same perks or potential future benefits that players at bigger schools receive. He also made clear that nobody on his team would benefit from the new NCAA rule regarding compensation for a player's likeness or for an endorsement deal. That only helps a minority of players who are the stars of a few select sports programs. 

CONSULTATION 3: Dr. Roger Pielke - Professor at University of Colorado - He wrote an opinion article that offered the solution of taking the revenue model that professors use for research and patents, and using it to compensate athletes. It is a revenue-sharing model, where the University and the athletes would split the profits that they earn equally. This is an objectively fair method, and it adds incentive for both parties. We emailed Dr. Pielke to request the opportunity to speak with him on the phone to ask more questions. He responded that he would be happy to answer any questions we had and expressed his excitement for MSC. He mostly reiterated what he said in his article, placing a large amount of emphasis on the success that the revenue sharing model has had in academic contexts. If it works for professors and faculty performing research, it should be able to work for students playing sports. 


Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

We decided to meet with topic coordinator James Landau in the Ross School of Business. He commended us for a job well done on several aspects of our proposal. However, he did give us some insighftul advide/recommendatoins. We were able to work out another potential resolution to financially compensating college athletes, one that included the NCAA rewarding teams that meet certain GPA and graduation benchmarks. We edited our resolution and cost/funding sections with this in mind. 



Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

As mentioned earlier, this topic has been something that both of us had previously been quite aware of. Our first research just came through doing online searches and reading articles on our favorite sports websites. As college students ourselves, I think we sympathized with the athletes from the start and always supported the idea of compensating college athletes. I also believe that is due to the general consensus in the country that currently exists which supports the movement to compensate college athletes. Just in the past two weeks, both the NCAA and the state of Michigan have announced rules that allow college athletes to receive compensation for endorsements and for the use of their likeness. While discussing these new rules with Micheal during our proposal check-in meeting, we noticed that they only really benefit the small portion of superstar athletes. We wanted to learn how we can simply help the average player. We were able to do this by speaking on the phone with a real division-1 college football player at Wagner College, who served as a primary source and gave us great insight into his experience. That conversation is what helped us focus on the average athlete, not just the superstar. 


Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Throughout the process, we tried as hard as possible to evenly distribute the workload between each of us. So, we literally split most of the tasks in two and completed them in tandem. For example, Oliver did two consultations and Brett did one. But Brett came up with two solutions and Oliver only wrote one of them. We followed this trend for each of the tasks and sections, and are each happy with the even contribution. We also both separately proofread the document in private and then met to discuss changes and make final edits.  


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... “In 2010, the average graduation rate for March Madness teams was 43%, with six teams under 20% and two under 10%.”

WHEREAS.... “Coaches do not follow the 20 hour per week limit on practice time set by NCAA law. More time in practice means less time in class and fewer opportunities to study”.

WHEREAS.... “Fewer than 2 percent of NCAA student-athletes go on to be professional athletes.”

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


  1. Require the NCAA to award additional funding to schools who meet a certain GPA and graduation rate benchmark, redistributing these funds to its athletes. This would not only contribute to a potential college athletes’ salary/wage, but would encourage them to succeed academically and better prepare them for a career outside of athletics.

  2. Implement stricter enforcement of practicing hours rules for NCAA athletes, enabling them to succeed academically and prepare for a future life outside of athletics OR compensate student-athletes financially for their hours of dedication to the team.

  3. Pay athletes a salary based on athletic merit - hours spent in practice, meetings, playing time, performance, etc., receiving compensation for their performance given the unlikeliness of it continuing. 


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

  1. Students are provided with academic opportunities and resources to help them succeed academically - if they fail to graduate, it’s a result of their own actions/non-actions. They are the ones responsible for taking advantage of a free/discounted education. They also should be held to the same academic standard as regular students, so it is not fair for them to receive payment based on their GPA or graduation status. 

  2. Coaches and team staff members already know the risk of practicing over the NCAA limit of 20 hours per week - if caught, they’re liable to face any punishment from the association. Further enforcement of this rule is unnecessary, they’re aware of the potential punishment.

  3. High-achieving students are already usually on scholarship for the athletic abilities and successes, further compensating them for their work is unneeded and excessive.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

If our first resolution was enacted, money from the NCAA rewarding teams that succeed academically would be distributed to athletes. This proposal would also cost some salary of coaches and staff in athletic programs; the average D1 football coach makes $1.64 million annually, a portion of this money would be distributed to players. On average, Division I schools spend $90,000 per athlete, which is 7 times more than the average student. Of this money, roughly 84% is spent on team staff salaries, game expenses, and facilities to attract recruits. There is no doubt that this money could be distributed in a way that financially compensates deserving athletes, and that most Division I athletes would have no problem utilizing slightly less luxurious facilities/gymnasiums/arenas in order to receive some financial merit for their hard work.

Alternatively, It is important to note that section 4 of article of the state of Michigan Constitution states that lawmakers must appropriate funding to maintain the public colleges in the state. That includes the athletic department at those schools, meaning the state would be within its constitutional power to provide additional money to schools in order to fund this proposal.  

A third potential source of funding could be through the implementation of a revenue-sharing model. 50% of athletic department revenue would go to the school and the other 50% would go towards compensating players. This model is similar to how faculty and institutions monetize academic research, so it is feasible to implement. This funding model is also positive for both the teams and players, as it aligns incentives to bring in revenue. 


These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.








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Total votes: 28