Should student athletes be paid for March Madness and other intercollegiate events?

March Madness is nearly here. One of the biggest, most exciting sports events of the year is back on Thursday, March 18th and we can’t wait. 

First played way back in 1939, March Madness is the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. From March 18th to April 5th, a total of 68 teams will compete over seven rounds for the coveted national championship.

This year’s tournament is held in Indiana with the Final Four games being played at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. They may not be paid for it, but these amateur college players never fail to deliver a must-see sporting occasion.

This year’s favorites

The only undefeated team in the whole of college basketball is, not surprisingly, the favorite to win this year. In what promises to be a tight contest, the Gonzago Bulldogs, according to the March Madness lines, are tipped to finally lift their first ever championship.

Baylor, Michigan and Illinois, the other three No.1 seeds are also amongst the favorites, while Alabama, Oklahoma State and Arkansas cannot be ruled out. You can easily check out the odds online or even take a look at the front runners for the.


Just like college baseball and football, basketball is incredibly popular. The 2017 men’s Final Four games had nearly 17 million TV viewers tuned in, and that doesn’t include the millions that were watching online.

By 2019, March Madness was the second-most watched tournament since 1991. Boosted by record viewing figures on digital platforms, plus strong traditional TV viewership.

While the viewing figures for the tournament are impressive, the revenues involved are staggering.


  • CBS and Turner Sports paid $10.8 billion to the NCAA for a 14-year broadcast rights deal which will end in 2024. 
  • In 2016, there was a record $1.24 billion estimated TV ad spend during the tournament. Making March Madness one of the most valuable franchises in televised sports.
  • According to media and marketing analysis firm Kantar Media Intelligences Inc, 2018 saw 99 advertisers spend a combined $1.32 billion nationally on the tournament’s linear game coverage. That figure was up from the $1.28 billion accrued from 97 advertisers the previous year.
  • The American Gaming Association estimated $10.4 billion was wagered on the tournament in 2017. While over 47 million Americans are expected to wager on March Madness this year.
  • The NCAA governing body of college athletics generated nearly $1.1 billion in revenue during the 2017 fiscal year, breaking the billion barrier for the first time.
  • The NCAA makes over 75% of it’s revenues from the March Madness tournament alone.
  • In 2014, the Louisville Cardinals was NCAA basketball’s top-earning team with a revenue of around $40 million. Although a third of the teams claim they made no profit, while five actually reported losses.

With so much money involved, calls for players to be paid continue to grow louder. However, neither side is backing down, with both camps believing they have a strong case.

Reasons for paying students

Sport is a full-time job

It is estimated that college athletes spend at least 40 hours a week practicing and playing their sport. This is on top of their school work and other responsibilities and puts intense pressure on students.  Many athletes will not stay on the team or keep their scholarship if they do not put in these hours, yet they receive no financial rewards for all their hard work.

Academic performance suffers

With so many hours spent practicing and playing, academic studies can be negatively impacted which effects students future careers.

Coaches’ Salaries

In 2014, the salary of Mike Kryzyzewski, Duke Blue Devils head coach, was $9.6 million. Making him NCAA’s top-earning basketball coach and one of an estimated 35 coaches taking home over $1 million a year.

While students are expected to give their all for no financial reward, their coaches are being paid a lot of money. 

They improve the Status of their Colleges

Great college sports teams raise the profile of the institution. All of which means they are able to attract better students and raise their fees to make more money. 

Give athletes a secure future

Very few college basketball players make it to the NBA. If student athletes received a salary for their endeavors, they could leave college with savings behind them as they start their adult lives. 

One Billion dollar revenue

College athletics is an extremely lucrative industry, with football, basketball and baseball bringing in millions of dollars. While the NCAA claim to redistribute much of this to the colleges, the students themselves receive no rewards whatsoever.

Stop the scandals

Under-the-table deals offering preferential treatment and benefits to students have been rumored to be going on for years. A salary would stop this and create a level playing field for all.

Reasons for not paying students

Spirit of the game

Paying players would corrupt the very spirit and nature of college sports. 

Students are already paid

Some athletes receive scholarships worth between $20-50,000. Plus, access to a great education at some of the best schools in the country.

Sport funding

The NCAA claims that profits from men’s basketball and football help fund less lucrative but equally important college sports.

Student benefits

Students benefit from free medical and travel expenses, free equipment, the best coaches, great facilities and a national stage to perform on.

Debt free

Every student athlete knows they won’t get paid when they sign up. Not only that, they will leave university free of debt and with a degree under their belts.

The arguments for and against paying students will continue to rage, but no matter what happens, the sportsmanship, passion and excitement of collegiate sport is here to stay.