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NCAA needs to find a way to compensate student-athletes, Mason professor says

May 11, 2018

Dave Wiggins

Dave Wiggins, a professor of sport history at George Mason University, does not agree with the mother of former Duke basketball star Wendell Carter, who compared the NCAA system to slavery or prison.

But he does believe a way should be developed to compensate student/athletes beyond the cost of their scholarships.

“There are a lot of people making money on the backs of young, highly skilled college athletes, an enormous amount of money being made by coaches, especially in the highly commercialized sports of football and basketball,” said Wiggins, one of the nation’s most respected sport historians. “Shouldn’t [student-athletes] at least get paid when their image is shown on something?”

Or be provided a stipend.

“I’m very supportive about something along those lines,” Wiggins said. “Just something to make it easier on them. This whole notion of amateurism went out long ago.”

Many argue that scholarships, which provide athletes a chance for a free education, are the compensation.

“It is a complicated issue,” said Christopher Elzey, director of Mason’s sport and American culture minor and a former college basketball player at the University of Pennsylvania.

Especially how a stipend would be administered.

“Would you put the money into an account that an athlete can access once they finish school?” Elzey said. “Would you allow access immediately? And what are the ripple effects of that? Football and basketball, the money that those sports generate, go into other sports in the athletic departments. What do you do with those other programs if money is being redirected?”

Christopher Elzey

“And what about other athletes who play in non-revenue sports,” Elzey said. “Do you allow them to access stipends? There are a lot of questions. The state that we’re in now is a reflection of those complications.”

The issue likely won’t be resolved soon as NCAA President Mark Emmert recently said paying student-athletes is not an option.

“It’s not slavery. Slavery was slavery,” said Wiggins, who played baseball at Oregon State and San Diego State. “These athletes are provided opportunities to receive an education. They come in and in many ways they get more [academic] assistance than a regular college student. But I do believe they should be given an opportunity to realize more money than they do. They have to be reimbursed in more ways than they are now.”

Dave Wiggins can be reached at 703-993-9118 or dwiggin1@gmu.edu.

Christopher Elzey can be reached at 703-993-1250 or celzey@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at 703-993-9118 or dcristod@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and 49 states, including Washington, D.C. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.