Chris Stephens

SEC Players Should Not Copy Northwestern

Apr 13, 2014 9:45 AM EST

On April 25, Northwestern players will vote whether or not to unionize — a first in college football history

This issue concerns the payment of college football players whose talents generate a multi-billion dollar industry. The eyes of the Southeastern Conference will be on the vote, and if the outcome is favorable to the student-athletes, more players will look to do the same. In the SEC where football is king, that would have a lasting impact on recruiting.

The most obvious argument in favor of paying college athletes is that universities are earning major TV revenue off them. Why shouldn't they get their share? Already, the National Labor Relations Board has approved unionization.

"The players won on every question," stated Tim Waters, political director of the United Steelworkers, who has been fighting for college athletes' rights for decades. "It's a huge victory."

On the other hand, do players understand the ramifications of getting paid by their institutions? Could it be possible that instead of awarding scholarships to student-athletes, schools will pay them a student worker's salary? They would be forced to pay tuition, fees, books, housing, meals, tutoring, gear supplied to them by the school, etc.

Let's break down the costs at each SEC school (via Compare College Statistics) per two semesters. We'll scrap tutoring and gear supplied as those figures are unavailable. Tuition and fees are broken down categorically by in-state and out-of-state, while the statistics describe on-campus housing and the meal plan for a full seven days:

School In-State Tuition In-State Fees Out-of-State Tuition Out-of-State Fees Books Housing Meals



Dollars Per Hour

(Based on 40 hrs/week, 15 weeks/semester)

Alabama $8,600 $0 $21,900 $0 $1,100 $14,239 $3,276 $27,215/$40,515 $22.67/$33.76
Arkansas $5,888 $1,286 $16,320 $1,286 $1,214 $12,076 $3,580 $24,044/$34,476 $20.03/$28.73
Auburn $7,296 $1,402 $21,888 $1,402 $1,100 $12,554 $4,727 $27,079/$41,671 $22.56/$34.72
Florida $4,060 $1,597 $25,276 $2,658 $1,070 $12,530 $4,292 $23,549/$45,826 $19.62/$38.18
Georgia $6,676 $2,190 $24,411 $2,190 $1,078 $10,270 $3,956 $24,170/$41,905 $20.14/$34.92
Kentucky $8,122 $1,006 $17,734 $1,006 $800 $12,240 $5,682 $27,850/$37,462 $23.20/$31.21
LSU $4,558 $1,796 $4,558 $14,804 $1,500 $11,560 $4,186 $23,600/$36,608 $19.66/$30.50
Ole Miss $5,790 $0 $14,796 $0 $1,200 $12,862 $3,998 $23,850/$32,856 $19.87/$27.38
Miss. St. $5,805 $0 $14,670 $0 $1,200 $12,970 $3,128 $23,103/$31,968 $19.25/$26.64
Missouri $7,848 $1,141 $20,643 $1,141 $1,086 $11,799 $3,450 $25,323/$38,119 $21.10/$31.76
South Carolina $9,768 $400 $25,952 $400 $950 $11,946 $2,958 $26,022/$42,206 $21.68/$35.17
Tennessee $7,224 $1,172 $24,066 $1,472 $1,448 $13,727 $3,770 $27,341/$44,483 $22.78/$37.06
Texas A&M $5,297 $3,124 $20,687 $3,124 $1,340 $10,962 $4,180 $24,903/$40,293 $20.75/$33.57
Vanderbilt $40,320 $1,012 $40,320 $1,012 $1,344 $15,878 $4,850 $63,404/$63,404 $52.83/$52.83

It's safe to say that athletes work a full week (40 hours) when it comes to practice, games, meetings, film study and seasonal travel. Going to classes, studying, eating, sleeping and downtime obviously don't count.

Looking at the numbers, student-athletes on full scholarship make, on average, $27,960 if they're an in-state student or $40,842 if they're from out of state. Vanderbilt brings up the average, but it is still a part of the conference, so it must be included. The only difference is, the money is limited to paying for education, food, housing, etc., and not direct cash handouts. It's also important to remember that tutoring the athletic department provides and school-related clothing are not included.

It's understandable that athletes don't want to eat in the dining hall seven days a week, three meals a day — so schools could throw in a little extra spending money, but that's about as far as I would go.

Taxes And Insurance

Oh yes, it's the most wonderful thing that all working Americans notice first on their pay stubs. You have taxes. So, let's break down the taxes that would be taken out if student-athletes are paid. Depending on their wages, athletes would pay $892.50 plus 15 percent if their income lies between $8,925 and $36,250. If they make between $36,250 and $87,850, they'll pay $4,991.25 plus 25 percent.

State taxes, social security and medicare taxes are also factors. Here's what students from each school would face:

School Tuition (In/Out) Federal (In/Out) State (In/Out) Social Security (In/Out) Medicare (In/Out) Total Taxes (In/Out)
Alabama $27,215/$40,515 $4,974.75/$15,120 $1,360.75/$2,025.75 $1,687.33/$2,511.93 $394.61/$587.46 $8,417.44/$20,245.14
Arkansas $24,044/$34,476 $4,499/$6,063.90 $1,442.64/$2,068.56 $1,490.72/$2,137.51 $348.63/$499.90 $7,780.99/$10,769.87
Auburn $27,079/$41,671 $4,954.35/$15,409 $1,353.95/$2,083.55 $1,678.89/$2,583.60 $392.64/$604.22 $8,379.83/$20,680.37
Florida $23,549/$45,826 $4,424.85/$16,477.75 $0 $1,460.03/$2,841.21 $341.46/$664.47 $6,226.34/$19,983.43
Georgia $24,170/$41,905 $4,518/$15,476.50 $1,450.20/$2,514.30 $1,498.54/$2,598.11 $350.46/$607.62 $7,817.20/$21,196.53
Kentucky $27,850/$37,462 $5,070/$14,356.75 $1,615.30/$2,172.79 $1,726.70/$2,322.64 $403.82/$543.19 $8,815.82/$19,395.37
LSU $23,600/$36,608 $4,432.50/$14,143.25 $944/$1,464.32 $1,463.20/$2,269.69 $342.20/$530.81 $7,181.90/$18,408.07
Ole Miss $23,850/$32,856 $4,470/$5,820.90 $1,192.50/$1,642.80 $1,478.70/$2,037.07 $345.82/$476.41 $7,487.02/$9,977.18
Miss. St. $23,103/$31,968 $4,357.95/$5,687.70 $1,155.15/$1,598.40 $1,432.38/$1,982.01 $334.99/$463.53 $7,280.47/$9,731.64
Missouri $25,323/$38,119 $4,690.95/$14,521 $1,519.38/$2,287.14 $1,570.02/$2,363.37 $367.18/$552.72 $8,147.53/$19,724.23
South Carolina $26,022/$42,206 $4,795.80/$15,542.50 $1,821.54/$2,954.42 $1,613.36/$2,616.77 $377.31/$611.98 $8,608.01/$21,725.67
$4,993.65/$16,112 $0 $1,695.14/$2,757.94 $396.44/$645 $7,085.23/$19,514.94
Texas A&M $24,903/$40,293 $4,627.95/$15,064.50 $0 $1,543.98/$2,498.16 $361.09/$584.24 $6,533.02/$18,146.90
Vanderbilt $63,404/$63,404 $20,842.25/$20.842.25 $0 $3,931.04/$3,931.04 $919.35/$919.35 $25,692.64/$25,692.64

Then there's medical coverage. After all, athletic trainers and doctors don't work for free. So some money will need to be taken out from the paycheck for health insurance.

Should Student-Athletes Get Paid?

In the grand scheme of things, student-athletes should get some sort of stipend that goes beyond what the school already provides for them. Professional sports teams provide small stipends while on the road, and colleges should do something similar.

Schools (and the NCAA) do make a lot of money off of these athletes, especially those like Johnny Manziel. And while some may not consider it fair, they did sign on the dotted line to receive a scholarship from the university. 

Bringing in the term "paid workers" brings a lot of other headaches from the real world that they may not be prepared to deal with. 

Plus, can we really expect schools to pay student-athletes a wage in addition to scholarships? It's highly unlikely. Doing so would increase the amount of money schools are putting toward individual athletes. That would get in the way of profits and cut into the budget for coaching, recruiting and more.

How would schools make up that revenue? Ticket prices and student fees. Student-athletes may not care about that, but their fellow students won't stand for an increase when tuition costs already are skyrocketing. 


There are a lot of things to consider when determining whether or not athletes should get paid. If schools are forced to pay these athletes, all of the perks they once received will vanish. Uncle Sam will make sure to get his as well.

Throw in the costs of tutoring and all of the athletic gear these players receive, and they make more than their fellow students who work full-time jobs and pay for school in the process.

It's understandable why college athletes feel like they should get paid. I'm all for granting them a small monthly stipend so they can go out to eat and do things with their friends. However, they're only kidding themselves if they think it's something as simple as getting a check or money in an envelope.

There are a lot of real-world things that will come their way should they unionize and force schools to pay them. They already get paid in the form of an education and connections that can get them a job once they graduate.

Student-athletes do deserve a little more, but it's not as much as they think. They're already getting paid. It just may not be in the form they prefer.