Time and time again we’re subject to the debate about whether college athletes should be paid. Big-time college football and basketball players bring huge streams of revenues in to their schools. In return, they are offered four years of education.
Some of these athletes embrace their studies, others skip out on up to three years of their scholarships to turn pro and make real money.
All the while, the coffers of the universities and their coaches are being lined with cash.
For professional track and field athletes, the reimbursement for their efforts are also minimal.
Part of that comes from the way track and field is viewed in the United States: For three years, nobody cares. Then in an Olympiad year, everyone falls in love with the sport. As a result, the television networks rake in huge dollars from advertising while ratings soar through the roof.
But, much like in the NCAA, all those dollars earned do not trickle down to the ones creating the product — the athletes.
Olympian Nick Symmonds, who ran collegiately at Salem’s Willamette University, is pushing the envelope on this issue. He is doing everything in his power to draw attention to the poor payment handed to these phenomenal athletes.
One of his initiatives was selling prime advertising space – on his left biceps – in an auction. He must cover up the tattoo during races, but he is generating publicity for himself and, more importantly, for his sport.
Professional track and field does not hold the status of other pro sports in the United States. It doesn’t even come close. In non-Olympic years, any attention paid to the sport is positive. Once these athletes are thrust into the mainstream, perhaps their endorsement deals and other revenue streams will rise.
Take, for example, Bend product Ashton Eaton. At the Olympic Trials, Eaton set a world record in the decathlon.
In the decathlon, athletes compete in 10 different events over two days. Normally the world champion in this event is considered the World’s Greatest Athlete. Using that criterion, which may be a stretch, Eaton’s mark of 9,039 makes him the greatest athlete of all time.
Financially, what did he receive? According to several reports published online, Eaton earned $750,000 as an incentive through his endorsement deal with Nike.
Although that seems like a lot of money to you or I, compare that figure with the contracts on the Portland Trail Blazers roster: Nobody is set to make less than $1.3 million during the 2012-13 season.
That’s right, regardless of what Kurt Thomas does in a Blazers uniform next season, he will be paid more than $500,000 more than Eaton was for completing a decathlon better than anyone in the history of the event.
The money is there in track. At the Olympic Trials, tickets sold for around $70 a day. Multiply that by the 25,000 in attendance for each of the eight days, and you’re looking at $14 million.
That does not include the money made by Nike, who was selling wares at the neighboring festival, nor does it include the money made by the other dozens and dozens of vendors who profited from sales.
Hardly any of that money made its way back into the hands of the athletes — the ones people were paying all of that money to see.
Think about that next time you shell out $65 for an Oregon Ducks football ticket. How much of that money will go to Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota? Sure, you’ll see their faces on some of the many billboards promoting the Ducks around Eugene, but you won’t see them cashing in on the money they make for their school.
Traditionalists will say a free education is fair compensation. They’re wrong.
The schools and the shoe companies are the ones still cashing in on old jersey sales, on merchandise and on the athletes themselves.
For some sports, life in college isn’t much different than life in the pros.
I think it is very important to be sure your facts are correct with reference to the bonus that Ashton Eaton allegedly received before you begin using the information to make a point. Has anyone confirmed the information with Ashton's camp? I can guarantee you, that the rumored bonus...is just that...a rumor. Which I imagine, actually further helps your case; that Track and Field athletes don't get paid--yet get exploited for their success and marketablity when it benifits companies who make literally millions of dollars off of the athlete's success story, their good name and character, their phyical prowess as well as there ability to be great speakers and representatives of the products these large companies are selling