College football has been a staple in the American sports landscape for over a hundred years. As a matter of fact, football opportunities at various colleges and universities are a major lure for students to continue education beyond high school. Fans rush to fill up stadiums, especially in the South, to cheer on players and help push them to victory. Merchandise flies off the shelves to support these teams who shape these athletes to possibly go on to the NFL. While this all proves to show how great college football is, there are many things going on behind the scenes that you may not be aware of.

The timeless sport of football takes a major toll on a player’s body, both physically and mentally. Several moves carried out on the fields can cause injury to the brain, arms, legs, and spine, resulting in life-altering injuries. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition found among several football players, has been shown to cause dementia. Concussions, a common injury in the sports world, can result in symptoms of short-term brain damage, fatigue, and nausea, just to name a few. Players can also suffer from broken limbs, which potentially benches them for a few season games. In the worst-case scenario, a hard hit from an opposing team member can cause paralysis, causing the player to spend the rest of their life bound to a wheelchair. 

Also, these players are very young. Many college athletes are in their late teens and early 20s. With the risk they are put at when playing this physically demanding sport, they are subject to life-changing injuries, before they even have the chance to graduate and make an impact on society. At the time these students sign the contract to join the world of football, they are unaware of the possible damage to their well-being they will face out on the field, unless of course they watch the news.

Because we live in the U.S., we have the freedom to make choices on what we do with our lives. However, that isn’t always the case for college athletes. There are many students who dream of going to college after high school, but their parents may not be able to afford it, or they may not have the grades to meet the admission criteria. That’s where college football and other athletics come into play. If you have the ability to play these sports, you may receive a full scholarship just to play on your school’s athletic team. This is a great tactic to draw students to the school, without promoting the importance of academics. 

Social pressure also has a lot of effect on the decision of playing a sport, such as football. For many, it’s a great chance join a social group where you are forced to interact and befriend those whom you may not speak to otherwise. For those who are athletically talented but socially awkward, it may be their only choice. Also, high-school athletes being portrayed as the cool kids may be another selling point for students to join and continue into college football. And let’s not forget the students who are pressured by their parents to continue the family tradition of playing college sports. Who wouldn’t want to make their parents proud by carrying on a tradition that was pushed onto them and subsequently presents a burden to the new generation? 

Another major factor of college football, which benefits the educational institutions tremendously, is money. The sales from college football tickets and merchandise rake in millions of dollars to the school. This funding is usually used to renovate the athletic facilities and to pay coaches their million-dollar salaries. That’s right, million-dollar salaries. Head football coaches can be paid upwards of $9 million dollars annually. In most situations, college football coaches are earning more than executive-level administrators, such as presidents and vice presidents of institutions who hold high-level degrees. That is an excellent business model; we should be paying athletic administrators high salaries, even though their positions do not fall under the umbrella of the goal and mission of the educational institution to provide academic instruction. Let’s pay these coaches, with just a high-school diploma or bachelor’s degree ten times more than a professor with a Ph.D. A better option would be that the money be used to give professors a raise or for research, or even to invest in the school to offer more classes and rebuild buildings that may be falling apart.

At least someone is getting paid. However, the members of the college football realm who do most of the work—the students—are paid nothing. They put themselves on the front line, at risk for injury and possibly death, to wow crowds of thousands for no salary. The only payment they receive is in the form of scholarships. But does that help in the case of students under-performing academically or getting severely injured and losing their scholarship? We need to investigate college sports and find a way to make these athletic college staples more beneficial for the players.

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