by Kimberly Pena
Over the past years, the conversation in college sports about unionizing and paying student athletes have been heating up, and the discussion is not going anywhere, especially at Central Connecticut State University.
With over 400 student athletes attending CCSU, 99 of those students are football players, making up nearly 25 percent of the student athlete population at Central. On average, Central football players spend an approximate 45-plus hours training a week, and that does not include travel time, game time, study hall and their regular classes.
Joey Fields, a junior and a wide receiver for the football team, says his schedule is always tight. In the regular season, he does not get enough personal time to relax or hang out with friends. He wakes up at 6 a.m. to head to the field at seven in the morning for practice, then heads to lift weights at eight and following that, he must go to his daily meetings with the team at 9:25 in the morning.
Following his busy morning, Fields starts going to his regular classes and has an advising meeting in between. Once his academic day is done, Fields returns to the field and has practice from three in the afternoon to six in the evening. This is his daily routine, and it does not account for travel and game day.
“This is my job, this is my job,” said Fields. “We don’t literally get paid upfront with it, but this is what I do for a living.”
Since usual game time occurs on Saturdays, the team returns to campus late at night. The following morning, the team holds their weekly Sunday meetings, a few hours of practice and then study hall for about two hours at night. Fields believes that with this non-stop ongoing schedule, student athletes deserve to and need to be paid.
“The amount of hours we put into doing this, the time we have to be up, the time we go to sleep, the things you have to remember, the things you got to do,” said Fields. “You know a normal student, you can just go to class and go do whatever you want the rest of the day. We are living on a time schedule from the time we wake up, to the time we go to sleep. There is no stopping.”
Najae Brown, also a junior and a safety for the team, agrees with Fields and says the team works hard enough to get compensation that he believes they deserve.
“We do put in a lot of work, going to workouts, practice and then going to class,” said Brown. “We should get a little something, not like overly paid, but something.”
According to the Department of Athletics Assistant for Communication and Media Services Thomas Pincince, 274 out of 403 student-athletes receive some form of athletics aid, while 82 are on a full scholarship.
Fields and Brown are two of those 82, but it doesn’t mean they are never tight on money, typically turning to their parents if they need the extra cash for necessities, such as food. Fields explains how many of his teammates and other athletes in the school are constantly struggling financially, and are not as lucky as him who can turn to their parents for financial support.
“All my friends play Division I football and you know, they will send texts to me of them starving and they’ll be hungry, you know what I am saying. They are tight on money,” said Fields. “The café is closed and that’s where they usually get their food from, the café. So, let’s say they are on scholarships, they have meal plans. A lot of people say you are on a meal plan, there is nothing to be complaining about. What happens when the café closes, where do you go when the café closes? You open your fridge and there is nothing but water in there.”
Although the Department of Athletics at CCSU has a good understanding of the hours student athletes dedicate to the school and to the sport, there is just not enough money to pay the athletes, according to Pincince.
“I do understand some of the hardships that might come with that (being a student athlete), you know the ability to work and have a job to get some extra money,” said Pincince. “What makes it difficult at a place like Central Connecticut is the money factor. The reality is that an athletic department our size and our budget, we don’t have the money to pay student athletes. It is just the reality. We faced budget cuts each of the last few years.”
The CCSU Department of Athletics most recent budget cut amassed to be $300,000, according to CCSU Athletics Director Paul Schlickmann. With this cut, it makes the task of student athletes getting paid that much more difficult at Central.
“We understand that athletics is not unique in the challenges that come with the state financial picture, the direct impact it has had on the University and the challenges presented to each area of the institution to do more with less,” said Schlickmann. “We are committed to maintaining high expectations and providing our student-athletes with the best experience possible during their time at CCSU.”
The 2016 football season featured the Blue Devils turning in a record of 2-10. That record brought in a revenue of approximately $194,000, this includes game guarantees and ticket profits, according to Pincince.
Although that number is not millions like other colleges, such as Notre Dame or Ohio State, Fields believes their team brings in just enough to give attention and publicity to the university.
“Me playing a Division I sport, I see all the fan bases, the things that we bring in and you know, like the venues, like when the games are sold out, all of that. They are there for us,” said Fields. “We should be getting paid for the things we bring to the school and the time we put into it. People only see the games and what we are doing at the games, but people don’t see what’s going on behind that Saturday night or that Friday evening on game day.”
However, sophomore and quarterback Jacob Dolegala, understands why the team does not get paid because of the complexity that goes into making a system work, and simply because CCSU does not have the budget like other universities. However, he wouldn’t mind making the extra bucks throughout the semester.
“It would help to have that extra money on the side,” said Dolegala. “I know for a fact we [university] don’t [have enough money]. We have to win more, and we are planning on changing that, but we just have to win.”
Although several players from the football team hope to get paid sometime soon, that may be a scenario far out of reach. With not a high amount of revenue, budget cuts and for a small university compared to Alabama State, getting paid is not an option right now or in the near future for the Blue Devils.