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Poll: More people than ever believe college athletes should be paid

University of Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes (AP)
University of Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes (AP)

Fewer and fewer Americans believe that a four-year college scholarship is enough reward for collegiate athletes.

According to the latest Seton Hall Sports Poll, shared first with Yahoo Finance, only 60% of people surveyed this year feel that providing a scholarship is sufficient pay for college athletes. In 2013, that number was 71%.

In addition, 40% of people surveyed say the college athletes are exploited by not sharing in the NCAA’s revenue pie. That is the highest the figure has been in the 10 years that Seton Hall has been conducting the poll, though they do not ask the question every year.

Men are more likely than women to believe the students are being exploited, and people age 18 to 44 are much more likely to believe it than those over 45.

“The public seems to be more sympathetic” to the rising costs of being a student athlete that aren’t covered by a scholarship, says Rick Gentile, director of the poll, about the results.

It’s worth noting that not all respondents necessarily mean that the athletes should be paid a salary. Many of them, Gentile says, “are thinking compensation beyond scholarship,” which could manifest in a number of ways. (Some supporters of paying college athletes have proposed stipends for travel, or for parents to travel, or food tickets, or other gifts.)

The issue of compensation for college athletes has come to a head in the past few years for a number of factors: rising revenue of the NCAA; large bonus payments for coaches and athletic directors of football programs that qualify for a bowl game; and the legal case of former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon against the NCAA and against EA Games for using players’ likenesses, among other contributing events.

March Madness basketball, of course, is another annual event that gets people humming again about paying college athletes. This year’s tournament is already setting gambling records.

Nigel Hayes, a star at The University of Wisconsin, reignited the issue this season when he appeared on ESPN College GameDay holding up a homemade sign: “Broke college athlete, anything helps” with his Venmo username. More than 2,000 fans sent him money.

For the purposes of the poll, Seton Hall surveyed 739 adults across the US, by phone, from March 20 to 22. The poll has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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