Nowadays, college athletes can earn money from sponsorships, endorsements, and autograph signings. Can high school football players get paid?
Usually, high school football players are not allowed to profit from the sport. Until recently, college football had strict amateurism requirements, where athletes could only get scholarships and not profit in other ways. While these rules are gone for college players, they are still there for high school football, though there may be ways around the rules.
As a high school football coach, I dislike the strict amateurism requirements and would prefer athletes to be allowed to profit from the sport in high school. However, it may take a while for the rules to change. There may already be some loopholes that allow athletes to make money from high school sports without facing consequences.
Can College Athletes Be Paid to Play?
No, college athletes don’t get paid to play the way professional players do. However, some of them make money from sponsorships and endorsements. This is in addition to the scholarships they received before amateurism rules were relaxed.
Former Amateurism Rules for College Athletes
Before 2021, college football players could not get endorsements or even accept free meals from restaurants. If they did, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) could kick them out. High school football players that accepted money could also lose their eligibility to play college football.
Removal of Amateurism Rules
Since July 2021, there have been way fewer restrictions on college athletes. They can do endorsements and sponsorships, as long as their income is not tied to how many points they score or games they win.
Does this Affect High School Athletes?
The NCAA currently does not have any problem with high school athletes profiting from their sports. They can profit from high school football and the NCAA will still let them play college football. However, the NCAA is not the only organization involved, so it is not yet possible for high school athletes to receive endorsements.
NFHS Rules vs NCAA Rules
While the NCAA doesn’t object to high school athletes making money, the NFHS (National Federation of High School Associations) does. They say that high school athletes are not allowed to profit from their connection to a high school football team. The NFHS can enforce this by revoking the student’s eligibility to play high school football.
What About Amateur Athletic Union Sports?
Possibly, high school athletes can already profit from football and other sports if they play through the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). There might already be a way for high school athletes to profit without consequences.
The AAU bylaws do not bar players from profiting from their sports. The NFHS does not control AAU sports and does not control recreational sports.
At best, it might be possible for an athlete that plays both AAU games and NFHS games to profit. Possibly, they could endorse a product on the basis of their AAU games and not their NFHS games without the NFHS kicking them out. It is not yet completely clear how a high school athlete can make money while avoiding consequences.
Would High School Athletes Earning Money Create too Much Envy?
One argument against high school athletes being able to profit from the sport is that it would create too much envy and jealousy. Players would be jealous of those that make more money.
However, jealousy, envy, and competition are already part of high school football. It is full of competition and hierarchy and that is why it appeals to fans and players. It would help and not harm the sport to allow high school players to make money.
Even Olympic Athletes Used to Have to be Amateurs
Until very recently, the Olympics were separate from the rest of professional sports. An NHL player could not join an Olympic hockey team and compete for a gold medal.
These amateurism rules were there from the first modern Olympics in 1898 and were taken seriously. If you were caught making money from competing through endorsements, you could get banned from the Olympics. They would even take your medals away.
The people enforcing these rules were not lenient. After it was discovered that American gold medalist Jim Thorpe had received small amounts of money for playing baseball in college, he lost his gold medals. Eventually, the medals were given back – but only after Jim Thorpe was dead.
Why Was it Only for Amateurs?
People believed that opening the Olympic games to professional athletes was against the spirit of the Olympics. They believed that the Olympics would no longer be the Olympics if professional athletes competed and that it would lose its greatness.
However, sports are all about competition, and they should go beyond the love of the sport at the highest skill levels. Very skilled athletes should have the opportunity to make money, including at the high school and college levels.
- High school football players still do not get paid for playing and are not allowed to receive sponsorships or profit in other ways. The NFHS does not allow high school athletes to profit.
- Rules are much more lenient for college athletes than they were until the NCAA changed its rules in 2021. College athletes still don’t get paid to compete, but they can make money from endorsements, sponsorships, or signing autographs.
- It is still difficult for high school athletes to profit from playing football. The NCAA does not have a problem with high school athletes making money. However, the NFHS, which controls high school sports, does not allow it.
- Athletes can play AAU sports that are not controlled by the NFHS and profit from these sports. AAU bylaws do not say that players cannot earn money.
- The Olympics used to only be for amateurs and not professional athletes. However, they abandoned this requirement for nearly all sports in the 1980s, and for all sports since then.