Jake Butt believes college athletes should be paid.
That’s not exactly a revelation. The former Michigan tight end, now preparing for the NFL draft, has spoken out about the issue before — on Twitter, especially. But now that his collegiate eligibility has expired and he’s approaching the start of his professional career, Butt spoke at length at Michigan’s pro day on Friday, saying specifically he should be able to profit off the use of his own name.
“Something needs to change,” Butt told reporters. “I don’t want a check from the NCAA. I don’t know that that’s something that’s likely, but the big thing is, they say you can’t use your name to benefit.”
According to ESPN, this was something Butt began thinking about when he moved to an off-campus apartment as a sophomore.
“We’re getting $900 a month (for cost-of-attendance) and my rent was 700 bucks. And I had to call my dad (for help),” Butt said. “Thankfully I’m lucky my dad was able to help me out a little bit but there’s plenty of people that don’t have families that can send them a couple bucks to help cover everything else.”
Butt was asked about the first time he asked his dad for some financial help, despite having a full scholarship.
“He said, ‘Wait, aren’t you on scholarship?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Well how much are you getting?’ I said, ‘$900.’ He said, ‘That’s all you’re getting?’ That’s kind of how the conversation went, and that’s when I realized that there’s plenty of kids out there (who can’t ask a family member),” Butt said.
“We can’t get a job. How are we going to get a job? We can’t get a job. We have class. We have workouts. You can’t say we could get a job to pay the extra. Some people can’t call their parents. Some people are sending their money home to their parents. You take that 900 and then you subtract. I see my name being used to profit somebody and I’ve got $200 for food, gas, cable, water.”
Butt, who injured his knee in Michigan’s bowl game and did not participate in workouts in front of NFL teams Friday, is certainly not the first athlete to speak out. But his comments coincidentally come the same day a new poll showed that more people than ever believe college athletes should be paid.
In the latest Seton Hall Sports Poll, which was first shared with our friends at Yahoo Finance, 60 percent of people surveyed believe a four-year scholarship is adequate compensation for a college athlete. That number is down from 71 percent in 2013. On top of that, the number of folks who feel college athletes are “exploited” is on the rise.
In addition, 40 percent 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.
Butt thinks the conversation is headed in the “right direction.” The Seton Hall poll is evidence of that.
Butt reiterated multiple times he doesn’t have a solution yet, but he believes more conversations about college athletes, endorsements and being paid should continue to happen.
“Everybody has different opinions,” Butt said. “I think the NCAA does a good job, you don’t let people unionize. You don’t let people truly have a voice to make a change and then they get to the NFL or start their careers and then no one speaks for the college athletes anymore. But I think it’s moving in the right direction. I think eventually, hopefully something will happen.”
Butt finished his career with 138 catches for 1,646 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was considered a possible first-round pick until he tore his ACL for the second time in Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. He told reporters he hopes to be ready for training camp.
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