Presumably naked self-interest on the part of college coaches and other athletic department employees getting rich off the labor of college football and basketball players is the main explanation for their opposition to the idea of paying their “student-athletes”. Racism also has some explanatory power:
Prejudice or Principled Conservatism? Racial Resentment and White Opinion toward Paying College Athletes
Kevin Wallsten, Tatishe M. Nteta, Lauren A. McCarthy, Melinda R. Tarsi
Political Research Quarterly 2017, Vol. 70(1) 209–222
Despite its widespread use in studies of race and ethnic politics, there exists a long-standing debate about whether
racial resentment primarily measures antiblack prejudice or ideological conservatism. In this paper, we attempt to
resolve this debate by examining racial resentment’s role in shaping white opinion on a “racialized” policy issue
that involves no federal action and no government redistribution of resources: “pay for play” in college athletics.
Using cross-sectional and experimental data from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study and Amazon’s
Mechanical Turk, we find evidence not only that racial resentment items tap racial predispositions but also that whites
rely on these predispositions when forming and expressing their views on paying college athletes. More specifically, we
demonstrate that racially resentful whites who were subtly primed to think about African Americans are more likely
to express opposition to paying college athletes when compared with similarly resentful whites who were primed
to think about whites. Because free-market conservatism, resistance to changes in the status quo, opposition to
expanding federal power, and reluctance to endorse government redistributive policies cannot possibly explain these
results, we conclude that racial resentment is a valid measure of antiblack prejudice.