Written by: Syl Peterkin
How would you feel if worked hard to get to where you wanted to go in life, but were subjected to a totally different set of rules than the rest of the people in your country? If for you to be in this country you could live there for free, but was not allowed to support yourself from your own hard work. If the country you lived in made a tremendous amount of money from you and your work. Now what if your country was part of an organization (similar to that of the United Nations), which made billions of dollars from people just like you. For your free labor, for allowing you to live in the country, they made not millions but billions from your blood, sweat and tears. You might think that this sounds like slavery. You might think that sounds like it occurred 100 years ago. No this is happening today. This is the world of the college athlete.
You see to participate in college sports you have to be an amateur. You cannot be paid in any manner for playing a sport. This goes back over 120 years ago when it was deemed necessary to preserve the “integrity of the game.” When bookmakers and gamblers would and sometimes still try to influence players. These days the lines between amateur and professional associations are seriously blurred.
The NCAA earns money along the same lines as does many professional sports leagues. In fact, just for college basketball the NCAA has a 14 year, 11 billion dollar contract with CBS. This is roughly 770 million dollars per year, and a jump from the old 11 year 6 billion dollar contract which paid about 540 million dollars per year. This is primarily just for the NCAA tournament. Football is another animal! So is merchandising, DVD’s, video games, etc. The NCAA isn’t the only one getting paid at these levels. Schools are cashing in like the University of Texas deal with ESPN for $300 million dollars over 20 years (which averages out to $15 million per year). Everyone is getting paid, especially the coaches! College coaches make up to $3 million dollars, while full time professors barely crack $95,000.00. None of these deals have ever trickled down to the general student populations since all we see is student tuition increasing every year (often 2 to 3 times that of inflation)
The argument you hear oftentimes is that college athletes go to school for free. This though isn’t a strong argument when you consider that many big name sports stars aren’t necessarily from high income families. As such if they were to attend state schools, federal and state financial aid would cover a large percentage of their tuition and probably the cost of dorms too. If you were to now factor this into the cost of the “free” education, colleges really wouldn’t be paying much for their athletes if at all! There are even athletes who don’t ever receive scholarships because they aren’t considered to be sports (cheerleaders), but that is another argument.
Here is a more startling statistic 50% of all NCAA college football D-1 athletes are black (12% of the US population is black), while 3% of head coaching positions are black. On the opposite end, 50% of NCAA football athletes D-1 are white, and they make up 97% of head coaching positions. In basketball, you will see that 45% of all players are black, while only accounting for roughly 12% of the US population. The sports that make the most money for the NCAA? Well, that would be football and basketball. Not to say the issue is of race, but there could be a strong argument for it.
The question often asked is who should get paid? If your sport makes money, you should be getting paid from your services. If your sport doesn’t make money, you shouldn’t be getting paid for it. It’s the basics of supply and demand. The same way that you see baseball athletes in America get paid considerably more than most soccer athletes in America. This should be the very same rule applied for NCAA sports. Currently there is litigation (class action lawsuit) by ex-UCLA Bruin Ed O’Bannon, NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson and others over the likeness of their and other “amateur” athletes being used many years past their collegiate playing days. College athletes are forced to sign away their rights to such images forever and colleges, and the NCAA reaps millions if not billions from this. This according to one lawyer is a “major anti-trust violation.” As of today, the NCAA has been losing the case every step of the way as it is moving up towards the US Supreme Court.
College athletes train almost all year round. They attend courses, and have to attend mandatory press conferences, meetings, practices, and the sort. Almost the same requirements you would see of professional sports athletes. A college athlete can also earn only $2000.00 per year or risk losing a D-1 scholarship! That means if an athlete works all summer start of June till the end of August full time (40 hours per week), they could only take a job that pays no more than $4.16 per hour. How is a college athlete supposed to support him or herself? It is the old saying “you’re dammed if you do and you’re damned if you don’t!” So what is the solution? Pay the players!
Update: Recently, the Big Ten football conference is toying with the idea of paying athletes.
Carlisle, Rodney P.. Encyclopedia of play in today’s society . Los Angeles: Sage, 2009. Print.