Another volume of the March Madness saga has come to a glorious close. The men’s basketball teams of both the University of Wisconsin and Duke University entertained millions of viewers nationwide in the National Championship game Monday night. The Blue Devils pulled out a thrilling 68-63 win following a Badger offensive collapse late in the second half.
Now, after an incredible, emotional journey (that generated absurd amounts of money for CBS and Turner Broadcasting), members of each team must transform back into students, even though most have missed over 10 days of classes.
A poll conducted by ESPN’s SportsNation in September 2013 indicated a majority of voters are against college athletes being paid. For a long while, I agreed with that way of thinking. However, my opinion has since been swayed.
The argument that the NCAA continues to maintain is that these men and women are not employees, but rather they are “student-athletes.” I am a student, not a student-athlete. I believe I speak for almost every college student by saying that our days are long and filled with many challenges.
Consider the life of a student-athlete, though. The average Division I football player dedicates over 43 hours per week to his sport, meaning that he spends more than a typical American work-week training and playing football, in addition to his classwork.
While college athletes may not exactly be employees, they are more than just students. Their work, which generates exorbitant amounts of money year in and year out, deserves compensation.
In the 2013-14 season, the NBA grossed $4.79 billion in revenues. The average professional basketball player earns about $24.7 million over his 4.8-year career.
The 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament accumulated $1.15 billion in ad revenue, $200 million more than the NBA Playoffs that same year. Despite the staggering profit numbers they generated, tournament participants did not receive one cent for their efforts.
The University of Alabama reported income of over $143 billion in 2014. Although that profit margin was greater than all 30 NHL teams and 25 of the 30 NBA teams, not one of Alabama’s players received a dollar.
University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari has agreed on a seven-year, $52.5 million deal with the Wildcats. His players, though, are slated to receive nothing over that seven-year period.
According to the NCAA website, there are over 460,000 male and female student-athletes who participate in 23 different sports across the United States. Implying that all 460,000 of them should receive some sort of weekly paycheck is ludicrous.
But the NCAA must adapt to its ever-changing environment if it wants to stay at the head of the collegiate sports table. Let high-profile athletes such as Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota or Jahlil Okafor make a quick buck signing some jerseys. Partition the billion dollars in ad money received during March Madness so that players can get something in return for their work.
The NCAA currently resides in a state of pure hypocrisy. It preaches that its main goal is to educate student-athletes, yet it continues to generate record-breaking revenues from players that must miss their classes in order to play basketball on national television.
It amazes me that the NCAA, a nonprofit organization, can accumulate over $11 billion in annual revenues — more than both the NHL and NBA — and not give any of it to its “student athletes.” With such insane amounts of money being tossed around, it seems wrong that college athletes are strictly prohibited from generating a profit.
The counterargument always raised by opponents of paying compensation is that they receive scholarships and an education. A college education from a top-notch university such as Duke is an immeasurable resource.
However, participating in sports at these universities considerably diminishes the value of any given athlete’s education. Deep playoff runs in both March Madness and the College Football Playoff take students out of classes, thus limiting the time they spend in class.
Recall the scandal that recently came out of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Students filed a lawsuit against the University and the NCAA because they did not receive an adequate education and mentioned “paper classes” — classes that did not meet and only required a final paper to pass.
Further, since less than 2 percent of college athletes actually turn professional, 98 percent of student-athletes will have to use their degree, despite not learning the material to the same extent their non-athlete colleagues did.
The NCAA may never pay student-athletes a set salary or an hourly wage. That is fine. Disallowing athletes the ability to make a profit on their own work, though, is not just wrong. It is unjust and inhumane.
Additionally, more must be done to protect NCAA athletes fighting injury. Often, athletic scholarships are the only reason an athlete receives a college education, regardless of how different it is. Taking away an injured player’s scholarship blatantly contradicts the NCAA’s message of educating student-athletes first.
I am confident that the NCAA will alter its policies in the near future and allow their athletes to make money off their efforts. If none of these changes are made, the NCAA may not be the leader in college sports much longer.