Think of the most morally corrupt sports organization you can. Have one in mind? Sweet. Was it FIFA or the NFL? It might have been, but without a doubt it is and maybe always will be the NCAA. The NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletics Association. They are a group that was created to regulate college sports and act as a governing body in any case that required specific attention.
In recent years, the NCAA has become more and more popular. College football is almost as popular as the NFL nationally, and the March Madness Tournament for college basketball is one of the most famous events in the history of sports. The NCAA is raking in the millions, literally. In 2013, according to USA Today, the NCAA made $627 million in net assets with a $61 million surplus. They had total revenue of $913 million, $683 million of which came solely from the media broadcasting of the March Madness Tournament.
That’s just the NCAA itself. The coaches make a lot of money as well. Take football for example; some would say that football is one of the NCAA’s most popular sports. Nick Saban, the head coach of the University of Alabama’s team, makes $5.39 million per year and that’s without bonuses. That’s for one of the best coaches in the business. Let’s look at a mediocre team from the same conference, Arkansas. They hired Bret Bielema in2012 from Wisconsin. Last season, Arkansas posted a record of 3-9, and Bielema made $5.15 million base salary.
Now, some would argue that they are paid market value; they are paid so well because the school makes so much money on the football programs. And everyone arguing that would be right. So if the coaches are paid so much to dedicate their time to the game they are experts in, what do the people who play the games get?
If your answer was an education, your naivety is laughable. Most of the college players that are recruited to play for Division I college sports are not recruited for their academic prowess. Hell, there have been cases of superstar athletes that have been recruited and didn’t even take the SATs (see: Rose, Derrick) or do their homework at school (see: Notre Dame football).
Let’s look at the argument that these players are getting paid with their education. The school we’re going to look at is Clemson University. Clemson is one of the ACC’s best programs year in and year out. Tuition for in-state (note: Clemson is in South Carolina) is a little over $13,000 while out-of-state tuition is $31,000 rounded up.
Each football team is allowed 85 scholarships which are distributed throughout. Hypothetically, if every player was from out-of-state, which is untrue because South Carolina is very football rich, the school would have to dole out about $2.5 million in scholarships. This sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but this is just a small fraction of the amount of money made by the football program.
According to College-Sports.FindtheBest.com, Clemson makes, on football alone, $41.3 million per season. Subtracting fees including scholarships and salary, the school makes $21.3 million. That’s just the school’s money, and they still get paid by the NCAA. USA Today did a poll of how much time college football players spent on their sport and keep in mind the limit is supposed to be 20 hours a week. The average came out to 43.8 hours per week.
With all that money that is earned on the back of college football players, and that’s not even counting the other sports, you would think, “Hey, the players see some of that money, right?” The answer to that is no.
The players are guaranteed their scholarship, but Division I college athletes cannot hold a job while they are playing. They have no source of income at all. Players, football players especially, see their popularity and try to take advantage of it by selling autographs or memorabilia. Take Todd Gurley for example. Gurley is a star running back at the University of Georgia, and he is one of the top players in the country.
Gurley realized that he was very popular so he decided to make some extra cash and do some autograph sessions for money. Not a lot, either. Initial reports are saying he did his signing for all of $400. The NCAA and the school were not happy when the reports came out and the school acted to suspend the player indefinitely.
All Gurley tried to do was make some money off his own name and likeness, a pretty simple concept. The NCAA and UGA make money off him constantly. They use him on their tickets, you can buy Georgia football #3 jerseys at the school’s store and online, and up until last year, you could purchase a videogame made by EA Sports where you could even play as Gurley.
All of this was okay by NCAA standards, but the second a player tries to capitalize on his own success and the NCAA does not get a cut of the profits they get angry. They lose their monopoly.
And then some people would retort with, “Yeah, but the players go pro so they make a crap ton of money anyway.” Funny you should bring that up. According to the NCAA’s website, ncaa.org, only 1.6% of all college football players make the professional ranks. And I know that I’m only talking about football right now but it goes for other sports too: Men’s Basketball (1.3%), Women’s Basketball (0.9%), and let’s add Baseball with the highest percentage of a whopping 9.7%.
Oh and since we’re still talking about football, the average career length for a professional football player is two years by the way. Most players do not see the huge contracts you see reported on ESPN.
Let’s go to something a lot less controversial now, dinner. AJ Green, now a stud wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals, was once a star at UGA like Gurley. In his last year at the school, Green went out to dinner with former NFL star Deion Sanders. This dinner cost Green two games for “improper benefits”. Fun fact: if one of your professors takes you out to dinner and foots the bill, nothing happens to you; only if you make the school and the governing body millions of dollars do they care.
The last thing I’ll touch on is the health insurance. Student-athletes are only covered for insurance while they are in school and if their injuries happen while the participating in the school’s program. Once the injury takes place outside the confines of the school’s program, the school is not legally allowed to cover it. Also, say the player suffers a major concussion in their senior year, and they have medical problems that continue after graduation the school no longer has to cover their medical expenses once they stop playing. At least the NFL will cover the players after they retire.
With all this said, I am not saying the NCAA should outright pay players per performance, but the players should be able to profit off their likeness and be able to make money selling autographs. I am not completely against a bowl bonus either. Coaches get one and they would not be able to without the players. The NCAA is a non-profit that makes an obscene amount of money per year and it is only rising. I will never see why a player is punished for making money for and off themselves. My hope is that the NCAA will change soon, but without the lawsuits they are going to lose, they never will.