Former college athlete: ‘NCAA rules guarantee scandals’
This is part 2 of an in depth look at the ethics behind March Madness, Part 1 can be found here.
(MintPress) — For college student-athletes the demand of their sport can be equitable to that of a full-time job. Many dedicate at least 40 hours a week to their sport and bring in millions of dollars in revenue to their school. As payback, many are rewarded with full athletic scholarships that cover tuition, room and board and some meals. What the scholarships fail to account for are the necessities of everyday life, and the average student-athlete is around $3,000 below the federal poverty line.
With bustling television contracts and athletic conferences’ revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, where does all that money end up? It certainly isn’t the players, but part of the answer is still on the field, or sitting next to the players off the court on the bench.
Head coaches of today’s major college basketball and football programs routinely makewell over one million dollars per year. In 2011, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban made $8.5 million. His players made nothing.
Schools are also constantly updating and expanding campus athletic facilities, oftentimes creating enormous stadiums for teams to play in. Michigan Stadium, home to the University of Michigan football team, seatsover 100,000 fans. Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association (NCPA), said the misdirected priorities leave student-athletes willing to accept help from anywhere they can get it.
“All of the new revenue from the last generation in college sports has gone entirely to salaries, coaches’ salaries and facilities,” Huma said. “And that’s where that money is going to continue to go. There’s no doubt about it.”
Huma’s proposal would provide an average of $3,000 only to student-athletes who receive a full athletic scholarship, no longer making them live under the federal poverty line. Of the two men’s sports and five women’s sports that provide full scholarships for student-athletes, Huma said the cost to financially help them out would be around $100 million.
Ever-growing TV contracts between broadcast companies and the NCAA could easily pay for a true full-ride scholarship, Huma said. Contracts between the NCAA and athletic conferences alone have grown into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“As of the fall, there’s $800 million of brand new TV dollars coming in between five of the big conferences and the NCAA alone,” Huma explained. “Our plan would cost $100 million, so there’s plenty of money to pay for it, but without some kind of intervention, we know where that money is going to go: It’s going to go to salaries and luxury boxes, mega-stadiums and facilities.”
Under Huma’s plan, the NCAA would provide the funding to schools based on how many full academic scholarships the school provides. The school would then be responsible for regulating the payments to student-athletes. That plan, however, has failed to gain traction. Huma said the NCAA is in no hurry to fix their current system.
“The NCAA has not proposed our plan,” Huma said.
Many of the criticisms from those who oppose paying student-athletes have already been debunked by Huma’s proposal. A USA Today editorial written in 2011 argued that athletic departments simply do not have the capacity to spend more money on student-athlete stipends.
“Many people are not aware that most athletic departments actually lose money year after year trying to fund programs. Out of the 120 FBS (formerly named Division 1) schools, only twelve broke even or made a profit last year,” Amanda Bokshanwrote.
“How are these struggling athletic departments supposed to cough up even more money per year to pay their athletes to play?” she asked.
But the money for the fund would come from the NCAA, and only be dispersed by the school under Huma’s plan. Huma also proposed a separate ideain an article published by The Atlantic.
Huma wrote: “Grant college athletes access to the commercial free market by adopting the Olympic amateur model by which amateur players can receive money for autograph signings, endorsements, etc.”
Also at issue is blurring the line of amateur and professional athletics. Professional athletes are paid by the organization in which they play for. Dan Cassavaugh, in anarticle for Imprint Magazine, said college athletes are paid thousands of dollars through their scholarships already. He said student-athletes should reap the benefits of endorsements, such as jersey sales from Nike that portray their likeness.
“Payment for actual gameplay is the fundamental difference between professional and amateur status, so, college athletes should not receive anything more than scholarships,” Cassavaugh wrote.
Student-athletes, however, do not have ownership of their public image and, subsequently, do not have their names licensed by companies selling their jerseys or likeness in a video game.
College players could demand a royalty if their name were printed on the back of a retail jersey, but only the school’s name and player’s number is printed. The school owns the rights to the jersey and number, not the player.
A similar situation played out in 2010 when then-Arizona State quarterback Sam Kellersued Electronic Arts for using his image and likeness in its college football video game. Keller’s name, like all the other players in the game, was not used.
David L. Hudson Jr. of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University told the New York Times that a case such as this is long overdue in the courts.
“It’s one of the most important clashes in all of First Amendment law, and one of the more unsettled areas,” Hudson said. “I think it’s an area that is crying out for Supreme Court review in the right case.”
No matter the proposal, Huma said the current status quo of college athletics will continue to lead to scandal headlines from players be given cash, groceries or other gifts.
“NCAA rules guarantee scandals,” Huma said. “They keep highly valuable players – players that are worth six figures – and most of them are living below the federal poverty line.”
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