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A New Kind of Thievery

Andy Belilos, Sentry Staff Reporter

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For years, the corrupt National Collegiate Athletic Association has unfairly avoided compensating hard working athletes for their labors which bring in billions annually to universities, coaches, television networks and the NCAA itself. It justifies robbing these so-called student-athletes by using the outdated and self-imposed “amateurism” system–an excuse for pipelining cash directly into the pockets of others.

Without college athletes, profit from the millions of fans buying tickets to games would not exist; neither would the hundreds of thousands of jerseys bought yearly bearing the numbers and sometimes names, of players.

Without college athletes, revenue from the billion-dollar industry of college athletics would not exist. Without these athletes, there would be no gigantic TV contracts; ESPN recently announced the signing of a deal with “the group that will administer the new college football playoff” (the NCAA) to broadcast the new college football playoff from 2014 through 2025. The Wall Street Journal confirmed that “the total price tag for the 12-year deal reached approximately $5.64 billion, ‘about $470 million annually.’”

During last year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, CBS and Turner Sports, which aired every game, had an advertisement profit of over $1 billion. In Las Vegas, legal betting on the tournament exceeded $100 million and illegal betting around the country was estimated to have totaled over $2.5 billion.

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban makes over $7 million per year. According to Forbes, the average salary for a Division I football coach in 2013 was $2.05 million.

Even with all of that, so-called “fair pay” for the athletes bringing in that money averaged around $40,000 per college scholarship. In exchange for the scholarship, athletes are expected to meet GPA requirements all while dedicating up to 80 hours per week to school and sports.

ESPN college basketball analyst, lawyer and former Duke University basketball player Jay Bilas has championed the effort among former athletes to reform the system. Bilas believes that the true value of a college athlete cannot be fulfilled with scholarship money.

“Nobody is saying the scholarship isn’t nice,” Bilas said. “It’s wonderful. But it’s nowhere near what they’re worth. The NCAA knows this or they wouldn’t be fighting so hard. It’s wrong to the point of being immoral. How can we, with a straight face, say it’s OK for a coach of a bunch of amateurs to make $9 million and if the amateur takes a sandwich somewhere, he’s a bad guy?”

Not only is the system corrupt because of where the money goes, but coaches and athletics programs are always trying to find ways to play the system and circumvent the boundaries of “amateurism,” often leading to recruiting violations and illicit gifts for young athletes. When high school and college basketball players are wearing Rolexes and driving Audis given to them by college recruiters and “friends of the university,” the solution is not to punish the offenders. The solution is to change the system that clearly does not work.

The NCAA is perfectly content to continue making money off of players without rewarding them at all–the association laughs at the idea of a free-market compensation system; the idea of paying “workers” for their hard day’s labor has gone down the drain. Unbelievably, many still argue that a free college education is substantial enough compensation.

If a student-athlete is injured, the eminent idea of an education goes away in a heartbeat, and many are left with nothing. How can we as sports fans watch a college football game with a clear conscience knowing that the routine career-ending and debilitating injuries suffered by players will leave many with nothing more than pain and doctors bills they cannot pay?

Almost all arguments against paying college athletes are based on fallacies and are bankrupt of moral and economic justification. Failing to pay college athletes does not support their education; in contrast, it encourages many to forego their college degrees.

The National Basketball Association implemented their “One and Done” rule in 2005; this rule is an issue in and of itself, as it forces players to be 19 years old or to have completed one year of college before entering the draft. However, in recent years, there has been an obscene amount of college freshman and underclassmen entering the draft and leaving school after one year. Just last year, not one of the top ten picks entered the draft with a degree.

This terrible trend could be solved by giving players their due; most, if not all of these players leave school early for the financial security that comes with an NBA contract. Emmanuel Mudiay, projected to be a top five pick in this upcoming NBA draft, even chose to bypass college entirely for one year and is currently playing in China, earning money. If players found this security while practicing their trade in school, almost all would stay in college and earn their degrees before becoming professionals.

Last year’s number one pick in the NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney, earned an astounding $14.518 million signing bonus after he was drafted. He left school after his junior year, but his bonus was enough to pay for his senior year of college at the University of South Carolina over 1,300 times. Let me know if you ever find anyone willing to turn that down.

The NCAA and its fans lose when great athletes leave school early. Immensely talented players, who would make games more interesting and fun to watch, leave because of the idiocy of the current system.

The ultimate instance of hypocrisy in the NCAA occurred when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was suspended a half of a game in 2013 for selling autographs. The NCAA does not allow players to profit off of their own likenesses, but the NCAA does it every day, with every game ticket and jersey sold.

As horrible as the current system is, reform is on the horizon–teams can now finally provide as many meals and snacks as they want to their players without fear of repercussions. In April of 2014, the NCAA voted to change outdated and ridiculous rules that limited the number of meals teams could provide their athletes.

Perhaps far more importantly, in March of 2014, the National Labor Relations Board decided that Northwestern football players are in fact employees of the school with the right to unionize if they so choose. This has been viewed as a potential landmark in the journey towards fair pay for college athletes; however, there is still much work to be done.

Change is necessary. That much is obvious. However, when inequality and injustice is so ingrained in a system like the NCAA, the change will not be fast moving or painless. This attempt at social change is no different than any other in American history. The amount of people laughing it off as “just the way it has always been done” and “not that big of a deal” is reminiscent of the opposition to all social change throughout history.

One of the biggest institutions in a country which supposedly stands for equal opportunity and rights should not be allowed to do what the NCAA does. It is criminal and needs to change.

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The student news site of Yorktown High School
A New Kind of Thievery