For years, the National College Athletic Association have been using student athletes to fuel their billion dollar organization. Recently, the state of California passed the “Fair Pay for Play act, or as it is known in congress, SB-206. This bill essentially allows student athletes to benefit from their likeness while in school. This bill does not fix an extremely broken system. Just this season, we saw two of the NCAA’s biggest stars, James Wiseman and Chase Young, get suspended.
Both of these suspensions are due to recruiting problems. Current Memphis head coach, Penny Hardaway, helped Wiseman move home in 2017. The NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible due to the belief that Hardaway was a “Booster” for Memphis at the time. Young had received a loan from a family friend back in early 2019, who just so happened to be an OSU alum. Young and his family payed back the loan in late August, yet he still was suspended for 2 games. Essentially, two of each of NCAA’s marquee sports are suspended for an extended amount of time. In my personal opinion, I believe this is an attempt by the NCAA to “cover their ass” before congress begins looking into the crookedness of their organization. Anyways, I want to use this article as a way to essentially “expose” how truly unethical the NCAA is.
This was the first year in the last 10 NCAA basketball seasons that a “Blue Blood” program did not have the number 1 recruiting class in the nation. Memphis, who ironically is the team that James Wiseman is apart of, acquired the number one recruiting class in the nation. This class included three top 25 recruits, as well as multiple other good 4 star recruits. A majority of these recruits had some sort of connection to Hardaway; but, considering Hardaway was one of the most successful AAU coaches in the country, it is not shocking the pull he was able to have in recruiting.
Essentially, the NCAA is trying to hold down smaller programs, handicapping them to continue profiting off of “Blue Blood” programs. Also, it is extremely common for certain AAU teams to be a breeding ground for schools. Chris Paul’s AAU team has produced 10+ UNC products since 2012, yet CP3 has not been labeled a booster, as well as UNC not being questioned by their constant recruitment of Pauls AAU team. Yes, I know Chris Paul went to Wake Forrest; but, he grew up an avid UNC fan, as well as being signed to Jordan Brand, which endorsses UNC.
The hypocrisy trickles into football. Smaller schools such as UCF, FAU, Nebraska, etc. have seen recent sanctions involving recruitment within the 2010’s, mainly all revolving around boosting or payment of players. Yet, the NCAA turns a blind eye to schools like LSU, FSU, and OSU who have been extremely open about “truly compensating their athletes”. It just seems ridiculous how year after year, the NCAA handicaps smaller schools to profit from big name prospects at big name programs.
Compensation of Athletes
College athletics is one of the biggest sports conglomerates in the U.S. Whether it’s college basketball, football, hell even field hockey, there will be a crowd of loyal fans rooting for their alma mater. Due to its widespread popularity, college athletics are able to garner billions of dollars every fiscal year. The NCAA is responsible for the money earned and allocating it properly to schools, regulating rules for college athletics, and monitoring college athletics. Despite the NCAA being a non-profit organization they generated just over 1.1 billion dollars in the most recent fiscal year (via. Forbes), yet the student-athletes receive no compensation outside of their athletic scholarships.
Student-athletes consistently struggle to make ends meet after their respective seasons are over, and due to the NCAAs rule they are not allowed to field any money from coaches, staff, or anyone associated with the college. Bylaw 15.02.5 states that schools are only responsible for “tuitions and fees, bunking and dorms, and course-related books”. This bylaw essentially eliminates the school’s responsibility to take care of the athlete. In fact, if an athlete suffers a non-contact injury out of their teams control, the school is not responsible for insurance costs. There are countless other bylaws that restrict an athlete’s ability to live a full and stress-free life while being a member of a university.
It isn’t just the NCAA profiting from these athletes either, many top tier Division 1 schools turn a massive profit every year. In 2015, the University of Texas Austin had a 75% profit margin, more than 26 NFL teams that fiscal year. UT earned just over 121 million dollars and was able to profit on 92 million of that. If the university’s football program had a 99 man roster (the average football roster is 53 men), each player would earn roughly 900 thousand dollars if the profit was divided among the players. Keep in mind, 38 NCAA programs (including all 3 major sports, basketball, football, and baseball) profited more than a professional sports team. Understandably not every cent of a university’s profit should go to their athletes, but considering the NCAA pays for athletic scholarships, universities should want to properly compensate their athletes outside of certain extremities.
It is important to note that not every university turns a profit every year, let alone a 75% profit margin. So, forcing schools to pay athletes could lead to athletic programs closing. In fact, the University of Alabama Birmingham had to close down its football program due to the inability to turn a profit. Granted, it was reinstated due to the university losing even more money by cutting the program; but, by forcing schools to pay athletes actual wages could lead to the closing of athletic programs around the nation, and or smaller clubs and extracurricular activities that non-student athletes enjoy. Without colleges being forced to pay their athletes, over 200 Division 1 major sports teams have closed their doors in the last 20 years. Imagine if every NCAA college in America was forced to pay their athletes wages. More and more programs would die, leading to a smaller pool of schools for high-tier high school athletes to choose from, essentially watering down the NCAA’s product.
Recruiting also must be taken into consideration. We have already seen smaller schools having difficulty competing with big-time schools in recent years, and adding money into the mix puts a whole other complication into this multifaceted process. Essentially big-name schools will lobby athletes with bigger wages that smaller schools can’t compete with. Rather than choosing a school that better fits the athlete, they will chase the money. 86% of college athletes from an impoverished background, so those few thousand dollars that bigger schools are offering will outweigh the better academic and athletic decision for the individual.
Paying student-athletes would also take away from the “amateurism” of college athletics. The NCAA is technically an amateur sports league, so removing this would professionalize the sport. This would lead to more rules and regulations throughout the NCAA. Essentially the NCAA would no longer be able to govern themselves.
With the NCAA being one of the biggest sports organizations in the world, they are able to get away with under compensating their student-athletes. For just over 100 years, student-athletes have had their rights stripped from them as well as being used to generate an absurd amount of revenue. With recent laws such as SB 206, or better known as the Fair Pay for Play-Act going into action, it is only a matter of time before college athletes get compensated properly. It is no longer a question of will they begin to get compensated, it’s how.
What Needs to Change, and Why
The NCAA needs to eliminate any bylaw that restricts a player from being unable to not use their name for profit. This takes the weight off of the NCAA’s shoulders, as well as colleges when it comes to paying athletes big wages. Allow the athletes to use their abilities to field big time sponsorship deals and or smaller incentives through 3rd party systems. If colleges do decide to pay the athletes, it has to be fixed wages. It cannot be something that a university dictates, this will prevent the issues within recruiting mentioned earlier. Essentially the NCAA should pay every athlete, full scholarship or not, a fixed wage of around 1500-2000 dollars every two weeks. This will allow the athletes to live comfortably, while also not being payed an egregious amount of money.
Secondly, the NCAA needs to allow for “boosters” to well, boost. By hammering smaller schools with penalties and restrictions, there will be no room for improvement. It makes recruiting fair game, so what is a small school legend offers 10k to a player, it isn’t like Ohio state isn’t already doing the same.
Lastly, the NCAA needs to allow its athletes to unionize. This insures that NCAA athletes won’t be taken advantage of anymore. It is actually extremely odd that a multi-billion dollar organisation doesn’t already have a union, then again the NCAA views their athletes as numbers, rather than employees and athletes.
Let me know what you think.
Check out some of my past work here @aidenhawkins, as well as my Instagram page: @aiden_hawkins_sports