By Annie Campbell
Over the past decade or so, there has been an ongoing debate over whether collegiate athletes, specifically football and basketball players, should be paid. It seems as though everybody has a different take; the NCAA says there is not enough money, others argue a free education justifies playing for free. Meanwhile the NCAA and the school programs are raking in hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars on an annual basis. As of late, there has been a series of events that have even further pushed this question to the NCAA and to athletes all over the country.
Earlier this year an FBI investigation was launched into college basketball and went public, implicating a number of NCAA players and school programs in what is described as an “underground recruiting operation”. This investigation ties a number of players attending mostly high major programs – Arizona, Louisville, Memphis, etc. – to taking illegal benefits such as cash advances, entertainment opportunities, and expenses from agents or college “boosters” in order to attend the desired school of the agent or booster. Because of this massive shakeup, the NCAA has never felt the pressure they do today, with criticisms from almost everyone, and rightfully so. The March Madness Men’s Basketball tournament is the NCAA’s most profitable business, earning around $900 million in revenue annually. This event draws in people from all over the country to numerous locations around the United States, paying hundreds, even thousands of dollars per ticket. This event is like no other event in sports, and makes the NCAA almost a billion dollars annually. Not to mention, there are between eight and nine billion dollars spent annually on March Madness wagers across the country, more than the Superbowl. Although, it is not only basketball that brings in money like this to the NCAA. This past January, the four teams that made the College Football Playoff – Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Oklahoma – each made six million dollars guaranteed solely for making it into the College Football Playoff. ESPN is paying over $600 million annually to broadcast the playoff, and the National Championship got almost $30 million viewers in total.
College basketball and football are both a multibillion dollar market economy, where everyone but the players benefit – the schools, the coaches, the NCAA. The NCAA uses an indefensible argument, claiming these athletes as “amateur” and unable to accept any sort of reward. To call these athletes amateurs is simply ignorant, and untrue. Yes, they are student athletes, but why are they restricted? Playing a collegiate sport is a full time job, and the time and effort these students are putting in is undeniable. There are 66 Division 1 Men’s Basketball coaches with a salary of over one million, and these athletes are seeing nothing. A college artist can sell a painting for their own profit with no penalty. Nobody else in college is restricted in anyway, yet the NCAA has convinced us that somehow these athletes, who are a part of a multibillion dollar economy, are unable to reap any of the benefits that they bring in. The recent turmoil in college sports has raised this question to the President of the NCAA and those under him. If student athletes were granted some sort of benefit or reward, maybe the FBI wouldn’t be investigating programs all over the country and this wouldn’t be an issue. We need to see a change in college sports soon, and I truly believe it is inevitable.