Current NCAA system does massive injustice to players


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

The idea of paying college athletes brings forth strong reactions. What about amateurism? Do their scholarships not count as payment? Are they not students as well?

The NCAA itself has used points like this to justify not paying players. Yet, we are nearing the end of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, by far the NCAA’s most lucrative venture. The 14-year, $10.8 billion broadcasting deal the NCAA has with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting brings in a significant portion of NCAA revenue, according to NCAA data.

And the players, those individuals most central to the event, are not allowed to see any of that money.

Any honest evaluation of the available information shows that so-called student-athletes are primarily valued by their schools for their athletic abilities. A survey of the experiences of student athletes from 2007 found that 60 percent saw “themselves more as athletes than students.”

The scholarships also do not cover as much as many think they do. A 2011 report by the National College Players Association found that, even with full athletic scholarships, 85 percent of on-campus student athletes at FBS schools lived in poverty, with a nearly identical number for off-campus athletes.

At its core, the issues here are justice and fairness. The players who generate the bulk of value in the system are prevented from being paid and placed under constraints.

Increasingly, there are signs  this unjust system is changing. A regional division of the National Labor Relations Board ruled last March that Northwestern University football players could unionize.

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled last August in the case O’Bannon v. NCAA that the players could receive limited payments for the money generated from the use of their likenesses.

Though there has been no ruling yet that forces the payment of college athletes, these developments indicate change may be coming. But what would happen to the NCAA if players had to be paid?

The system’s current structure would be upset, but there is no reason the NCAA cannot afford to pay players.

The Huffington Post recently surveyed several economists who agreed that the NCAA has the money to pay players. A reallocation of the resources, primarily from coaches and athletic directors, to players is all that would be needed.

Taking such an action likely would not go over well with those coaches and ADs who benefit tremendously.

Yet, for fairness, and perhaps, soon, by legal mandate, the change should be made.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

STORY: Kevin Griffin, Opinion Writer