Paying College Athletes
Dr Boyce Watkins
Quick FYI: I will be on the Jesse Jackson Show tomorrow morning from 8 - 10 am. A list of cities is here. Some of you know that I have been in an on-going campaign to challenge the NCAA on the fact that they do not compensate the families of college athletes for what they bring to campus. Below is an article I contributed to in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Sunday, there should be a syndicated column I wrote opposite NCAA President Myles Brand on the topic. You know that I am pretty candid in my thoughts (love it or hate it), so here are some reasons I feel that we should be outraged over this issue. I speak on this issue based on my 15 years teaching on college campuses with big time athletics programs, as a Finance Professor who understands how money works, and also as a black male who has seen the devastation of this system up close. Also, as a faculty affiliate with the College Sports Research Institute at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, I made it clear to the director that I intend to pursue the racial element of NCAA compensation inequity. I am not a fan of preferential treatment for athletes. I only want fairness for the athletes and their mothers. I am sick of seeing an athlete generate millions for his coach, while simultaneously watching his family struggle to pay the rent every month:
1) The NCAA extracts somewhere near $1 Billion dollars per year from the black community. The revenues earned by collegiate athletics are on the magnitude of the NBA, NFL and NHL. However, unlike these other leagues, the players are only compensated with a scholarship. Scholarships are valuable, but only a drop in the bucket relative to the money players bring to campus.
2) The NCAA contract with CBS sports for the TV rights to March Madness was worth over $6 billion dollars. This does not include hundreds of millions earned each year in concessions, endorsement deals and other extraneous benefits. This money goes into someone's pockets, so the question is "Who takes this cash home? Those who earn it, or those on the sidelines?"
3) NCAA coaches in revenue generating sports earn as much as $4 million dollars per year, with a large percentage of that revenue coming from endorsement deals based on the clothing that players wear and appearances that players make on national television.
4) In contrast to the luxury experienced by NCAA coaches and their families, nearly half of all black college basketball and football players come from dire poverty.
5) The NCAA spends millions every year in a massive propaganda campaign. Their goal is to convince the world that paying college athletes or their families would be unethical and impractical. At the same time, many of the arguments they make about player families do not apply to their own families. For example, in the CBS Sports special I was on last year, nearly every single person on the special (Coach K from Duke, Billy Packer, Clark Kellogg, NCAA President Myles Brand, etc.) was earning hundreds of thousands, even millions from athletes, while simultaneously explaining why athlete families should not be paid. That’s worse than Dick Cheney and George Bush sending young people to die in a war that they or their f amilies refuse to fight.
6) The mission of collegiate athletics, unfortunately, is more commercial than educational. Players are admitted to college every year with full knowledge that the player is only going to be there for a little while. Also, athletes are not allowed to miss big games or practice sessions to prepare for exams. Finally, coaches with high graduation rates who do not win games are fired, while winning coaches with low graduation rates are promoted and given raises. This creates poor institutional incentives and leads to a mountain of academic hypocrisy.
7) As an African American, I find it ironic that many HBCUs can’t pay the light bill, yet the NCAA is earning over a billion dollars every year from black athletes and their families. This amounts to a massive wealth extraction from the black community, where some of our most valuable financial assets are being depleted, no different from mining being done in Africa.
8) While one might wonder why the players don’t simply take another option, the problem is that the NCAA is allowed to operate as a business cartel, effectively allowing them to implement nearly any and every rule they wish in order to keep athletes from having other options. This form of operation is due to a political blank check being written by Congress that allows the NCAA to do things that would be illegal in nearly any other industry. The very idea that they’ve warped our minds to the point that we think it should be illegal or immoral to fairly compensate a young man or his family for their labor is simply unbelievable. Players don’t even have the same rights to negotiation that are given to coaches, administrators, or sports commentators, all of whom earn millions from the activities of players on the court.
Personally, I think this is wrong.]]>