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Brendan Barrett

Professor Malcolm Campbell

UWRT 1104

6 April 2017

NCAA: Exploitation at its finest

Wednesday February 1st, 2017. On this special day, members of the 2017 recruiting class signed

their national letters of intent and, legally, became college football student-athletes. Highly

recruited athletes saw this day was filled with media exposure and crazy fans. For others, they

were embraced by only their closest friends and family. This day has been seen through

thousands of different lenses, but these athletes all saw the same sheet presented in front of them.

The National Collegiate Athletic Associations Form 08-3a, also known as the Student-Athlete

form. Athletes see this as their way to fame and fortune, but with their signature, prospects sign

away their rights to their names and image. Unlike their fellow students, athletes are restricted

from making any money from their performance. While these athletes will never see a single

cent for their college careers, their coaches will continue to rake in millions.

The NCAA runs an extremely lucrative industry and manages to consistently get away with it.

The March Madness tournament from this year alone generated 10.4 million viewers per game

and an all-time best 93.5 million live video streams up to the Final Four. The Final Four National

Semifinal games averaged 16.8 million viewers, making it the second most-watched Final Four
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in 19 years (Dachman). With those staggering numbers the question comes about; how much

money did they make from the tournament? Although the numbers from this year have yet to be

released, last year the NCAA brought in a record $1 billion in revenue from their media rights,

ticket sales, corporate sponsors, and television ads during the three-week long tournament. They

also have a deal with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting System for 10.8 billion dollars, yes

billion, to broadcast the tournament from 2011-2025. (Investopedia). The NCAA isnt the only

group cashing in on these games; every game that a school participates in will earn their

conference of around $1.7 million. This money is paid over the next 6 years and is known as the

basketball fund'; Its how the NCAA distributes some of the profits they make back to the

schools. March Madness generates the most revenue for the NCAA due to its length and

relevance (Kesselring). The amount of money generated during this tournament is insane, but so

are the coaches salaries! While their players make nothing, theyre making millions of dollars.

Rick Pitino made 7.7 million dollars, John Calipari made 7.4 million dollars, and Mike

Krzyzewski made 5.5 million dollars in just this past year! (Berkowitz) College basketball is

probably the most exploited collegiate sport due to the amount of games and exposure that the

athletes experience, but it certainly is not the only one. The College Football Playoff was instated

in 2014, and teams that are fortunate enough to make it there bring in $6 million dollars for their

conference. Whether they play in the National title game or not, they still reap the benefits. Also,

every conference with a team playing in the playoff will be paid an additional $2.16 million to

cover travel and other expenses. Its no surprise that the schools were paid well, the

championship game drew in over 26 million viewers making it the sixth-most watched cable
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broadcast in history. ESPN also pays $600 million annually to broadcast the game, and charges

$1 million dollars for a 30-second advertisement. The coaches in this sport are paid a little bit

more graciously. Last year, Jim Harbaugh made $9 million, Nick Saban made $7 million and

Urban Meyer made $6 million.

How can the NCAA allow the coaches and schools to be paid but not the athletes themselves?

They do this by coining the athletes as amateurs. This amateur status limits the athlete from:

salary for participating in athletics, receiving gifts, and does not permit them to have any

endorsements (NCAA). Underneath the conditions that college athletes are held to, they are

technically employees and should be able to negotiate wages. With constant practices, workouts,

games, and other physical demands they are working 20+ hours per week and should have the

opportunity to reap the benefits (Cooper). The NCAA claims that if student athletes had the

opportunity to accept money from anyone that they may be exploited, and that taking money out

of the equation allows the athletes to focus on academics. All the while, athletes can compete on

national television just like professionals but arent able to see the same benefits. The Olympics

held up the amateur title until 1988, but it was obvious that Communist nations were paying their

athletes to train full-time, and other countries were paying athletes through endorsements.

College sports draw in some of the largest audiences yet are the only industry to maintain this

state of amateurism (Zimbalist).

The reason for the uproar about this debate is that athletes are the only students discriminated

against with the amateur title. Musicians and Actors can freely make money from their craft with
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no limits, but student-athletes are held to a different standard. Colleges should extend the title of

amateur to these other students or just abolish the term completely; a policy that only applies

to certain students certainly isnt fair (Zimbalist). It especially isnt fair because an athletes

career window is entirely different from a musician or actors. Athletes have a small window for

their peak performance level, which emphasizes their need to earn money while they are at the

collegiate level. Most college athletes overestimate their skill level when the clear majority will

never have the opportunity to play professionally. In fact, less than 2% of college athletes make

it professionally (New).

Athletes are not only restricted from being compensated for their performance but they are also

restricted from profiting from their own name. The NCAA claims that this prevents them from

becoming celebrities and avoids the media unlike professional stars but, millions tune in to

watch the NCAA tournament and College Football Playoff. Not to mention, the regular season

games and coverage on ESPN over these collegiate teams. The media surrounds these athletes

constantly so the claim that amateurism protects them from this is just plain wrong. In fact, the

NCAA claims to not profit off the names or images of college athletes. A couple of years ago,

Jay Bilas went on a twitter rant on the official NCAA shop. When he searched names like

Manziel or Clowney, their jerseys would pop-up. Although they didnt technically have their

names on the jerseys, the players corresponding jersey numbers would appear with their college.

This means that fans could search their favorite players name, and be linked directly to their

jersey. The NCAA has dodged copyright laws for years by simply using the schools name and
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number but failing to use the athletes last name. Although, when someone is wearing a #2 Texas

A&M jersey its most likely not because their favorite number is 2.

The NCAA needs to reconsider their identification of college athletes as amateurs and

compensate them appropriately. It simply doesnt make sense that advertisers and coaches are

making all of the money off of these athletes. If the conclusion is that college athletes are being

paid in scholarships and other extremities, then the NCAA shouldnt compensate them directly.

Rather allow the athletes to make money off their own name instead of using paternal control

over them.
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"Amateurism." - The Official Site of the NCAA. N.p., 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Apr.


Berkowitz, Steve . "USA TODAY Sports." USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network,

n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

Cooper, Kenneth J. "Should College Athletes Be Paid to Play?" Diverse: Issues in Higher

education 28.10 (2011): 12-13. ERIC. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

Dachman, Jason. "March Madness Ratings Roundup: Final Four Averages 16.8M Viewers, Up

44%." Sports Video Group. N.p., 3 Apr. 2017. Web.

Kesselring, Colt. "How Much Money Each NCAA Tournament Team Earned for their

Conference." HERO Sports. N.p., 26 Mar. 2017. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

New, Jake. "College athletes greatly overestimate their chances of playing

professionally." College athletes greatly overestimate their chances of playing professionally.

Inside Higher Education, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Parker, Tim. "How Much Does the NCAA Make off March Madness?" Investopedia. N.p., 13

Mar. 2017. Web. 5 Apr. 2017.

Zimbalist, Andrew. Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time

College Sports. Princeton Up, 2001. Print.