This archived article was written by: Tai Justice
I’ve watched a ton of games in this NCAA Basketball Tournament. It’s been fun to watch. The games were fascinating, as upsets of top seeds and a Cinderella run to the Final Four by Loyala-Chicago has dominated the headlines, but what really stuck in my mind is when the camera flashes to the team that is either about to lose or has already lost and these athletes that are my age and even younger are crying their eyes out. That leads to me thinking about how much college athletes are exposed to everyone in the nation. Then that leads me to one thought, “these guys should be paid. No doubt about it.”
When I was younger and more naïve, I used to think that college athletes should not be paid. Tuition, room, board and books were enough. Plus, you get to play the sport you love on a huge platform. What else could you need? Not just that though, but where would the money come from? How would you pay the football and basketball players, but not the swim team? How would it all work? There was a lot of question about how it all would work and frankly, there still are those same questions. This tournament and realizing how much money the NCAA brings in annually has me doing a complete 180 on the issue and topic at hand.
In 2016, the NCAA generated $995.6 million in revenue: $995.6 million. That’s obviously an absurd amount of money being brought in, but what’s even more absurd is the athletes making all the events possible aren’t seeing a dime of that.
What if people on the business side of that invested it, sheltered it and made it available to provide some of it to the athletes making the events possible in the first place? That seems more ethical than what’s going on. Of course, the athletes shouldn’t get all of it, but they should be able to profit off their talents, especially the players at big programs. Alabama football alone made $80 million this past season. It’s insane to me that the players aren’t getting any of that.
Now, before I go any further, I should point out that players from Air Force, Army and Navy all do have contracts and get paid, but that’s completely different. They have signed up for something more than sports. Most of these athletes at the big schools go strictly for sports, so it’s a totally different conversation for those players at Air Force, Army and Navy than the ones at say, Alabama, for instance.
Let me be clear, I’m not sure how you would pay every single college athlete. Maybe for the players and athletes on the lesser programs their education, tuition, room, board and books are enough. They clearly don’t produce the revenue major basketball and football players do, so I can go back and forth on that one, but I’m full-fledged locked into this stance that players bringing in that type of money for the programs should be getting a slice of the pie.
That may seem unfair that some of the athletes get paid and others don’t, but that’s the reality of the situation. The best professor in the universities at these programs will make less their entire teaching career than the football and basketball coaches make in one year. So, I don’t want to hear that it’s “unfair” to pay the athletes on the football and basketball team more than all the regular students in the undergraduate college. The football and basketball teams bring in by far the most money. They deserve to be paid.
If the NCAA would figure a way to do right by these players, then that might even stop some of the corruption going on in college sports. If a player sells his jersey, he gets in trouble with NCAA. If a player takes money under the table, that player and his whole team is likely to get in trouble. Whether it’s by vacating all the team wins that the team had while the player was there or taking any awards the player may have won.
The whole system is broken. The NCAA’s way of doing things is outdated and won’t last much longer. You’re already seeing some basketball players go overseas for a year then come back to play for the NBA. You will see more of that in the years to come if nothing is done to change this system we currently have in place.
The best football and basketball players in the nation have produced and made these schools more money than even imaginable and they can’t profit from their work and skills. It’s time to change. Pay the players what they’re worth.