By Rigo Carbajal
NCAA athletes entertain millions across the country. However, college athletes are exploited by the NCAA itself, many commercial establishments, merchandise sales and even their own coaches. Division 1 football and basketball compensate for the most generated money in college sports and under a deal with the NCAA, the two sports are heavily televised by large networks such as ESPN, CBS and TBS. Every Saturday during the season these networks generate at least hundreds of millions of dollars providing college football to audiences around the country. On the other hand, college basketball, particularly in March during “March Madness” is also heavily presented by some of these major networks. It too generates at least hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. However, the athletes themselves do not come across any of this money at all.
Firstly, in terms of coaches, who have a direct player-coach relationship with these athletes; they too earn millions of dollars in salary. Not hundreds of millions, but millions nonetheless. According to a book review article titled, “Does the NCAA Exploit Student-Athletes?” by The Boston Globe’s Nick Romero, college football coaches at public universities are greatly benefited by the revenue generated by college football. Romero states, “America’s 25 highest paid football coaches at public universities earned an average annual salary of $3.85 million in 2014.” Consequently, because these coaches are contracted they may recruit athletes one year and then leave to another school the following year. From an athlete’s perspective, the coach is apart of their foundation in terms of how they reach success in the sport. If a college coach were to step into a college prospect’s home and assure the athlete and their family that the school they represent is right for them, but leave soon after, the athlete is at the disadvantage. However, if a college athlete decides to transfer, they are required to sit out one season of competition.
Moreover, some may say that scholarships help compensate college athletes due to the fact that scholarships include benefits. However, these scholarships vary by which college offers the scholarship, what sport one plays and how highly one is recruited. Additionally, these scholarships are incredibly meager when compared to the money generated by major networks and merchandise sales. Romero continues, “Some argue that the scholarships athletes receive are generous compensation, but as a percentage of total revenue their value is paltry. In the ACC and the Pac-12 conferences, total reported scholarship costs averaged only 5.6 percent and 7.3 percent of the school’s football and basketball revenues.” In other words, the comparison between the costs of scholarships is not nearly a fair comparison with the rest of the total football and basketball revenue percentage in these major conferences. It is simply not fair. Scholarships vary in compensation and not every athlete can live comfortably from one. Not all scholarships guarantee the coverage of textbooks and cost of living. All in all, scholarships are compensation, but not a fair one.
Another NCAA exploit is merchandise sales. A story that always has a resonation is one that former NBA and Michigan University player, Jalen Rose recounts. In the ESPN Films documentary, “The Fab Five,” Rose recounts that he once shopped at a Nike outlet while he was a player at Michigan University and a member of the popular “Fab Five” in the early 1990’s. On display he had seen the words, “Fab Five Nikes” advertising Nike sneakers he and his teammates played in. Rose let it be known that he felt slighted by this. He says, “I didn’t feel like a college athlete. I felt like a college athlete who wasn’t getting paid.” Many college athletes today can relate to those sentiments. After all, it is against NCAA rules for college athletes to be employed during the season. The NCAA essentially takes money away from athletes through merchandising, while going as far as to use athletes’ own likenesses at times.
Ultimately, no type of compensation for athletes could ever match the amount of money the NCAA generates each year. That is exploitation. However, there is no denying that athletes are compensated through scholarships, but it simply is not a fair one. No athlete such as basketball player, Shabazz Napier, who lead his team to an NCAA championship should experience hunger at bedtime as he once stated. College athletes do not need to be paid large sums of money. They just need compensation that will assure them the opportunity to live comfortably as they compete at the collegiate level.