The NCAA & The Issue of Paying Athletes

The NCAA as an organization claims to be committed to upholding the sanctity of amateur athletics by not paying their athletes.  Student-athletes receive free or discounted education that sometimes include preferential admission, room and board and access to other academic advantages not available to the regular students. 

In the mean time, college athletics has become a multi-billion industry using the talents and the images of student athletes. However, not even a penny of those revenues is ever seen by student-athletes. Individual programs raise hundreds of millions of dollars but never allow any of its athletes to participate in the profits (even after they graduate). Fair market value of top-tier college football and basketball players has been estimated at more than $100,000 per player. In some instances, that figure can be even higher.

Although some colligate athletes go on to successful and lucrative professional sporting career, the fact is that for the vast majority, a colligate athletic career marks the highpoint of their sporting marketability, and is the end of the road for their notoriety on the playing fields. Once they graduate, the NCAA continues to use their image and game footage to further enrich themselves on these athletes, while the athlete themselves may be faced with the long-term physical consequences of participating in colligate sport. Recently, a group of former players has filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging among other things, that student athletes are entitled to some of the money the NCAA makes off of using their names and images on merchandise and game footage. Current players have protested the NCAA by decorating their gear calling for a players’ union.

The NCAA has been consistently against sharing profits with its athletes and has resisted even a $300 per game stipend proposed by one of its own coaches. The NCAA has vowed fight “all the way to the Supreme Court” against any lawsuit brought forth by former players in regards to any revenue sharing. In an ironic twist, the NCAA would use the funds generated by the very same athletes who are looking into suing them, against the same in a court of law.  

Perhaps the time has come for the NCAA and schools to abandon running sports programs under the “amateur” facade while collecting billions in revenues like a pro league; and allow athletes to collect even a small share of the profits they help schools and the NCAA generate. Thoughts?