NCAA Bowl Season will be starting soon and millions of people will dwell in entertainment provided by the National College Athletics Association student athletes. The individuals that participate in amateurism undoubtedly deserve the attention they receive. Day in and day out they grind their way to insure they live up to the expectations that are attached to the scholarship they've earned. Unfortunately, these students are vastly mistreated and misrepresented by the institutions and conferences they play for. Especially in the case of Division-I athletes. Many fans have no idea of the inequitable conditions that surround these athletes on and off the filed of play and the under-compensation that follows.
More Viewers More Money Still Non-Profit
In a lot of cases D-I athletes perform in front of millions of people. The growth of accessibility gives fans access to a plethora of college sports outside of just #football, #basketball, and #baseball. Depending on your provider fans can watch anything from college #gymnastics to #lacrosse.
With the expansion of cable television and streaming apps there are dozens of channels and countless ways to watch college #sports. More specifically the #NCAA has continued to partner with different services to provide fans with 24/7 sports. In fact, in 2015 ESPN launched College Extra:
"The service delivers an extensive portfolio of college sports events year-round including football, basketball, baseball, softball and more."
With the growth of the #NCAA and its accessibility you'd think that the growing business would realize that their driving source, the student athlete is severely under valued. Let's start with the reaming three year $55 million contract the NCAA had with ESPN from 2010-2013 to feature women's basketball tournament, College World Series and 20 other NCAA championships. The money of course would be divided shared throughout the NCAA conferences and the universities within those conferences. However, that $55M is chump change compared to the profit made from their two major sports; men's basketball and football.
Basketball and Football Pay the Bills
Millions of fans line up during February and March to fill out their NCAA tournament brackets. Men's college basketball "post season" has gotten so large that President Obama admitted that even he participates. Quite naturally someone has to profit off of this huge phenomenon also known as March Madness. In 2011 the NCAA agreed to an $11 billion 14-year contract with CBS and Turner. The deal allowed for 68 institutions to participate in the nationally televised #NCAA men's basketball tournament. Like every deal the money would of course be divided among the conferences proving once again the powers that be profit, and not the athletes. Even Los Vegas makes a sizeable profit off of the #NCAA men's basketball tournament as reported by ESPN's David Purdum:
" Over the past five years, an average of $294.6 million has been wagered on basketball in March at Nevada books."
In addition to the billion dollar March Madness deal, the non-profit organization also inked another multi-billion dollar deal. This time it was for Division-I football, more specifically as it retains to the new #BCS playoff with a deal worth upward of $7 billion with #ESPN. Again, this money is supposed to be benefit the conferences, not the athletes.
The conferences and universities receive funds obtained by the television revenue, ticket and jersey sales among others and distribute them how they see fit. In 2014 USA News contributor Marc Edleman had this to say:
"The college sports industry generates $11 billion in annual revenues. Fifty colleges report annual revenues that exceed $50 million. Meanwhile, five colleges report annual revenues that exceed $100 million. … Head football coaches at the 44 NCAA Bowl Championship Series schools received on average $2.1 million in salaries. The highest paid public employee in 40 of the 50 U.S. states is the state university’s head football or basketball coach."
The NCAA and its entities are behaving in a way that resembles "professional" sports in that someone is receiving, distributing, and spending money. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowisby tried his best to dispute any notion that suggest the NCAA is operating like a professional league.
“I don’t think this is a profession,” the Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, said in reference to college sports. “I think it’s a function of higher education...It has spun off a lot of money, and there are individuals — commissioners, coaches, athletic directors — who are making lots of money, and it’s easy to draw that connection.”
That sounds like everyone except the individuals who are performing in front of hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions are reaping the benefits. One example is Texas A&M alum Johnny Manziel.
Everyone Can Reap Benefits Except the Athlete
In 2012 when the Texas A&M #Aggies joined the #SEC then coach Kevin Sumlin inserted redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel into the starting lineup. The result was an 11-2 record, a Heisman Trophy winning QB, and a $300 million increase in revenue bringing their total to $700 million. Of course the funds went right into a $450 million plan to renovate their home-field Kyle Field. Oh and their #Heisman Trophy QB was reprimanded for profiting from signing memorabilia worth a total of $10,000. In case you're wondering, the #NCAA doesn't allow athletes to profit from their own hard work or likeness. No, the #NCAA are the only ones that can do that.
Manziel was just one case and unlike most other college athletes Manziel was (is) financially privileged. Which was not the case for former Georgia WR AJ Green who was suspended for selling his jersey for $1,000 back in 2010. Another example happened when five Ohio State football players were suspended for selling their memorabilia. The Buckeye five was headlined by then QB Terrelle Pryor. Pryor and company received discounted tattoos along with selling their Big Ten championship rings, jersey's, and 'gold pants'. Each player had to sit out the first five game of the 2011 season and repay upward $1,000. WR DeVier Posey's mother had this to say:
"They didn't do anything that any other person wouldn't have done," Julie Posey told the newspaper. "They looked around to see what they could do to help [their families]. There's no crime here. None. They're not involved with agents. They didn't steal anything. They didn't borrow anything from anybody. It was theirs. Nobody told them it 'almost belongs to you.' It belonged to them."
Rapper Wale said it best as it relates to college athletes and the financial disadvantages they are in his song titled Varsity Blues:
"Look, I’m talking Reggie Bush, matter of fact ask Cameron Newton, matter of fact go ask they schools how many jerseys they was moving. Thank you for they tuition, thank you for room and board. Most of them ni**as got no pot to piss doing four."
It's clear that the NCAA and only the NCAA can profit from these athletes. There is no middle ground or any empathy with the thousands of athletes that come from poverty stricken economic backgrounds. Even things that were thought to be theirs isn't, and that includes the scholarships.
Scholarships Aren't All They're Cracked Up to Be
Some might site scholarships as fair compensation for college athletes. However, scholarships don't mean as much as you think. For starters, millions of high school students have to fight for the 138,000 available athletic scholarships for both Division-I (347 schools) and Division-II (317 schools) combine. These scholarships have to be spread out among various sports as it relates to the school. Of all the sports for students to participate in, only four offer "full ride" multi-year scholarships: men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, and football. As you will soon learn, a full ride scholarship is anything but. According to ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, coaches can withdraw scholarships from athletes at will, and there isn't much the athlete can do about it. In fact, US News contributor Lynn O'Shaughnessy warns aspiring collegiate athletes about the dangers of scholarships
"If your teen receives a sports scholarship, don't assume that it's going to be for four years. Athletic scholarships must be renewed each year and that's at the coach's discretion."
If you don't want to take the word of two reporters you can always find the information on the NCAA official website:
If a school plans to reduce or not renew a student-athlete’s aid, the school must notify the student-athlete in writing by July 1 and provide an opportunity to appeal. In most cases, coaches decide who receives a scholarship, the scholarship amount and whether it will be renewed.
NCAA Institutions Operate Like Professional Teams
Unbeknownst to so many athlete they either play up to the standard of their university or risk being cut. According to the National College Players Association:
"Athletic scholarships are one-year, "merit-based" awards that require both demonstrated academic performance as well as "participation expectations" on the playing field."
It sounds a lot like a professionally run team to me, Tyler Stone can attest to that. In 2010 then Memphis forward Tyler Stone had his scholarship revoked after just one season and forced to pay for school. Tyler Stone was mistaken for thinking he had actually earned a right to play for #Memphis both he and his mother were sold into thinking it would last. Tyker's mother Sharon Stone had this to say:
"I can't see how a school can love him to death one year and the next year cut him loose," said his mother... "They had to get rid of somebody.
Another case happened with former Colorado State kicker Durrell Chamarro who's scholarship was revoked and he was told that he could remain on the team, but only as a walk-on, despite his 3,4 GPA. Like so many before him Durrell Chamarro was lied to:
"I was told that as long as I maintained at least a 2.0 GPA and didn't break any rules, I would have my scholarship for four or five year."
Chamarro's poor economic situation forced him to leave the school because he couldn't afford the $17,000 annual tuition. Something similar happened to a former Oklahoma State basketball player, Kyle Hardrick.
Hardrick accepted a scholarship from the Sooners as a ninth grader. In 2009 he suited up for the #Sooners, but because of some injuries his scholarship was placed on hold. Hardrick was unable to get help with his medical bills and his family has been forced to pay for his education along with his $10,000 in medical bills. The wasn't inclined to help since they failed to award Hardrick with a hardship so that he would have been eligible to return. When he tried to transfer things got even more complicated. Because #OSU neglected to pay his $3,000 summer tuition during his scholarship tenure Hardrick was unable to obtain his transcripts. The result, Hardrick was stuck with medical bills, tuition, and not enough money to continue his education.
Those players were treated just like any other professional athlete. When they were no longer valuable they were flat out cut, or released by institutions that are supposed to adhere to the well-being of college athletes. Fortunately, thanks to players like former Rice University RB Joseph Agnew the NCAA has been held accountable for their disastrous mistreatment of athletes. Still, there's a ton of hypocrisy with the way the NCAA allows schools to handle athletes.
For example, if a player wants to transfer they are forced to forfeit a year of eligibility according to the NCAA rules. This means if an athlete transferred from one school to another they have to sit out a year before they could play for their new team; surrendering one of their five eligible years. The same rules don't apply to the million dollar coaches who sign on and recruit children with false ideologies and promises. Coaches can bolt whenever the next great opportunity presents itself. Unlike coaches so many players have to literally put their body on the lines to protect their scholarship.
Health and Preservation Who Cares? Not the NCAA
Believe it or not NCAA institutions does have insurance policies in place to protect athletes. Anyone remember Kevin Ware? He was the Louisville guard that suffered the gruesome injury in 2013's Elite Eight. Thanks to Louisville insurance policy Ware's medicals were covered, and he was able to resume his career at Georgia State. However, not all policies are created equally.
Case in point OSU's terrible insurance policy that left Kyle Hardrick and his family stuck with a $10,000 tab. Financial destitution is bad enough, but when it comes to health, especially in contact sports like football teams treat players just like pros. Players are subjected to injections and other forms of medications to ensure they'll be ready to compete. However, after their collegiate career they are left to deal with the lingering effects.
Former Utah defensive lineman Jason Kaufusi understands too well the long-term effects associated with pain killers. Kaufusi, like man other players took shots and painkillers to mask injuries. The former lineman explained how players fell into addiction.
After multiple injuries especially to his shoulders in game and post game injections became the norm for Kaufusi:
"I didn't want to get addicted. At one point during my junior year, I was always constantly looking for something because you just want some relief, even a minute of relief."
Kaufusi admits that he didn't become addicted, but he may be an anomaly. There are a plethora of NCAA athletes who are subjected to regular use of painkillers. In 2007 Dennis Romboy reported:
"As far back as 1991, a study found prescription painkillers the most commonly misused opioid among college athletes. Another study the same year showed 75 percent of college athletes used them for sports-related injuries."'
Health plays a major part in the case of well, every player. Their bodies is their money and like every college student they are trying to set themselves up for a better opportunity. Thus, if a player has an opportunity to minimize his/her injury risk in order to safeguard their chances of going pro they should. However, the NCAA and some representatives are against this form of thinking. Take a look at Oklahoma #Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops's comments on NFL prospect DL Charles Walker's decision to sit out the rest of the 2016 football season:
"Quitting on your teammates is hard to take, as a coach,” Mike Stoops said. “That’s everything we stand for -- our commitment to one another and, for whatever reason, that wasn’t there for him. He thought this was a better avenue so you would have to ask him for those (answers)."
I wonder if coach Stoops would feel the same way if he was offered a lucrative job in the NFL? Would he turn it down in order to fulfill the promises he made to the recruits on his defense? Walker, to his credit, is considered a first round pick and his decision to prepare for the draft is smart. Why risk injury and cost himself millions to play for a school that won't care about him after his collegiate career is over; especially considering Oklahoma's track record? Walker's decision is minimizing his chances of becoming Marcus Lattimore.
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore was an absolute phenom, "destined" for NFL stardom. Alabama's head coach Nick Saban had this to say about Marcus Lattimore:
I think there's always those players that get put in a category like Cam Newton or Deshaun Watson who dominate the game. Marcus Lattimore was one of those guys in that category.
As a true freshman Lattimore's play started the NFL conversation and comparisons to NFL great Adrian Peterson. In 2010 he tallied more than 1600 total yards and 19 total touchdowns. The following season his potential career would take a major hit. After rushing for more than 800yds and 10tds in just 7 games his season would be cut short by a torn ACL. Thankfully with hard work and remarkable recovery time Lattimore returned to form in 2012 where he rushed for 11tds in just 9 games until this happened...
Lattimore never resumed his career despite being selected in the fourth round by the 49ers in the 2013 NFL draft. The career of a special talent cut short because a college athlete stuck at an impasse. What OSU's DL Charles Walker did may not have been the popular choice, but it's far from quitting. #Basketball has the "one and done," rule or players can go overseas. #Baseball allows players to drafted right out of high school. Yes, college athletes are unique in that they essentially get to go on a job interview every time they play. Still, their chances of going pro are slim.
The NCAA has been undervaluing athletes for so long it almost makes you wonder if they really are "operating like a cartel." They are major beneficiaries of the hard work these athletes exude year in and year out. These same athletes that must comply with rules that hinders them from working, or caps the amount of money they can make. The system that requires athletes to adhere to academic standards based on the schedules set for every student; when clearly they aren't like many other students. This non-profit organization happens to make billions of dollars on the backs of the athletes sacrificing so much for so little. I'm not advocating for players to be paid, but something has to be done when it comes to the exploitation and the sheer misrepresentation of student athletes. Like Bryant Gumbel once said: