The chants grow louder, Dayne, Dayne, Dayne, its 4’Th and goal, the Badgers trail Michigan by 5 with six seconds left. The winner takes home the title as the 1999 National champions. The ball is snapped, Bollinger drops back, fakes the pass, and pitches it to Dayne. He dodges a tackle, bounces off 2 blue jerseys, and stumbles in the end-zone for the game winning TD. Dayne’s hard work and perseverance paid off and led Wisconsin to a victory.
But who really capitalizes when Ron Dayne leads his team to a National Championship? To Dayne, Paid Off in no way means he will receive a check from the University of Wisconsin. Under current NCAA regulations, all student athletes are prohibited from receiving any payment for their efforts(1). Exploited athletes generate millions of dollars for their schools, and never see a dime. Is this fair?
College sports are big business. Every single day, universities succeed in coaxing the general public into believing that the kindred and pure spirit of amateur athletics serves as the main catalyst for their respective universities desire to field a good team. However, in reality the common motivation for these universities is nothing other that the almighty dollar. For many universities, the athletic program serves as a cash-generating machine. In terms of profit, if all ties with the university were eliminated, an athletic program acting as its own separate entity could compete with some fortune 500 companies. So, why do the vital pieces of the machine, (the players) fail to receive any compensation for their performance? Certainly, a car engine is cared for and maintained, the owner continually spending money to keep it up. The answer lies in the money-hungry universities and their practice of hoarding all the revenue.
Many student-athletes are actually business people, just like students attending business schools and graduate schools. They are many times attending universities because it is a stepping stone en route to a career as a professional athlete,(1) just like an accounting major is studying in order to be recruited by an accounting firm. The lifestyle of a student-athlete is quite different though. A student-athlete must attend practice for 10 to 20 hours per week, travel to games on most weekends during the season, and at the same time, keep up with an academic workload comparable to that of a student without commitment to athletics. But unlike ordinary students without athletics, student-athletes must also many times care for families and spouses. Actually, approximately 24% of student athletes are married, and of that 24%, about 62% have children(1) Of the students without their own spouses or children, many must care for parents and siblings.
The rules and regulations regarding the student-athlete are set forth by the NCAA, which serves as the governing body over college athletics. Most college athletes are not wealthy and among the many rules imposed for these privileged individuals, they are not permitted to carry jobs, receive money, rewards, or any type of kickbacks from any sources other than family.
The NCAA does not allow their athletes to hold jobs because the job issue has ramifications on recruiting(1). The NCAA believes some schools would have an unfair recruiting advantage over other schools. That one school could offer a recruit a better job opportunity than another. There is an issue that jobs in different locations would pay athletes different salaries. Walter Byers, who advocated an overhaul of college sports, deregulating the system and treating athletes like other students says, The reasoning behind this one is that an athlete at Alabama might not earn as much working in a Tuscaloosa men’s clothing store as a USC player could earn as an apprentice stagehand in a Hollywood studio.(3)
But really, athletes should not have to work in the first place. While a car cannot run without an engine, a sport cannot be played without athletes.
The NCAA uses the name amateurism as the reason it doesn’t pay student-athletes. Opponents against paying student-athletes say that they should not be paid because through scholarships, they’re already being paid. A University education is priceless, says Richard Jacoby, member of the NCAA committee. But that is only true if the opportunity to get an education is taken advantage of(4).
Yes, a scholarship is a form of payment. A scholarship is nice, but it is not enough. A scholarship will not pay the bills. A scholarship will not feed a child. Life wouldn’t be so hard for many of the student-athletes if they were permitted to hold jobs. But the NCAA does not permit scholarship players to be employed during the school year. During the summer, these athletes are forced to train, practice, and compete in order to keep their roster position. This leaves little time to earn money.
The truth is that the beginning of the end of amateurism came in 1952 when the NCAA negotiated its first arrangement with network television. NBC paid $1,144,000 for the right to televise NCAA football games(6). Today, networks and cable channels pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to televise college football games. NCAA basketball, which has its wildly popular March Madness, is currently in the middle of a contract that pays almost $2 billion. The contract expires at the end of 2002(6). How much money will the next contract be? Awkwardly enough, the money ends up in the pockets of the NCAA and respective universities.
The NCAA does not pay either state or federal income taxes because it claims non-profit status while working to maintain a balance between intercollegiate athletics and academics(1) But statistics indicate that over the past 23 years, the NCAA’s total revenues have increased almost 8,000 percent and the NCAA’s $1.7 billion contract with CBS for rights to the NCAA Tournament is bigger than any single professional sports deal, with any network(6).
According to research by Notre Dame economist Richard G. Sheehan, at least three-college football teams; Michigan, Florida, and Notre Dame, are each worth more than the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Our Michigan Wolverines are worth an estimated $225 million. In 1997, when the Wolverines earned a Rose Bowl bid, they were paid $15 million for participating in the game, which was sponsored by AT;T(6). That is not including the money the university profited by sales of tickets, tee shirts, and other souvenirs.
The NCAA does not follow the same regulations that universities are forced to follow. In 1997 when the NCAA was debating on moving their national headquarters, 72% of the NCAA’s 250 employees voted to stay in the Kansas City area(1) Oddly enough, the NCAA accepted Indianapolis’ offer of about $50 million to move there. Money drives it, greed drives it, says Tom McMillen a former college athlete, congressman and member of the Knight Foundation Commission of Intercollegiate Athletics, which attempts to reform college sports.
Considering that the NCAA functions to make money, why not pay the player? In 1905, the NCAA promised President Theodore Roosevelt, To keep college sports at an amateur level, secondary to a good education(4). Last year, three Baylor University coaches were convicted of wire fraud for filling out tests for star basketball players, to improve their grades. United States District Judge, Walter S. Smith says, The evidence in this makes it clear that Baylor, like probably the majority of NCAA colleges and universities, is in the business of athletics, at least so far as basketball and football are concerned, to make money. Well if the NCAA is in the business of making money, how are they not going to compensate their workers?
Recently, Steve Spurrier, head football coach at the University of Florida, signed a six-year contract that will pay him nearly $2 million per year. Plus his $2 million annual salary, Spurrier received two new cars (one for him, one for his wife), a generous clothing allowance and 24 fifty yard-line tickets for each Florida Gators home game. The deal also includes incentives that would be paid when specific goals set forth in the contract are achieved.
The incentive’s portion of the contract says: Spurrier can earn $99,000 for winning another national championship this year; he can earn the equivalent of one month of his base salary for getting to the SEC championship game, two months equivalent for any bowl game, two-and-a-half months for an Alliance bowl game, and lastly $50,000 for winning a national championship any time throughout the contract(6)
Think about it, Spurrier can earn these bonuses only if his players perform at a championship level. THE PLAYERS. They’re the one’s who have to sweat, work, and win. These are the same employees who will not receive bonuses for reaching any of the goals of Spurrier’s contract. The ones who fill the stadiums full of fans, the ones who people yell at when they drop a pass and the ones that people cheer for when they score the game-winning touchdown. The same people who are forced to be content with what they have, because they have no opportunity at this time to get more.
Some people may ask why a man who merely coaches a collegiate football team deserved that kind of money. Well, since big time college football brings in the kind of money that can support that salary, so be it. Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said upon the signing, Obviously, people are going to talk about the amount of money he’s making, but he adds tremendous value to this university(4)
But I ask what about those kids that he leads into battle each week. The same kids who risk injury and failure. The same kids who work and run, not only during the season but also during the preseason and offseason. It’s about time that they reap the benefits of their work.
While student-athletes have no legal way to earn money, often they try to pursue their careers elsewhere. An above-average division one college basketball player, such as Michigan’s Louis Bullock last season is offered the opportunity to go to the CBA or another European League and make a good living. While the average graduation rate is about 58 percent, basketball players have a 45 percent graduation rate, or 13 percentage points lower(3) Though better than basketball players, football players are graduating at 52 percent, six percentage points lower than the average student is(3).
With giving student-athletes a small salary, such as the $5.40 an hour national minimum wage, more athletes would not have to miss their chance of a college experience. These people are not greedy; they are looking out for themselves. Though a college education is important, the goal of college is to prepare yourself for your future profession. Recently Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Shawn Kemp are examples of teens that decided to skip college because of the necessity of money. Had they attended college, they would have enjoyed four years of, well, being slaves.
It wouldn’t hurt universities to give back a little. The average Division One school profits $6 million per year on basketball and football alone(6). Consider that, some universities such as University of Florida or U of M profit more than $10 million per year on their respective athletic programs. Everywhere you look in Ann Arbor you see Michigan Football merchandise. The amount of money and number of people the football program brings into this city alone is tremendous. If every player were given a decent salary, say $75 to $100 a week, it would make life a lot more livable for some athletes. They should not struggle for food or money, considering that they are, in a sense, keeping the town alive. What would Ann Arbor be without football?
Much less lively and spirited, to say the least.
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