NCAA’s billion dollar industry exploits unpaid student athletes

Monday was the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs 71-65 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

When the final buzzer sounded and the confetti rained down on top of the UNC players, they all achieved a goal: winning a national title. Everyone watching could see that.

There’s one thing that millions of people watching at home, or the 60,000 fans watching at the stadium, can’t see during that moment. That is how much the schools exploit these players to get money. It’s not just the schools, though. It’s the NCAA in general.

This is a common theme in Division I basketball and football. These players are getting full ride scholarships, but they make millions upon millions of dollars for these schools. It’s something that needs to be fixed, but it’s not going to be easy to do it.

In 2016, the NCAA reached an $8.8 billion agreement with Turner Sports to broadcast the NCAA Tournament on its networks. I repeat, $8.8 billion. Players don’t get any of that.

There’s also the fact the coaches of these players are making at least $2 million a year. UNC’s head coach Roy Williams makes $2.1 million a year, but that does not include the endorsements and bonuses. After Monday’s win, Williams received more than $900,000 for his team’s performance in the tournament.

That brings me to endorsement deals. Back in 2009, UNC signed a 10-year $37.7 million deal with the Jordan Brand, to endorse them and give them uniforms to wear. This also includes producing shirts, jerseys, sweatshirts and sweatpants to sell to people.

It’s not just the athletics. Doing well in these sports also increases attendance at these schools.

Fortune.com states the 68 schools that participate in the NCAA Tournament see a 10 percent increase in applications. They also stated that Villanova, which won the tournament last season, received $6 million in free advertising and a record breaking 17,266 applicants. The previous record was 13,362 in 2010.

So, the success does not only give the athletic departments money, but the whole school in general. 

It’s ridiculous how much money these large schools make off their football and basketball teams. According to USA Today, the top revenue for a school in the NCAA in 2015 was Texas A&M, which earned a whopping $192 million. 

They don’t get to keep all of that money, though, because the school has to spend money on their own athletic department. A&M had to spend $109 million on its athletic department, but that’s still a lot of money going to the school the players don’t get at all.

There isn’t any easy way to compensate every single player in the NCAA. That’s because not every school actually makes money off their athletics. South Dakota State actually lost $24,052 in 2015.

Also, not every player is helping the school make money. Only one or two players for each team has their jersey sold. They don’t make money off of it because their name is not on it. So, how do you make sure players get paid?

The best idea I’ve heard is to compensate all the players from schools who make money off of athletics. Give them all a base salary and then if their merchandise sells give them a percentage of that money.

Obviously, that is hard to calculate and figure out, but I believe it could be done. The only way to raise awareness to this problem is for players to boycott. 

The Northwestern football team protested after the 2014 season, but gave up after about a month. It also needs to be a player from a large university. One of the problems with this is that the players who are having their merchandise sold only play for a couple years and then go on to make millions in the NBA or NFL. So, they are patient and don’t really care.

This issue will probably go on for a while, until more and more athletes either protest, or at least complain.

I love watching college basketball and football and both sports certainly won’t lose any viewers over this issue. But it is sickening to think that the NCAA and these schools are making millions, even billions, of dollars off of 18 to 23-year-olds.