Monday, March 24, 2014

The Real March Madness: Just Pay The Damn Kids Already!!!

Like many of you, I spent an unhealthy amount of time parked in front of the TV/tablet the past week watching NCAA Basketball. A uniquely American institution, the games highlight the athleticism, love of the game, and dedication of hundreds of "student athletes", superimposed against the seedy underbelly of betting a wagering. Yes, they're "amateurs", but a lot of people are making money off them. Which is why I found this recent poll somewhat interesting.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a large majority of the general public opposes paying salaries to college athletes beyond the scholarships currently offered.

Only 33 percent support paying college athletes. At 64 percent, opposition is nearly twice as high as support, with 47 percent strongly against the idea. Nearly every demographic and political group opposes it except non-whites, for whom 51 percent support. The breakdown among whites (73 percent oppose, 24 percent support) tilted strongly in the opposite direction, echoing the perspective of NCAA President Mark Emmert.

Only 19 percent indicated they strongly support paying salaries to college athletes. No demographic or political group, except for non-whites, had more than 25 percent expressing strong support for the idea . Though some groups were more supportive overall than others, most rejected the proposition. Just 40 percent of men, for instance, are in favor vs. 27 percent for women. Among self-professed fans of college sports, 37 percent support paying player compared with 27 percent of non-fans.

The public, however, was split evenly when asked about the proposition of allowing college athletes to form a union to negotiate their rights and working conditions, with 47 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing.

The racial contrast was more pronounced on the issue of unions, with 66 percent of non-whites supporting the idea but 56 percent of whites opposing it. Nearly two-thirds of respondents under the age of 40 were in favor, but 57 percent of individuals over age 50 were against.
I'm not going to unwrap the racial disparity in views on this topic. I'll let ya'll have at that. My sentiment is as it has always been: pay the damn kids!

The NCAA has a 14-year, $11 billion agreement with CBS and Turner Sports for the TV rights to a 68-team tournament. The NCAA sells billions in merchandise bearing the number and likeness of these athletes each year. In many states, the football/basketball coach is the highest paid public employee. NCAA President Mark Emmert was credited with nearly $1.7M in salary last year. Name me any other walk of life in which the talent gets paid zero, while the people in charge literally make billions. Go ahead, I'll wait....

I think student athletes in revenue generating sports (men's BB and FB) should share in any annual profits those programs generate. Open the books, and do some basic math. Give the athletes some small, fixed percentage at the end of each year of eligibility that the program turns a profit and put it in an interest bearing account. If you don't play a sport that generates money (ie: baseball, track, which FB and BB actually fund at most schools) and you get nothing. You drop out of school, transfer out, fail out, turn pro, or fail to graduate within 5 years and you get nothing.[1]

Also, allow the student athletes to get summer jobs and/or take internships in their field of study to properly prepare for post-graduate life. They are prohibited from doing so right now, which just illuminates how silly the "student athlete" moniker really is. If you're a computer science major and graduate with no relevant work experience, your degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on in today's hyper-competitive workforce. By design, the NCAA says you can't both play basketball and prepare for your future. How is that fair?

Graduate on time and you get whatever vested amount your program has set aside for you in a 401K upon receiving your diploma. At schools that make money (ie: Florida), a football player can walk away and begin their post-graduate life with maybe $15-$20k. At schools that make nothing (ie: McNeese State) the kids get nothing. It's a fair, a free market approach that rewards those who contribute to the bottom line of universities and the NCAA, cuts down on corruption, and rewards both the school and the athletes for their shared success (or lack thereof).

So next time you're cheering for these "kids", remember they're really getting nothing in return for their efforts. Blow out a knee like Kevin Ware and not only could you lose your eligbility, but you could also be on the hook for your own medical bills (something that happens far often than most people know). Have an off year and you could be dropped from your scholarship altogether (ditto). How on Earth is that "fair"?

March is "Mad" in more ways than stunning upsets.[2]

Question: Should the kids be paid? What's with the racial breakdown in those who support paying athletes and those who don't?!?

[1] Yeah, I know, I've written this post at least once every year that this blog has been in existence. I'll stop writing it when the problem as addressed. So there.

[2] Duck Fuke. Always. And look at that white kid doing the Nae Nae!!!!

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