Insight News

Dec 21st

College sports: A billion dollar industry

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fred-easterLike millions of Americans, I watched a few bowl games in the past few weeks or so. I was struck by something a commentator said during whatever bowl Ohio State played in. He spoke of a player that was back on the field after two suspensions. 

I would have understood if he’d been suspended for missing curfew or a team meeting. Getting suspended for being arrested in a bar fight would have been understandable, as well. But, this brother was suspended once for selling his own memorabilia and once for accepting money for a job that it was determined he didn’t attend enough.

Now, I have a problem. Why can’t a “student athlete” sell his own property? It has value because of what he did to earn it. AND, it belongs to him. It’s not as if he took team equipment out of the locker room and sold it on the street. Ohio State is selling memorabilia, with HIS name on it, in their campus bookstores. Does it seem strange to you that the NCAA would have a zillion rules about ways “student athletes” can’t make money; and no rules on the limit to the amount of money adults can make in college sports.

You give a player a prepaid phone card, so he can stay in touch with his family: Violation. But, if a Conference is trying to get a University to switch its conference affiliation, they can buy the Athletic Dir., the President and the Board Chair their own island in the Bahamas without violating any NCAA rule.

Coaches of revenue producing sports at the big Division 1 schools carry salaries in the millions. In addition, they are often paid to host post game radio or TV shows. Who monitors how many hours they spend earning that money? Who monitors how NIKE, RUSSELL or ADIDAS incentivizes them to use their brand of uniforms and equipment.

In the major revenue producing sports like football and basketball; the term “student athlete” is a convenient misnomer. To be sure, they are athletes; but too often, they are “students” in name mostly. They generate revenue in the millions. Look at the payouts to schools in major bowls or the NCAA basketball tournament. Paying their parent’s way to the game = violation. The student’s supposed payoff is their “education”. BUT, I read of a former player describing one of his coaches saying “Academics is number one”, while holding up two fingers. “Football is number two”, while holding up one finger”. I read of a “student basketball athlete” who hailed from the Bronx whose coaches made him major in animal husbandry, even though the only animals he’d met were pit bulls and rats. Who monitors the treatment and academic counseling coaches provide to their players? Far too many young men spend four seasons earning their athletic scholarship and leave school with two years to go on their degree. They have to pay their way, if they want to finish the degree. He would’ve had to pay for four years of college if he wanted a degree in something besides animal husbandry.

I worry about putting young men in the hands of some coaches who have their eyes focused on their first or next multi-million dollar job offer.

Major college sports are a multi billion dollar entertainment industry where the entertainers work for free.


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