Tomorrow, a large portion of the United States will consume what they call ”Football Saturday”. No I did not mix up Sunday with Saturday, if you are not familiar with what “Football Saturday” is, it is one of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) big money makers, college football. Most major cities will be supporting the home colors and turning on their television screens to watch subscribed college content or find a way to muster up the cash to watch a game. But there is more than just the game. There is the frame of the American consumer on Saturdays or even in March during the “Madness.” The players are the ones in frame, who consumers grab onto for guidance and allow them to feel the highs of winning and the lows of losing. The NCAA makes their money by exploiting high school athletic phenoms through the spectacle that is professional sports. Wait, they may get the treatment, the publicity, the fame but it is not a “professional sports league” as NCAA Commissioner, Mark Emmert would say. Thousands of student athletes slave away constantly for the opportunity for fame and fortune. Juggling their sports and homework with just the small chance of making it, with little to no backup plans. All of this, while a multi-billion dollar corporation profits off these athletes who do not make it big, which is an astounding majority of the student athletes. The NCAA should be recognized as a professional collegiate association and foster an environment for beneficial support to all student athletes. The following paragraphs will show a closer link to the NCAA and why their “business” can be described as an exploitation of the student athlete.

 

The Numbers

The National Football League grossed 11.09 billion dollars in 2014(Statista, 2016). There are 32 teams in the NFL with 53 players to each roster for a grand total of 1,696 players. Those players are paid a total of 3.6 billion dollars, which is roughly 32.4% of the total revenue (Gerencer, 2016). The National Basketball League grossed $5.2 billion dollars in 2014 (Forbes Staff, 2016). In the NBA there are 30 teams with roughly 14 players per team on average making their grand total of 420 players who make 50% of revenue based on their most recent collective bargaining agreement for a total of $2.6 billion dollars (Coon, 2016). Now you may be asking what are all these numbers for? Well here’s where the microphone drops.

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association Football (NCAAF) FBS division one and Basketball (NCAAB) leagues grossed $3.4 billion and $1 billion dollars respectively (Gerencer, 2016) and out of all the student athlete’s in both the NCAAF and NCAAB players are paid a grand total of $0.00 dollars. Yes, that is the grand total of each student athlete’s salary combined. There is more to be broken down because the NCAA obviously has more teams and more players to split money between. Now specifically looking at the NCAAF FBS Division there is a total of 10,965 players who have an average scholarship of $9,000 for a total of 98.6 million that works out to being 2.9% of the $3.4 billion dollar revenue (Scholarship Stats, 2015). If these players were paid the 32% NFL players got they would average out to make $99,224. Essentially, they are glorified volunteers with Fred the Janitor cleaning up the campus making more in one day than all NCAA student athletes combined for a whole year!

 

The Argument

The NCAA as an organization does not however believe they are exploiting a professional athlete they believe they are fostering an educative environment to promote good student athletes. The commissioner Mark Emmert had a brief interview, which you can find below, on this topic and it is a “reasonable” poor argument. Nonetheless, it is an argument of sorts.

Okay to recap, he argues that if they wanted to hire professional athletes then why do they promote the student experience and a “free education”. Richard Sherman, NFL’s renowned cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, sums up the ability of taking advantage of the “free education” which is considered the compensation for pay.

Like Sherman stated loosely, he would love to see a regular student try to attempt the workload that they attempt day in and day out, pretty much by having the time spent with two full-time jobs or double the classes. There have also been additional studies have also shown that the stress of school and sport actual has negative psychological effects on the development on their brains (Hwang & Choi, 2016, p.778). I would personally love to see Mark Emmert attempt the schedule of Sherman. Also, Mark states that it is not professional sports and players should not be paid and they should really be compensated through more secure scholarships, health and wellness support, and family benefits like flights to games. Fair enough, that seems like it could be a start to even compensation. I strongly believe that is not $99,224 in compensation in terms of NCAAF.

Emmert, strongly believes they do not foster a professional sports environment yet their cheque books say otherwise. The NCAA stands by in their description of athletics being “an integral part of the university’s educational mission and the purpose of intercollegiate athletics is not to profit but to enhance the educational experience of the student body”(Karcher, 2012, p.128). Many have looked at this promotion of amateurism through the NCAA as “counterintuitive” because they turn around and sign large contracts (Ex. The NCAA signed a 14-year basketball television contract for $10.8 billion) with entities identical to professional sports, which are for profit leagues (Afshar, 2015, p.143). The NCAA is by their own definition non-for-profit but through analysis and looking at the amount of money they continually rake in through advertising revenue and other profit streams they are considered a professional sports league (Karcher, 2015, p.144).

 

The “Benefits”

Some opposing views of outside students would see the average Division 1 FBS Football player as this god or hero thrusting their college to the top of the rankings giving these students bragging rights over the rest of the country. You’d think the fame of these players would come with extraordinary benefits, free money, free meals, complimentary this and that. At the end of the day, they are not even allowed to accept a free cab ride. Why? Well, once athlete signs into the NCAA’s pool of exploitation it grants them enormous power over the athlete.  The NCAA’s “powers includes scheduling championship events, determining eligibility rules, entering into commercial contracts, and punishing members that refuse to follow its authority” (Edelman, 2013, p.63). There are some absolute astonishing cases out there. For instance, the University of Utah’s basketball team head coach was given a sentence of two years salary, penalized their scholarship program, intricate self-imposed sanctions, probation and public reprimand (Norwood, 2003). Looking at all those “sentences” it would lead the average person to believe this coach committed a 1st degree murder of NCAA rules. When in reality he loaned $510 for a player to fly home to a friend’s funeral (Norwood, 2003). Essentially, the NCAA says, “Oh you don’t have money? Well too bad for you”. If the NCAA is going to take 97.7% of the money earned through these student athletes the least they could do is allow them to accept a couple gifts here and there.

 

The Spectacle

Obviously, there is a lack of compensation for NCAA student athletes who dedicate their college careers to not only academics but also their respective sports. Putting aside all the money-making endeavours and the non paying and hours of work, let’s talk about these student athlete’s future through the NCAA’s promotional recruitment video.

Boy, did the NCAA scratch and claw its way through that video trying not to laugh at the mirage they are trying to sell. For instance, “52 percent of Division I football players believe it is likely they will play in the NFL”, when in reality there is only a 1.6% chance for these players to make it (New, 2015).

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That very chance is all the 52% of players need to suffice, as a legitimate chance of leaving the NCAA as an institution that has been strengthened through the success and money from the 1% who turn out to make millions as professional players. They are great example of a spectacle. “The spectacle is an illusion that ‘serves as total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system” (Freidman & Andrews, 2010, p.186). The illusion being the millions made by these former NCAA players and that is the justification for the players who do not make it to the professional level and end up graduating from college with a degree that may not get them anything more than an average to below average job. Current student athletes “expressed opinions seemed to be shaped by the university environment, even if the relevant [perks] have no intent to affect student-athletes”(Druckman, 2014, p.10) university career. The NCAA creates this grand idea of “spectacles to pacify [student athletes] by bombarding them with images and fantasies, which encourage participation” (Freidman & Andrews, 2010 p.186).

The NCAAF Div.1 Oregon Ducks developed a team clubhouse for the 2013 college football season. The YouTube video below is just a snapshot to, what they describe to be, “the most state of the art, efficient college and pro” facility in North America.

You are probably wondering how much this cost? Well the facility cost a total of $68 million dollars. The designers in the video even used the offense of the Oregon Ducks for the design inspiration and describe the building as innovative, fearless, monstrous, player first and the most absurd line was the calculation of time it takes a player to get from the field to the locker room and then to the coach. Jeez, I would not be surprised if they even tried to find out how long each bathroom break took. But in all seriousness that facility, to lightly put it, is unreal and I do not think any recruit thinks about anything other than how awesome that facility is. All the Ducks can really offer is the bells and whistles that the professional athletes get and a 1.6% chance of becoming one. The NCAA clouds the reality through uniting all the high-tech, state of the art facilities that the professionals get. They create an image of professional athletics and if they offer the same facilities, as the professionals, then the wealth will trickle down and the monetary shortcomings of NCAA student athletic participation is fair compensation. When in reality, it is the NCAA’s “inequality subsumed by an appearance of equality”(Freidman & Andrews, p.186). “There is little in the way of infrastructure, professionalism, or the possibility of a good salary to encourage [student athletes] to remain in [classes instead of], the potential of earning the almost unimaginable riches” (Darby et al., 2007, p.147). Ultimately the NCAA creates an institution of spectacle that shapes the student athletes opinions through the environment they publicize and lead on to believe as the “best in the world” and not educating them on what comes after the athletics.

The Resolution

When discussing the NCAA it is hard to find a side for them that makes sense or provides relative context that does not label them as exploitive or promotional in the idea of the spectacle. They take advantage of the power to pick any punishment in regards to receiving benefits but choose to stay out and not garner power over actual issues (Lockhart, 2009, p.154). Why not use just a couple of the billions of dollars to further help the struggling student athlete rather than calling it quits after the “free education”. These student athletes work 10x harder than any NCAA executive just so they can pay for Mark Emmert’s $1.6 million dollar salary (Berkowitz, 2009) He’s certainly paid the wage of a professional sports commissioner. At the end of the day, the workers are not getting paid for the product the company is selling and the ideas of secure scholarships, greater health and welfare support, and the family benefits that Emmert teases should just be a start to the possible restructuring of revenue allowing for a base salary to help the 97.7 percent of student-athletes that do not sign the lucrative professional contracts.

 

References

Afshar, A. (2014). Collegiate Athletes: The Conflict Between NCAA Amateurism and a Student Athlete’s Right of Publicity. Willamette Law Review, 51(1), 99-131.

Berkowitz, S. (2012, July 9). NCAA president Mark Emmert paid at nearly $1.6M per year. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/story/2012-07-09/NCAA-Mark-Emmert-salary/56117864/1

Coons, L. (2016). NBA Salary Cap FAQ. Retrieved from What percentage of revenues do the players receive?, http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q18

Darby, P., Akindes, G., & Kirwin, M. (2007). Football academies and the migration of African football labor to Europe. Journal of Sport & Social Issues,31(2), 143-161.

Druckman, J. N., Gilli, M., Klar, S., & Robison, J. (2014). The Role of Social Context in Shaping Student-Athlete Opinions. Plos ONE, 9(12), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115159

Edelman, M. (2013). A Short Treatise on Amatearism and Antitrust Law: Why the NCAA’s No-Pay Rules Violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Case Western Reserve Law Review, 64(1), 61-99.

Forbes Staff (2016). Forbes releases 18th annual NBA team valuations. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbespr/2016/01/20/forbes-releases-18th-annual-nba-team-valuations/#2ba4be926e3e

Friedman, Michael T., and David L. Andrews. “The built sport spectacle and the opacity of democracy.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport(2010): 1012690210387540.

Gerencer, T. (2016). How much money does the NCAA make? Retrieved from Money Nation, http://moneynation.com/how-much-money-does-the-ncaa-make/

Gerencer, T. (2016). How much money do NFL players make? Retrieved from Money Nation, http://moneynation.com/how-much-money-do-nfl-players-make/

Karcher, R. T. (2012). Broadcast Rights, Unjust Enrichment, and the Student-Athlete. Cardozo Law Review, 34(1), 107-172.

Lockhart, T. M. (2009). The NCAA Should Adopt a Uniform Student-Athlete Discipline Policy. UCLA Entertainment Law Review, 16(1), 119-154.

New, J. (2015). College athletes greatly overestimate their chances of playing professionally. Retrieved from Inside Higher Ed, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/27/college-athletes-greatly-overestimate-their-chances-playing-professionally

Norwood, R. (2003). Utah is penalized for rules violations. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2003/jul/31/sports/sp-utah31

Seunghyun, H., & Youngjun, C. (2016). Data Mining in the Exploration of Stressors Among NCAA Student Athletes. Psychological Reports, 119(3), 787-803. doi:10.1177/0033294116674776

Statista. (2016). Revenue of the NFL 2001-2015 | statistic. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/193457/total-league-revenue-of-the-nfl-since-2005/

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