NCAA collegiate sports is big business, with several university football programs making in excess of $200 million annually. The NCAA’s “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament makes close to a billion dollars annually. Factor in tuition paid to these universities by non scholarship students, and it’s safe to say that these universities aren’t struggling financially.
The people who are usually equated with financial struggles are the student athletes themselves. They’re only afforded a scholarship that includes room and board, tuition, per diem money offered by the school for meals, and whatever else Mom, Dad, or Uncle Ted can spare. Sadly, many of these kids have to focus on classes and their commitment to their team on empty stomachs because they don’t have enough money for food. That’s about to change.
The NCAA is about to outline a plan for athletes to earn monetary compensation for use of their likenesses. This is a great move because it finally rewards the athletes for the revenue they generate. Sports fans don’t see the games to watch university presidents. They are interesting in watching finely conditioned athletes use their unique skills in the spirit of competition.
There are some that bemoan payment for college athletes. They think athletes are spoiled prima donnas that are actually getting paid with a free education, and don’t need monetary compensation. If they’re good enough for the pros, they can wait until they’re eligible to go pro and get their money. That’s easy for them to say since it’s not their financial future hanging in the balance.
If this plan becomes a reality, it’ll raise a lot of questions: will there be a meritocracy on how much athletes receive? How will these athletes be paid, since the NCAA doesn’t want to be involved in paying their athletes because it erases the amateur/professional line? A bigger question focuses on the recruiting aspect. What if university boosters promise recruits endorsement opportunities to attend their universities during the recruitment phase? Should impressionable 17 and 18 year old kids be subjected to all this?
The answer is yes. If a kid has tremendous athletic potential, he should be able to personally benefit from it monetarily. America is all about capitalism and free enterprise. It would be hypocritical to deny these kids of that opportunity. There are critics who say such opportunities would interfere with their education. It’ll be up to them to find that balance because somehow they find that balance to play their respective sports.
As for the legal ramifications, why should there be any? It’s not unlawful for these kids to make money to survive. Whatever agreement they have with whatever business employs them as pitchmen for their products and services is their business. These businesses should draw up a contract and let free enterprise take its course. Besides, these athletes’ scholarships are actually contracts issued by their schools, and can be rescinded at the university’s discretion.
Many of us aren’t directly involved in these kids’ lives. Outside of immediate family and friends, there’s no direct interest from us regarding how they spend their spare time. They’re responsible for how to handle their non athletic endeavors. Their availability and game day performance is all we care about. Hopefully the current COVID-19 pandemic will be eliminated at some point, and the games can begin.