By Josh Friedman || Contributing Writer
As March Madness “marches” on, the labor that athletes endure on behalf of their schools
continues as well. The two teams in the finals of the tournament will have played six games. Those players, along with their opposition on the road to victory, have dedicated the entire month of March, and really their entire collegiate careers, to their respective programs. These “student athletes,” with the expectations placed upon them, often get only a fraction of the educational experience promised. While some receive full scholarships, those who do not face a very difficult and unpredictable college experience. With the demanding structure of NCAA Division 1 athletics, a billion dollar industry, why must the students remain unpaid?
My first grievance with the NCAA is the artfully crafted label of “Student Athletes.” Repeated throughout every commercial, the student athlete was a name created to maintain and afirm the amature status attached to all college athletes. “Amateur competition is a bedrock principle of college athletics and the NCAA. Maintaining amateurism is crucial to preserving an academic environment in which acquiring a quality Education is the first priority,” the NCAA official website states. If so, then it is disconcerting that there have been so many scandals regarding the academic performance of many Division 1 athletic programs. Perhaps most notably would be the incident during which students from the University of North Carolina were enrolled in fake essay-based courses to guarantee their academic eligibility. In an effort to prevent any form of corruption within their organization, the NCAA has became far more corrupt.
Protected by an incredible amount of red tape, the NCAA’s current legislation keeps student athletes from receiving the compensation they deserve. I agree that if schools could bid for their recruits, the spirit and integrity of the game would disappear. It is okay for a student to select a school based on the amount of scholarship offered, because a college education is incredibly expensive. While being an eyecatching athlete can help one gain entry into a prestigious university, efforts to maintain one’s scholarship could be futile if a player is injured. In this situation, the school cannot expel the student, but is within its right to pull the scholarship.
In many cases, the athletic scholarships are their only means of retaining a student. A player from a low income family could see a full scholarship as an incredible blessing, but there is a great risk of losing everything from an injury. At least in professional sports, an injured player is placed on paid injury reserve or bought out of the remainder of their contract. While the average yearly salary of a NCAA coach is $1.64 million, students receive no direct payment from the school. Is it necessary to set aside such large funds for the coach and reject setting aside any portion for the players?
By no means do I endorse the establishment of bidding wars for recruits. A school should not be able to offer six figure salaries to students. To introduce something like that to the sport would, without question, tarnish the integrity of the game. Students would make commitments to programs that offered the most money. But what if the NCAA introduced a mandatory set hourly wage for all athletes in Division 1 programs? Perhaps then students could receive their due compensation and the NCAA could avoid a risk of further corruption. Schedules for the current Division 1 athletic programs are incredibly demanding, leaving very little time in the day to devote to academics. Introducing set hourly wages would require schools to budget how many hours during the day the student athletes devote to their teams. Students would get their much needed break from their athletics. That said, it is not my job to implement these wages. It is not my job to help the NCAA work out a means of resolving their incredibly unjust policy. It is just my job to speak up and say that the system, in its present state, exploits its athletes. This controversy has made its way into the spotlight of college athletics. If there is any hope of action, we, as loving fans of these sports, must continue to express our discontent.
First-year Josh Friedman is a Sports Contributing Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.