College Football Players Tackle NCAA on Athlete Compensation
by Logan Troy on Friday, December 11th, 2015
Most fall Saturdays, about 100,00 fans attend each individual Division I college football game, and 7 million more tune in on TV. Such a passionate following has produced an unbelievably large market for college football. This market values the TV rights for the SEC, a single college conference, at over $300 million. Where these finances go, however, is a hotly contested debate.
Athlete compensation has long spurred tension between college athletes and the NCAA, and rightly so. The notion that, up until recently, a coach could not even provide a player with cream cheese for his bagel should surely raise eyebrows. However, the problem runs much deeper. Low-income athletes, even those receiving “full” scholarships valued at over $100,000, often have to make do without essentials, such as school books or extra meals to meet their high caloric intake. Beyond their outrageous food policies, the NCAA’s banning players from making so much as a dime delves into a grey moral area. The NCAA imposed these laws to protect what it believes to be the core of college athletics: amateurism.
Recently, however, a relentless barrage of lawyers has forced the NCAA into revising some of its stone-age laws. The replacement legislation seems genuinely aimed at properly feeding all players. So yes, players may now receive cream cheese with their team issued bagels. Additionally, players can now receive “cost of attendance” grants, whose values each individual school determines based on the player’s costs of living (such as laundry, transportation, school books etc.), not including tuition or room and board. After graduating, players can profit from their play in college, but do these amendments go far enough in compensating players? Naturally, players advocating for more benefits tend to disagree with the NCAA on these matters.
Football players claim that they sacrifice their education due to the massive time commitments of practice, weight training, film study, and, sadly, their health, in the name of the school. Yet they don’t believe that they receive sufficient funds in exchange. The schools argue that providing a degree free of charge to each athlete serves as compensation enough for his service to the school. While this argument concerning the ethics of unpaid student-athletes rages on, no side having the clear upper hand, a new conflict has formed.
Earlier this year, in the midst of racially driven demonstrations and rallies against the administration at Mizzou, the football players collectively decided to boycott the team’s next game unless some demands, including the resignation of the college president, were met. Indeed, the administration, fearing the financial blow of a canceled home game, almost immediately granted the demands. This successful boycott will surely influence other athletes around the country to stand up for themselves. When united, the players hold a frankly astonishing level of sway over school policy. Whether they threaten to sit out for as trivial a cause as free ice cream or as weighty a cause as the aforementioned student-athlete compensation battle, administrators are almost powerless to resist. Once teams around the country figure out that they, not their schools, actually hold bargaining power, we may very well see widespread strikes in the name of proper compensation.
Due to the development of real power for the players, the ethics and specifics of the old compensation debate seem almost irrelevant. If players force schools and, more importantly, the NCAA into choosing between losing substantial revenue and granting looser restrictions on player’s profit, players may very well have the last laugh in the saga of the NCAA’s amateurism crusade.
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