Since the early 1950’s, the NCAA has served as the powerful overlord of college sports insisting that college athletes, whether divers or quarterbacks, must be unpaid amateurs for whom sports is little more than a sideline to their academic pursuits. The NCAA’s long-standing insistence that amateurism is the “core value” of college sports is a little hypocritical. All athletes are expected to put their sport first and their studies a distant second while helping to bring glory and money to their school. The NCAA generates over $900,000,000.00 in annual revenue with athletic conferences owning their own lucrative all-sports cable networks.
Coaches are making $5,000,000.00 a year (Jim Harbaugh, Michigan football) or $7,000,000.00 a year (Nick Saban, Alabama football) or even $10,000,000.00 a year (Mike Krzyzewski, Duke basketball). ESPN is paying $7.3 billion over 12 years for the rights to the new college football playoff. The idea that players who make all this possible should not get much more than a scholarship isn’t just hypocritical, it is offensive. It has been estimated that college sports in its totality generates some $13 billion, incredibly, is more than the most lucrative professional sports league in America, the National Football League.
While the college sports establishment squeezes every last dollar out of their marquee athletes, they must remain amateurs while a little more than 5% of them go on to careers in the NBA or NFL. The NCAA has consistently refused to acknowledge this hypocrisy and is held tightly to the centrality of amateurism, even as it has encouraged the commercialization of college sports in every way imaginable.
A new book recently published, INDENTURED: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA, is a good read written by Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss.