Amateur Sports and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad NCAA

The NCAA takes advantage of its players, so why aren’t we talking about it?

by Lucas Trevor

Ok so we’ve done this before. We’ve talked about the NBA, we’ve talked about the Superbowl, and now we’re gonna talk about March Madness. The yearly tournament to crown a college basketball champion.

Because this is the third one of these (I’ve been calling the draft of this “Sports Preview 3: Tokyo Drift” in my Google Drive), we’re going to try and avoid a lengthy unrelated rant, focusing instead on The Final Four in Minneapolis, college basketball as a whole, and our (unfortunately) injured God-Emperor Zion Williamson.

But like real quick…

Why is the most exciting athlete in America, and the only individual I could justify at this time in my life spending more than $100 to see play live, not getting paid to do exactly that? Why is the athlete who is talked about to open SportsCenter every night, the best college basketball player in the country, and the single individual who by himself is taking up more of my attention than 4 of my 5 classes (shoutout my International Development class), having to do his job for free?

I am talking about the aforementioned Zion Williamson. (Please watch this entire video from every angle, and with the slow-mo)

I would pay $30 to watch Zion Williamson do bicep curls for like half an hour. I would pay twice that to see him dunk the ball live just once. People paid more than $2,500 to see him play in an actual basketball game against Duke’s biggest rival, UNC. It was 40 seconds into that game that this happened. Zion sprained his knee and was sidelined for about 3 weeks. He, naturally, was not paid to play in that game, expected to perform out of love for his university and their sports culture.

(For context, in the game that he came back, Zion had 29 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 steals.)

This of course is all possible because college athletes are “students first.” They’re just playing this game for fun, and they’re getting paid in the college education they receive. However, this is nothing compared to the amount of money they should be earning.

The NCAA made a profit of $1.1 billion in 2017. That’s $2,391 per player. The conference Zion is playing in, the ACC, they pulled in $418 million in the same fiscal year. Finally, Duke’s (the institution of higher learning where Zion plays) men’s athletic teams made a profit of $23 million.

That’s $52,036 per athlete. Factor in the money made by media, apparel sales, and beer; basketball and football athletes alone earn a total of $6.2 billion for other people. That’s a “fair market value” of $137,357 per football player, and $289,031 for a men’s college basketball athlete. This becomes even more unfair at universities with the most prestigious and successful programs.

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(Those last numbers are from 2013 and also “fair market value” is defined as only making half of your profit which is ridiculous in of itself.)

The system of higher education in this country is (beyond its athletic programs) defective. High costs, unfair admissions practices (the recent college admissions scandal but also this), and the reality of unemployment after graduation, are not just symptoms of a flawed system.

They are the unavoidable result of education built on capitalism. Universities and colleges in this country are designed to keep the rich exactly where they are. In a few years, the NCAA will clear 1 billion annually from their deal with Turner Sports alone. This money will go to administrators, athletic directors and coaches. A small fraction of the money made will actually go to the players.

This system has been this way for many years, and it will continue to be this way. College athletes perform, doing so in the hopes of a good education, and an opportunity to compete at the next level.

These promises however, are rarely kept. Fewer than 2 percent of college athletes play professionally, and an even smaller percentage ever receive a million dollar contract.  Over the course of the next 3 weeks, more attention will be paid to college basketball than at any other time during the year. All I ask is maybe stream it illegally on Reddit, instead of giving more money to CBS, Turner, and the NCAA.

Year after year hard working college athletes are cheated out of profit and capital in exchange for an exploitation of their talent, and the profit of wealthy institutions. The rich get richer. The labor of others is used to pad already full wallets and expand the pool of applicants to a school. This is a system designed to exploit, and nothing short of paying athletes what they deserve will change that.

This article was kind of a downer, so here is more Zion highlights, this time from high school.