Essay Sample on NCAA: Balancing Athletics & Education in Growing College Industry

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1814 Words
Date:  2023-01-09


College athletics is a growing multibillion-dollar industry accounting for increased mainstream media rating due to its popularity. As universities and athletes actively compete resulting in better performance, more revenue is generated. It thus follows that in such an industry, exploitation is likely to occur. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed in 1906 to curb exploitation in the college athletics. NCAA advocates for both athletics and academic excellence as well as overseeing athletic programs in colleges and universities.

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The issue of monetary compensation form one of the most debatable issues in college sports. Sanderson et al. noted that Alabama's football coach earned $7 million per year while Ohio's coach took home $4.6 million (115). Despite the huge compensation packages which mostly average $1.9 million, most coaches enjoy a celebrity status. On the other hand, student-athletes have lower remunerations. Most argue that due to the huge amount the NCAA generates from the college sports it would make sense to pay college athletes. The debate has grown to involve legal challenges that want the NCAA to reconsider its position and pay athletes. The legality revolves around what constitutes an employee and how that definition can apply to a student-athlete in a bid to justify the payment. This paper argues that student-athletes deserves payment. The argument will be based on the fact that the athlete's workload deserves a payment, most come from a poor background and that most are being exploited.

NCAA generates a lot of revenue from television rights, sports merchandise, video games license and tickets. College athletics enjoy large gate attendance from community, students and alumni students that offer them support. These colleges and universities are located in places with few competing entertainment options which means that their pricing is not undercut. In 2017, the NCAA reported an annual revenue totaling $1.1 billion (Smith). According to their audited financial statements, increased revenue was attributed to hikes in television and marketing fees as well as investments income and championship events. Ticket sales from its events generated $130 million while tournament television rights brought in $821.4 million (Smith). Other sources of revenue include athletic apparel. The income from jersey sales moves to the respective athletic clubs and is included as revenue from the programs. For teams that enjoy huge support, the apparel income is significant.

It is clear that commercialization of NCAA is crucial in driving its affairs. The college football teams make a huge amount of money for their colleges and universities. The expenses by these institutions include offering scholarships for athletes, paying coaches and staff among other expenses. The bottom-line to the issue is that most athletic programs and activities hinged on these institutions will use money that the teams bring in. The fact that student-athletes are responsible for this revenue means that they deserve to be paid. Though it is evident that NCAA is non-profit and heavily incentivized, huge expenditures on coaches should be diverted to cater for athlete's pay since they are also responsible for the income. Moreover, the audit report for 2017 shows that from the several hundred teams under its supervision, only 24 generated revenues. Among these, the top team Texas A&M Aggies had revenue of $148 million and made a profit of $107 million (Smith). Other college teams such as the University of California are facing bankruptcy, and in 2017 they reported a $ 22 million deficits despite their high priced coaches earning $5 million (Smith). Most articles recognize that basketball and football are profitable compared to other sports. The payment should consider "other sports." From this realization, the NCAA should use a payment approach different from "free market" system for equity to be realized (Steckler 1071).

The relationship between sports and poverty has been well documented. Most students that accept to join NCAA come from low-income families. For most entry into sports is a means out of poverty. The burden associated with this notion is the pressure it places on athletes to provide and support their families. Besides the need to support their families most of the athletes struggle to meet their basic needs with little help from their families.

In a report by the National College Players Association (2011) titled The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport, most students live below the poverty line. The report determined that out of pocket expense for the athletes averaged $3222 per year. The figure was way below that of a football player roughly earn $120048 and $265027 for a basketball player. These explain the reason some of the student-athletes accept illegal handouts from agents or college boosters to make ends meet. For example, Jamar Samuel's was suspended from playing for Kansas State's for an alleged $200 payout from his summer-league coach (Goodman, 2017). The coach in an interview with said that he gave the money to Jamar who called him for assistance since his family did not have anything (Goodman, 2017). The scenario illustrates the hardship and desperate situation most athletes go through. Goodman, (2017) also reported the case Donnie Edwards who was suspended for accepting groceries from his agent. The acceptance of the groceries is understandable as most athletes burn a lot of what they consume in training exercise leaving them hungry. The fact that most student-athletes come from poor backgrounds and themselves struggle with necessities calls for them to get paid. Moreover, paying them alleviates instances of agents and coaches taking advantage of their poor status.

College-athletes are subjected to a high degree of workload compared to a traditional student's workload. According to a Fattore, NCAA football players put in an average of 44.8 hours a week which is more than most full-time employees (62). The hours are dedicated to their sport besides being expected to maintain and keep up with the study schedule. The time is not limited to seasons and is rolled out throughout the year. For example, football-related activities are divided into eight periods. These are training camp, regular season, postseason, winter workouts, "winning edge," spring football, spring workouts, and summer workout (Steckler 1071). Even after a season ends, players devote more time on training sessions than other students on a part-time job. In some cases, where a team is successful, players might work to a bowl game which occasionally is played on New Year's Day. This justifies the claim that while players might be allowed to leave college for a few days to Christmas, they are expected to report back by Christmas morning.

The year-long obligations make it hard for the athletes to engage in or secure any other form of employment for upkeep. It can be argued that the amount of effort put by these student-athletes into their workload deserves a wage.

Several court cases have refuted the idea that student-athletes are employees. For example, in the case of National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) vs. Northwestern University, the court ruled that offering cash sums unchained to educational expenses would interfere NCAA traditional culture of amateurism (Rosenthal, 139). However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) the courts found that the definition of the Act should apply to work relationships which before the Act was not deemed to be in the employee-employee category. The FLSA defines an employee as someone who works for another in return for compensation. The case of Berger vs. NCAA presented a justified approach as to why students should be paid (Rosenthal, 146). In the case, the plaintiff argued that by participating in the teams, athletes were entitled to a minimum wage for the work they performed. Their argument was grounded on the fact that student-athletes were equivalent to work-study members who are acknowledged and paid as employees by FLSA. They further argued that athletes performed non-academic work for which they received no academic credit. The complaint went ahead to assert that student-athletes are under strict supervision by full-time staff employed to supervise their demanding hours of preparation and at the end confer monetary and non-monetary benefits to NCAA. The plaintiff also noted that though the court insisted the student received benefits in the form of scholarship which eased the academic cost, not all student-athletes were received scholarships.

The O'Bannon case against NCAA argued that football players ought to be rewarded for commercial use of their names, likeness, and images. The Ninth Circuit Panel in favor of O'Bannon found that NCAA amateurism requirements violated anti-trust law. The purpose of which was to deny armatures monetary value for their name, images, and likeness.

The issue of compensation is also racially divided. With a majority of college athletes being black, the call for compensation largely been equated with civil rights movements. It thus stands out to reason that supports for compensation will be divided along racial lines. In a survey of 2201 adults in the US, 55 percent of black respondents supported paying student-athletes compared to 31 percent of white respondents (Steckler 1071). Moreover, a majority of the white respondents, 57 percent, agreed that academic scholarship was enough. The research further noted that more black respondents than whites supported college athletes profiting from the use of their images and likeness in partnerships with brands or from signing autographs. The same racial divide is seen to be behind NCAA refusal to pay college students.

Wallsten, Nteta, McCarthy, and Tarsi's study found that racial resentment influenced prejudice against African Americans and determined how the whites felt about payment for college athletes (211). The study argues that when whites believe that blacks are the primary target and recipients of federal governments welfare, health care, and other beneficial programs, their racial attitude took center stage and influenced undesirably on policy opinion on these issues. This explains the resistance to policy change in NCAA and their ill-treatment of student-athletes. The assertion by Wallsten et al. is supported by Branch 2011 who argued that since most of the athletes in most popular, revenue-generating college teams are African American, the opposition to paying the athletes is linked to racial prejudice (219).

If the racism issue were to be taken aside, reforms at NCAA would factor in the compensation issue. NCAA should reconsider its policies if it is to clear the racism tag it has been identified to carry,

Those in defense of the non-payment to college athletes such as the courts and NCAA itself point at the "amateurism." It then stands to reason that "amateurism" has been used to blanket the ongoing exploitation of student-athletes. The fact that they are burdened with a huge workload and bring in huge revenues for their teams at no pay amounts to exploitation. The only compensation sited is free tuition. Moreover, the tuition they receive as a percentage of the revenue is a paltry percentage. Thacker, argues that scholarship costs averaged 5.6 and 7.3 percent of the school's football and basketball revenues (183). Nocera and Strauss, quote attorneys and economists who assert that NCAA colludes with many other stakeholders to artificially suppress student-athletes call for payment (32). Nocera and Strauss, further note that if NCAA were to adopt a free market competitive arrangement most players in basketball and football teams would be valued at between $100000 to $300000 in annual wages (73).

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