If you read my column you already know that I’m a big proponent of taking better care of college athletes. Not because I’m an agent, but because I’ve played it and have a front row seat for the inequities.
It would actually behoove the NCAA and its member schools to share more of the wealth produced by college football. Four or five years of banging your head, lifting weights and sacrificing your health takes a bigger toll than fans realize. In addition, playing college football is equivalent to have a full time job and taking a full school load.
The NCAA and the major conferences better get proactive right now.
Coaches salaries range from $1 to $7 million dollars a year because college football is a very profitable business. Good coaches exponentially pay for themselves by producing winning records, recruiting exciting players and getting their school to big paydays, oops, I meant a big time bowl game.
The NCAA’s $15 billion dollar football and basketball contracts can’t be ignored too much longer without more of that revenue trickling down to the players who help produce it. According to the department of education, the University of Michigan produced about $81 million dollars in revenue in 2012/13, had about $23 million in expenses and about $58 million in net revenues. The top ten most profitable programs had net profits ranging from $81 million dollars to $38 million dollars. The only places in the world where the economics work like that is in third world countries where factory workers who make luxury products for compensation equals about a dollar a day.
There are two lawsuits against the NCAA that have some big teeth to them. One is the Ed O’Bannon case, which alleges that the NCAA used players’ likeliness without properly compensating them. The initial ruling in that case went against the NCAA and may go all the way to the Supreme court.
The Kessler lawsuit is the scarier of the two for the NCAA and its biggest conferences. The lawsuit is trying to promote a free market system on what players can be compensated by a university to play football. The spirit of the suit is to lift the ceiling on what football players receive as compensation (a scholarship and some meal money). The lawyers and plaintiffs really just want the money that goes into the college football coffers, to trickle down to the players.
These two cases together can blow the roof off college football as we know it. So the conferences better get more proactive in offering up more financial benefits to the student athletes and try to settle these cases now.
The bowling madness needs to end or be reformulated
There are now 38 of them and attendance is pitiful for the lower bowl games. We have 66 teams playing on days where there are some TV earning opportunities. So the NCAA and its members employ the free labor of college football players to pick up the easy money from its media partners. However, the NCAA and their member schools still profit from these games even though some have less than 5,000 bodies in actual attendance.
There are players practicing and lifting for two weeks, during finals week, and many teams are flying out, and/or practicing on Christmas day or eve. In addition, there has been about five or more players so far this year that have sustained serious injuries in these meaningless games where most teams have 6-6 records or just slightly better. Two of those players were decent NFL prospects.
Last year, one of my clients sustained a fractured fibula in one of those worthless bowl games. He was slated to be about a third round pick, and after 49 straight starts at left tackle for his school, he was left with a plate and eight screws in his foot. He couldn’t play in the Senior Bowl, participate in the NFL Combine and could barely workout on his pro day. The injury cost him a few million dollars but the NCAA and the schools made their bowl monies. At least insure players against potential lost income.
Another issue with many of these bowls is that the families of these players can’t really afford to attend them but do anyway. I’m not saying get rid of them all but give the potential pro players and/or those serious students the right to opt out of the bowl game and practices. Why risk millions for a meaningless game?
College players are starting to figure out the economics and are getting close to standing up for more rights they deserve. The NCAA and the big conferences need to quit playing defense and start sharing the wealth before the courts make them.
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