It is no secret that the NCAA has been in the news lately regarding how it treats its college athletes.
There has been the recurring issue of pay for play, the discussion specifically targeted toward college basketball players leaving school after one year of study, as well as the attempt of the Northwestern football team to unionize.
Each one of these issues is a large piece of the figurative puzzle that the NCAA has to piece together in order to regain the public’s trust, or at least the trust of this writer. Here is how the NCAA can make each puzzle piece fit.
Pay for Play
I had been against paying college athletes for a long time until I learned more of the facts about college athletics.
These schools, and specifically the NCAA, are making a lot of money on these athletes and what they get in return is minimal in comparison to the profit of the NCAA and its schools.
I look at the NCAA as if it was the owner of a league, similar to the owner’s group of the NFL or MLB.
Whenever there is a dispute between the owner’s group and the players, there is always blame thrown around.
People called the players greedy during the NFL blackout. There certainly was greed present, but the level of greed on the owner’s side is far worse.
More than half of NFL owners are billionaires. Very few players, if any, can say that they are bringing in that type of money.
There is a major disparity between owners and players, but in the NCAA, that disparity is even greater.
Division I athletes get tuition, room and board. While an education has great value, it is minimal in comparison to what the NCAA and each school has made from the investment in these players.
College football is a huge money maker and athletes see very little passed along to them.
Not every college team makes as much money as the football team. Here lies the issue: how do you fairly pay these athletes?
There has to be a scale in proportion to how much each team makes for the school. Obviously the water polo team is not going to bring in as much money as the basketball program.
Division I should definitely have a pay system in place, however in Divisions II and III there will never be enough revenue to pay athletes.
Athletes should be paid in accordance with the money the team makes for the school.
College Basketball’s One and Done
College basketball has become a form of minor league system for the NBA; the talented players play one year and then move on.
This constant shifting of players has done nothing but hurt college basketball’s product.
I used to be under the impression that the players who left early were in the wrong, but now I have come to the conclusion that you really cannot blame them for their decisions.
If I was offered to either stay in school or go pro I would choose the latter, as it would be more lucrative for me and appears to be endorsed by the NCAA.
This issue goes hand in hand with paying the athletes for play. A lot of these one and done players are promised millions of dollars. If they stay there is no guarantee that they will be in such high demand the following year.
College basketball players are doing the best with what is presented to them. They are taking the guarantee of money as opposed to waiting it out in college.
The NBA is almost certain to raise its minimum age requirement to 20 years old in the near future. Players will then be forced to stay in college for two years.
The NCAA is the only one that stands to gain from this decision. They have another year of exploiting their best college basketball stars without having to pay a premium to do so.
If the NCAA allowed pay for play then maybe these athletes would be more likely to stay. They certainly would have more incentive to do so.
The Northwestern football team sent shockwaves through the sports landscape when they announced that they had attempted to unionize.
After an initial ruling that allowed the team to form a union, there are still plenty of high hurdles to get through before this becomes a reality.
What this move accomplished however is to bring this topic to the forefront for discussion.
The main reason Northwestern wants to form a union is to be able to discuss better health care after playing. With concussions this is becoming a more and more troublesome issue after playing.
It seems like a good reason to bring up the issue, but if players are finally paid for their playing, then a union will become vastly more important.
A union would then help the players negotiate for their wages. The players would need this in order to prevent the NCAA from low-balling the teams a bad offer.
These first steps in developing a union for college athletes are incredibly important in the long run if the players want to bargain for their wages, which I am sure they will want to do.
All of these issues fit together within this puzzle. It is just a matter of whether the NCAA will attempt to jam them on the board without trying to make them fit in place or if they will work to make the best fit for everyone.
I do not know if the NCAA will be able to find solutions to its problems, but I do know that voices will only get louder if something is not done about the current state of college athletics.