Most sports fans have heard by now that a federal court of appeals upheld restrictions that prevent the NCAA from paying college athletes this past Wednesday. If you just returned from your maiden voyage into outer-space, then let all of us here at Sport Forward be the first to congratulate you on space travel, we hope to join you on your next journey. In the meantime, let’s dive into a quick re-cap of what’s been going on.
Various athletes and former athletes sided by their legal teams have been stepping forward calling for basic athlete pay from the NCAA in the form of salaries or revenue sharing rights. For years, scholarships have been offered to a small percentage of promising high school athletes to attend Division |, || and ||| schools. Other than assisting with tuition costs, there is not much surplus available to assist with other month to month financial obligations that a student athlete faces. Side Note, the best place for money when it comes to scholarship amounts is often times Division ||| schools.
On the NCAA side, money is earned in a variety of ways, most of which is through media rights and the ticket sales from championship games. To put this in more numerical perspective, March Madness brings in over 1 billion dollars in television ad revenue. That’s more than the Super Bowl and almost as much as the entire NFL post-season. Large brands such as Lexus, AT&T and Coca-Cola engage in various sponsorships during these championships.
1948, 1956, 1975 and 2015 are all years that the NCAA has altered their position on the topic of athlete pay where changes to the rules and regulations have come to the legal surface. Andy Schwarz dives further into the details of these landmark years in his article this past August on Deadspin: http://deadspin.com/the-ncaa-has-always-paid-players-now-its-just-harder-t-1727419062
A lot of experts in the sports industry suggest that a pay-for-play system is not necessarily the answer. Instead, an adjustment of the current model to serve the majority of the athletes should be embraced. If salaries were to be enacted, where the NCAA was replaced with a minor league for football and basketball, most athletes would be worse off.
They believe that market failure would arise if all promising high school athletes went straight to the minor leagues, thus making the current NCAA college-athlete model that mostly consists of pay from scholarships, the right model. Interest, player exposure and lucrative tv contracts largely take place because of the enthusiasm and loyalty from NCAA alumni. Athletes would be paid, but they would be worse off. Once they retire, they would be entering the workforce with limited skills and education. The average player benefits greater by the current model while a superstar may be better off with a minor league model because they would be paid and then go pro.
There are certainly valid arguments on both sides of this conversation. Our team at Sport Forward believes there are opportunities to bring more balance to the current system where taking a closer look at scholarship valuations could increase the camaraderie between the NCAA and it’s athletes. Sport Forward was born out of these very types of needs, where support is at the center of everything we do for both athletes and sports-minded enterprises.