March Madness – Should College Athletes Get Paid? (By Luthando)

The NCAA Basketball March Madness tournament is now in full swing. The games are filled with upsets, fans young and old cheering for their team, bracket challenges are everywhere. America loves this tournament.

The NCAA, the Colleges and Universities, the college coaches and the TV stations and advertisers also love this tournament. The tournament is a huge money maker for all parties. In 2010, the NCAA signed a 14 year media rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting for $10.8 billion. For 2012-13, NCAA revenue is projected at $797 million, with $702 million coming from the Association’s new rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting and the other $95 million in revenue generated from ticket sales and merchandise sales.

According to the NCAA, college athletic programs are big money makers for colleges. Ticket sales, television, radio, alumni donations, royalties and NCAA distributions, combined bring in over $6.1 billion in annual revenue to colleges. This is big money for the schools. It also is a wonderful marketing tool for colleges.

The opportunity to bring big money to the participating universities with winning programs pushes colleges to recruit the best coaches to create winning athletic programs. A winning record means greater national exposure, which in return brings in big money and is a tremendous marketing campaign for colleges. As opposed to paying for national publicity, the colleges are actually paid for this huge national exposure.

Thus, finding a coach that can bring a winning program to a college is extremely important. Many schools are now offering coaches’ salaries in the multi millions to attract the best. These multimillion dollar salaries are tiny investments that can yield the huge revenue returns for the winning college programs.

With all this money being made by the colleges, the TV stations, merchandisers, the advertisers, and the coaches, many a college player has posed the question, “Where’s my cut?” After all, the players are the main attraction in these athletic events, so to speak.

Many college athletes believe they should receive compensation for the roles that they play. This was highlighted years ago with the “Fab Five” at the University of Michigan. The entire starting team was comprised of freshman players, and they were able to bring Michigan to a Championship game in their freshman year.

This almost mythic group of young athletes became a national sensation. The merchandise with the Fab Five on it, the TV, radio, print media, the college, etc. all generated incredible revenue. The five freshmen, who were the Fab Five, received no revenue from their national fame. Does that seem fair when many were impoverished kids with families barely able to eat?

Is it right that none of Division I college players share in the massive revenue enjoyed by so many other people and entities generated from the players’ star performances?

While the potential for media exploitation of these young student-athletes is a problem that should be addressed, I actually think the system as it is right now is fair. The Colleges recruit young men and woman to play for their respective schools awarding them with athletic scholarships.

The reason we have Colleges and Universities is to educate our young people. The colleges expect star performances for their upfront investments, awarding the college players with full paid 4 year college education. In return, their education is free.

While so many others, again, the TV stations, radio stations, colleges, universities, Coaches, etc, are earning huge sums of money from great college athletic performances, the athletes receive nothing in addition to their athletic scholarships. That is their compensation and I do not think the students require anything else. The system is not perfect, but it does work. I do not see it changing any time soon. Enjoy the performances for the remainder of the March Madness from our young college athletes who we hope will receive great educations and move onto wonderful careers.


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