This is an issue that has been discussed for generations but of late it has garnered a lot of attention and air time. Everybody from the president of the NCAA to the President of the United States has offered a take on it.
At issue appears to be whether or not athletes can be considered partners/employees in the business of college sports. The majority of Americans polled (some where around 64%), according to the WAPO/ABC poll are of the opinion that a four year scholarship averaging around 60 k per year is more than enough compensation wise for student athletes.
One of the more interesting points raised of late was the simple fact that the college athletes performing in mega revenue producing sports are actually employees in a billion dollar industry.
This more than anything establishes the basic relationship between the institutions and it’s mode of production. If big time college sports are indeed a business then one must wonder, what or who generates the profit.
For decades the prevailing line of thought went like this. A college education is more than enough compensation for so called student athletes ( A term invented at the NCAA’s origins to get out of paying workmans compensation to it’s athletes ). A college degree is indeed a valuable possession but as former NBA player Etan Thomas essentially said, a college degree in this instance is akin to a poor third world nation agreeing to accept some jobs and perks in exchange for full and complete access by a foreign corporation to that nations oil fields or mineral resources.
Athletic scholarships are year to year and can be revoked at any time. According to Bootlegs 2013 football graduation rates and among four year football scholarship players:
Michigan State University – 46 %
LSU- 49 %
University of Florida -49 %
University of Texas – 58 %
Oklahoma – 47 %
These numbers represent only a small but highly lucrative sampling of schools and their graduation rates.
Contributor A.J. added that when a student receives an academic scholarship he or she is not expected to perform any additional labor related duties for the institution only to attend class and participate in college life.
When Universities rake in billions (that’s right) billions of dollars and subject workers to up to 60 hours per week of labor i.e. travel, games and practices then is it unfair to allow these workers a seat at the table ?
The National Labor Relations Board ruled recently that Northwestern football players are indeed employees and a vote to unionize was held on 4-25-14. The football players are requesting a voice in medical care, academic priorities and scheduling concerns. The results from that vote probably won’t be known for months but it’s implications are far reaching as colleges and universities nationwide will be subject to the light of public awareness.
The University of Texas has it’s own T.V.network and as the SEC conference follows suit it is clear that the potential for profit is through the roof but when given a chance to behave responsibly the NCAA would not even provide three meals a day for it’s workers as pointed out by NCAA championship basketball player Shabazz Napier and corroborated by others.
One can only wonder if public apathy regarding this issue can be related to the fact that the majority of the players in the highest revenue producing sports are from poor and working class families. How else could the NCAA be allowed to operate a highly profitable business for decades that closely resembles some sort of indentured servitude or worse.
Debate/polling can resemble the eerie overtones of the minimum wage debate and that of welfare reform which at the end of the day serve only to stalemate the masses while university coaches, presidents and t.v. executives march happily to the bank.
Possible solutions vary from discussions about instituting something similar to baseballs farm system to maybe setting up trust for athletes but one thing is for sure and that is serious reform is long over due.