Pay-for-play advocates just received a new round of ammunition when it comes to college athletes.
Top-tier football and men's basketball players in college are worth more than $100,000 each, according to a new report from the National College Players Association, an advocacy group. With student-athletes receiving only scholarships as compensation, the NCPA argues that they should start receiving a cut of the revenues.
If this model ever came to fruition, one can only imagine the trickle-down effect that it would have on high school sports. Needless to say, football and men's basketball would become even more highly emphasized at the high school level with extra thousands of dollars on the line for scholarship athletes.
The report, "The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport," says that the average Division I Football Bowl Subdivision player would be worth $121,000 per year if college athletes were allowed access to a fair market, as professionals are.
Think that's something? The average Division I men's basketball player would be worth $265,000 per year.
The report's authors, Ramogi Huma, head of the NCPA, and Drexel University professor Ellen J. Staurowsky, used the revenue-sharing agreements of the NFL and NBA, which entitle players to roughly 50 percent of the league's revenues, to determine the fair market value of these players.
They argue that based on their findings, these football and men's basketball players should receive a portion of new revenues and have them set aside. The funds would go toward helping cover educational costs while the player retains athletic eligibility, and the player would receive the rest upon graduation.
Why should these student-athletes be paid? According to the authors, playing high-level football and men's basketball in college amounts to a full-time job, as players in the Football Bowl Subdivision reported devoting 43.3 hours per week to the sport, while Division I men's basketball players spent 39 hours per week, during the season.
Their next proposal will bring a smile to the face of ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. They recommended that the NCAA adopt the Olympic amateur model, meaning that student-athletes would be allowed to obtain endorsements, with some of the money heading toward the reserve fund and the rest going to the athlete immediately. The authors say, "The NCAA's version of amateurism is impractical and is an unjust financial arrangement imposed upon college athletes."
The authors also suggest a move that's being openly considered by the NCAA: requiring universities to cover full costs of enrollment, going past tuition, room and board, and student fees.
In addition, the authors believe schools should be free to provide multiyear athletic scholarships in all sports if they so choose. (Currently, athletic scholarships only run on a year-to-year basis.) SEC Commissioner Mike Slive suggested a similar plan back in July.
While the ideas regarding scholarships have a puncher's shot at being passed, the idea of paying student-athletes with extra revenues may very well be dead on arrival. NCAA President Mark Emmert is already on record as being against the idea of providing athletes with extra compensation beyond full-cost scholarships.
"They are student-athletes," he said earlier this year. "They are not our employees, they don't work for us. They are our students, so we don't pay them."
Ultimately, this report harkens back to some of the major problems that are currently preventing pay-for-play from being a viable model. The chief problem being: Football and men's basketball are the only two sports in which college teams turn a profit, according to the NCAA's 2004-2010 Revenues & Expenses report . Those sports, in turn, help stuff the coffers of schools' athletic departments and keep other sports programs afloat.
So, if some allotment of athletic revenues were redistributed to student-athletes, it's probable that other sports programs at those schools would feel the pinch.
That's not to mention the other elephant in the pay-for-play room: Title IX. Schools can't simply pay football and men's basketball players while ignoring student-athletes in other sports, thanks to Title IX; they'd need to extend these benefits equally to female student-athletes.
Also, if cuts to other sports teams came as a result of paying the football/men's basketball players, Title IX would prevent schools from making more cuts to women's teams than men's teams.
But the authors wisely addressed these concerns with cold, hard calculations. Providing full-cost scholarships to 85 scholarship players on each of the 120 FBS football teams would cost approximately $32.8 million/year, according to the authors, and $14.2 million/year for the 13 men's basketball players on each of the 338 Division I teams. Assuming Title IX required an equal distribution to female student-athletes, the total cost would be $94 million.
While that figure may sound insane, the authors have a solution: Pay for the scholarships with new TV revenues. The new Pac-12 TV contract, for example, will bring in $150 million of new revenues each year. That's not even to mention the NCAA's own TV contract with CBS, a 14-year, nearly $11 billion behemoth.
Ultimately, Huma, a former football player who graduated from UCLA in 1999, sounds as though he's in this for the student-athlete, who he feels is being drastically undercompensated.
"The bottom line is that players are misled into thinking that their labor will fully pay their way through school, and they are definitely earning much less than their fair market value," he said to the Associated Press.
Photo: Duke freshman Austin Rivers shoots during NCAA college basketball practice in Durham, N.C. A Duke male basketball player's fair market value exceeds $1 million each year, according to the NCPA report. (Gerry Broome/AP)
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