The NCAA has been compared to the fast food industry, farmers and even slave owners. Of late, they have found themselves embroiled in a controversy that many say has been a long time coming. And the outcome, however trivial it may be to some, could change the way athletes view college.
Despite all of the hoopla that student athletes get scholarships that cover tuition, there is a much larger cost to be covered. Rent, food, utilities and books can easily be more than four times the cost of tuition. This leaves the players angry, since NCAA rules prohibit them from earning more than $2,000 per year, and college administrators are facing a moral dilemma.
Only a select few student athletes start at Las Positas College and end up playing Division I basketball. This leaves coaches able to donate more rope to be reasonable in the time spent mentoring, as well as what they can do to help these players provide for themselves and their families.
When the NCAA was created in 1906, it was little more than a two-bit organization that didn’t have any power, or any significance. But today, it’s a massive entity that claims non-profit status, despite posting a $71 million income surplus in 2012 alone.
Taylor Branch, one of the NCAA’s most well known critics, has been on a crusade to educate for a number of years. In an interview during the production of “Schooled, the price of college sports,” he made his case.
“College athletes do not have the right of representation,” Branch said in the film. “They have no right of due process. And above all else, something people take for granted, livelihood. The right to seek compensation for services that are valuable.”
The documentary, which focused on student athletes being victims of illegal transactions, captured several candid moments. Of them all, perhaps nothing was more damning that when Jack Lengyel, former athletic director of the U.S. Naval Academy, said “you can’t have the students running the zoo at a college institution.”
Choice words from a man who ran one of the most famous programs in college football. They’re words that come dangerously close to how African Americans were talked about by southern plantation owners during the 19th century.
And the financial disparity between how many millions that some student athletes bring in, compared to the measly scholarship that covers tuition, is coming under fire from just about anyone not affiliated with the NCAA or its partner schools.
Players sign a contract every year, one that a head coach can nullify. Teams are transported and given facilities and equipment to help them play better. They train for multiple hours, often seven days per week and as early as 5 a.m.
And during tournaments like March Madness, students can miss more than a month worth of classes.
All the while the NCAA and its partners stick to the motto “Students first, athletes second.”
Walter Byers turned the NCAA from a tiny organization into the national fixture it is today, amidst families of deceased and injured players filing for death benefits or workers compensation from schools and states.
Lawsuits were filed, and Byers’ coined term “student athlete” was used as legal terminology that protected the financial interests of each institution.
Even in the case of Kent Waldrep, who was paralyzed from the neck down while playing for Texas Christian University, he was denied anything. Waldrep presented testimony of school officials even leaving cash in the shoes of players to help them buy groceries, though it wasn’t enough.
Waldrep initially won his lawsuit to recover workers compensation benefits, before a Texas jury overturned the ruling in 1991.
Ample evidence is available to support the notion that the NCAA’s only true purpose is to protect institutions from lawsuits, and retain the union, which allows for organized sale of broadcasting rights.
In this instance, Texas A&M made just under $40 million in profits during the 2013 season, according to USA Today, while their quarterback, Johnny Manziel, was penalized by the NCAA for signing autographs in exchange for money.
The NCAA and some Division I schools refute the notion that athletes should be paid by pointing towards the benefits of having a free education. Undergraduate tuition at Stanford University for the 2014 year is $14,230 per academic quarter. At UC Berkeley, students pay $12,872 in tuition, while also paying $14,414 in room and board.
Athletic scholarships cover tuition expenses, but not housing, meals, or the cost of books. The UC Berkeley cost calculator shows that tuition is the lesser of all basic college expenses, and their estimate also values food cost for the year at $1,024.
That value equates to $19.69 per week.
The battle over athletes being paid will continue, and in the meantime, some schools are unionizing. The Northwestern football team recently voted on whether to create a union, with results yet to be revealed.
The National Labor Relations Board is also considering a request made by Northwestern to review a ruling that states that players qualify as employees.
Whatever happens will directly affect not only the players, but also every student on each college campus.