College athletes deserve income

NCAA's iniquitous system of preserving players' amateur status amounts to little more than cynical exploitation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 10:52pm

Someone is about to get paid a lot of money very soon. It certainly will not be me and it might not be you. However, someone blessed with prodigious athletic gifts is about to reap a small fortune.

Specifically someone named Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Blake Bortles, Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack, the top five picks in last week's NFL draft.

And good for them, one and all.

The solution is simple: pay him. I'm not talking about millions of dollars here
Tim Noonan

I hope they get as much money as their pockets can carry and then some because after being a cut-rate meal ticket reaping billions upon billions for a very suspect organisation, it's about time they finally got paid. The big winners were obviously the first-round picks in the NFL draft.

But the real winners, once again, were the folks at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Imagine running a multibillion-dollar company with a tax-exempt status and virtually zero labour costs.


Wow. Talk about an unbeatable business model. That is how the NCAA works.

"The NCAA is probably the most reprehensible organisation God ever created," outspoken Hall of Famer, and arguably the greatest football player of all time, Jim Brown said last week.

"Total exploitation. The kind of money they make, the kind of life they live, it's embarrassing."

Brown is among a chorus of prominent voices who are calling for payment to so-called "student athletes", or at the very least a total overhaul of how the NCAA conducts its business.

And although the issue is not quite as simple as it seems, it is very difficult not to agree with him. The money these young people generate is stupefying and not just for the NCAA.

College football and basketball broadcasts are among some of the highest rated programmes for networks like ESPN. Even the prime-time broadcast of the NFL draft was a ratings bonanza.

And speaking of the NFL, how does it get off so easily? Revenues last year were over US$10 billion and not a nickel was spent on development costs for players because college football is its de facto minor league.


Major League Baseball has at least three levels of minor league teams that it is financing, but there is no such system for the NFL.

Meanwhile, the NCAA makes huge payments to the top schools for the rights to sell their products and college coaches are routinely some of the highest-paid state employees, while sports apparel companies like Nike and Under Armour shower more money on the schools and athletic programmes for the right to outfit these, uhm, student athletes.

Money, money, money. Why would anyone, including the phalanx of highly paid Washington lobbyists who work around the clock to ensure that the NCAA remains a tax-free entity, want to change any of this? Perhaps because it's the right thing to do.

I mean, by any standard, and Brown's perpetual activism certainly dulls his comments in some circles, this is reprehensible.

Even making it more odious is the way the NCAA pursues the slightest violations of its code of behaviour for, uhm, student athletes.

Granted, they are getting access to a university degree and that is no small thing for the overwhelming majority of college athletes, who will not be able to play their sport professionally.

But imagine you are playing Division One football at a school with exceptionally high academic standards like a Stanford or Notre Dame.

It is hard enough to finish a degree at these schools as it is. But when you have to devote an inordinate amount of time to practice as well, it is nearly impossible.

Someone like 2012 Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel had to be extremely vigilant about accepting any kind of financial support when he was starring at Texas A&M.

He could not even accept a cheeseburger from you without jeopardising his college eligibility. And yet his No 2 jersey was one of the biggest sports merchandise sellers last year, which helped to fill the coffers of Texas A&M and the NCAA, but did nothing for "Johnny Football".

The solution is simple: pay him. I'm not talking about millions of dollars here, although he generates many times that for the university. But it should certainly be enough to make his life comfortable and keep him out of potentially compromising situations while at school.

I'm sorry, but the notion of the student athlete exists only in the secondary sports now. The big sports and programmes are massive revenue generators for everyone but the talent that generates it.

Until that immoral con game changes, I am rooting for every youngster drafted into leagues like the NFL to get ridiculously overpaid.