By: Patrick McGuire ~Guest Writer~
For me, watching even our incredible Muskies reach the Sweet 16 as well as a host of other exciting games this March, has been evermore difficult over the past few years. For every triumph or heartbreak that all of these teams experience, I cannot help but be reminded of the harsh reality that surrounds the world of college athletics – this is a for-profit schema in which the athletes themselves are left completely disregarded.
It is no secret that the NCAA’s March Madness tournament is wildly successful every year, but there is also an eye-popping price tag that comes along with it. Back in 2010 the NCAA signed a lucrative and exclusive television deal with the CBS and Turner Family Networks worth $10.8 billion for the next 14 years, concluding in 2024. That was only the beginning of the astounding figures that the NCAA would agree to. Following last year’s very successful edition of March Madness, one that ended in arguably the most memorable finish ever, the CBS/Turner partnership decided to double down on its agreement and sign an eight-year extension worth $8.8 billion through 2032.
The problem that I have with the NCAA is not the fact the it has agreed to these deals worth insane amounts of money but rather the fact these athletes are not being compensated adequately enough for their services. Herein lies one of the most prominent debates surrounding sports that has come about more or less since the turn of the millennium. How can we reconcile the fact that we as a consumer benefit from these athletes and their hard work while they do not see a single penny in return?
Enter Mark Emmert. Emmert is the current president of the NCAA, having taken that position in 2010, just after that astonishing television deal was signed. Emmert is very well-known for repeating his same shtick of “these players are student-athletes, not employees, and therefore shouldn’t be paid a salary.” Now, consider how ridiculous and downright insulting that statement is. Emmert is trying to make the claim that simply because these athletes have access to college and universities – which is indisputably a privilege in and of itself – the NCAA should then be able to market these games and then keep all of the subsequent revenue. The reality for any college athlete is that the NCAA cares far more about the product that the athletes give to it rather than some fake benevolence or generosity that Emmert and company try to show toward a typical student-athlete. If the NCAA was genuinely concerned with the well-being of its athletes, wouldn’t you think that it would be willing to purchase textbooks for its athletes, rather than diverting funds toward the renovation of a stateof- the-art basketball arena?
Ultimately, I cannot pretend that this was some sort of exhaustive and investigative journalistic endeavor that will change college athletics as a whole, but the inequity can no longer go ignored. Year after year, colleges and universities all across the country are chomping at the bit to get more funding for their programs so that they can upgrade their athletic weight room or redesign their court, but what good does this ultimately do for the college athletes? An updated weight room or players-only lounge room cannot pay for textbooks. These perks of being an athlete are indeed valuable, but if colleges and universities continue to see them as investment opportunities rather than the young students that they are, what are we really offering them?