College sports have become an extremely lucrative business. The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) is contracted to receive $7.3 billion from ESPN for game broadcast rights between 2014 and 2026, and $11 billion from CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast “March Madness” basketball games over the next 14 years. In 2013, NCAA Football revenue topped $3.4 billion dollars, making it one of the most profitable sports, college or professional, in North America. To put that into perspective, the revenue generated by NCAA football comes relatively close to the NHL ($3.7 billion), the NBA ($5 billion) and the NFL ($6 billion). With all of this money being generated by college sports, especially basketball and football, the way colleges compensate their athletes has also come under great scrutiny.
Although the revenue generated by college football rivals that of other professional sports, the difference is those leagues have unions, and their players get a large piece of the revenue, while collegiate athletes are “paid” with scholarships that cover tuition, room, and board. When you add up all of the time a collegiate athlete spends practicing, training, playing in games and participating in team events, it is evident that they “work” the equivalent of full-time hours for the universities they play for. The value of these scholarships, when compared to the hours worked and revenue generated, would be considered an insignificant compensation in any other industry or setting. Additionally, the opportunity to obtain a college degree for free, one of the major justifications for not paying collegiate athletes, often takes a back seat to the sport itself.
However, despite the above facts, there is still strong opposition against paying collegiate athletes wages comparable to their work and revenue generated. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 64% of people oppose paying collegiate athletes. To add insult to injury, the NCAA actually restricts athletes from receiving other forms of compensation (such as selling their own merchandise, working at a job that pays them more than $2,000 annually, and accepting monetary help from coaches). Yet this lack of adequate compensation is not considered exploitation in the eyes of the general public. So what could be the reason society feels that these dedicated and hardworking athletes should not receive all of the fruits of their labor? It turns out that reason just may be racial prejudice. Read more