I wish that I could say that the NCAA cared about the athletes that play under it. They don’t. Plainly and simply, the organization that claims to protect the amateurism that has been gone for nearly a half-century exploits young men and women out of their market value as an effort to support its own bottom line and the bottom lines of the programs that it props up. Here’s why they finally bent on their firm stance ‘supporting amateurism,’ allowing players to profit off of their own likeness. The NCAA realized that it cannot exist without big-name players. Why shouldn’t players like Zion Williamson or Kyler Murray, who helped make their respective sports must-watches on national TV, have profited from the value they provided to the NCAA, or even their own market value?
The NCAA has devised a system that exploits athletes that dedicate twenty hours of physical practice (not to mention the hours and hours of film review, workouts, etc.) out of fair compensation for their hard work and their personal value, as well as the value that those athletes provide to the NCAA and the corporations that support it. Many make the argument that scholarships the athletes receive serve as payment for the players. Colleges paying athletes with scholarships to that college is equivalent to McDonald’s paying their employees with McDonald’s gift cards, and not allowing them to earn anything else. The athletes that dedicate their time deserve to be paid for that dedication.
The NCAA is also letting themselves get so caught up in making sure that some players and some programs stick to amateurism, that they’re forgetting to take care of some of the issues that they were established to take care of. The Memphis Tigers took on Alcorn State in November, sitting star center James Wiseman as a result of the NCAA revoking Wiseman’s already approved eligibility over assistance he received from the then-head coach at East High school Penny Hardaway. According to Geoff Calkins of the Daily Memphian, Alcorn State did not have a trainer traveling with them to the game. When an Alcorn State player went down, he was taken to the Memphis bench and treated by the university’s trainers. The NCAA has become so caught up in policing the thin veil of amateurism that still exists within the sport, they’re forgetting to make sure that small programs have the resources that they need.
Tua Tagovailoa has been one of the biggest names in not only collegiate football, but the sport of football in its entirety since he came out as a backup during the College Football Playoff final for Alabama in 2018. Now, Tua is out indefinitely with the same injury that ended the career of all-time legend Bo Jackson.
The difference between the two? Bo Jackson got paid, and got long term compensation from the NFL, thanks to the work of the player’s association. Tua’s already lost a lot of potential earnings, as his NFL future is marred now that he’s considered damaged goods. But to quite literally add insult to injury, since the NCAA does not qualify Tua as an athlete, he will not receive any healthcare or compensation from Alabama or the NCAA if his injury lingers.
Another argument that seems to resurface often in opposition to the fair compensation of college athletes is that as there would be differences in how much money they would be receiving through endorsements, which would create locker room tension, as one player would be worth more than another. That already exists. The massive amount of media coverage that the NCAA obtains through its various television deals that totaled a billion dollars in revenue for the organization last year created a gap in the locker room via media coverage a long time ago.
In all likelihood, Drew Swinney realizes that he is less valuable to not only Clemson’s football program, but also to the university itself and the football community at large than his teammate Trevor Lawrence. The big names of college basketball, football, hockey, etc, are always going to be more valuable than the rest of the team.
It’s the same reason why Drew Brees gets paid 6.8 million dollars, and his Saints teammate Dan Arnold gets paid just over three hundred and fifty thousand. Drew Brees is more valuable to the Saints, the City of New Orleans and the NFL than Dan Arnold, and their respective compensations reflect that. Why should athletes, who are spending much of their physical prime competing and working in the NCAA, not be allowed to collect their value based on how much demand there is for their likeness?