*As I sit here watching the NCAA Championship basketball game I can’t help but think past the game itself and to all the money that has been made during this tournament season. From cities such as Dallas that brought in millions of dollars by hosting the Final Four to merchandisers and retail establishments that got a financial windfall just by being in the right place at the right time, these kind of sporting events seem to be a win-win for everyone involved.
Tournament colleges get priceless advertisement and coaches get million dollar salaries with bonus bucks to boot. Last week USA Today listed the compensation for NCAA tournament coaches that ranged from $171,000 to $9 million a year. Some say college players – arguably the most important pieces of the equation – should be satisfied with a winning score and an athletic scholarship that, for most, isn’t enough to pay a full year’s tuition plus room and board.
The NCAA has restrictions against students receiving any compensation in exchange for their college play because, it contends, athletics are secondary to education. It’s funny (peculiar, not ha ha) how the people charged with making this decision are the ones pocketing the money. And what’s even more unbelievable is the NCAA is listed as a non-profit organization. That means it doesn’t pay taxes on the billions of dollars it collects and spends in the name of education before athletics.
So how does a, um hum, non-profit organization with an operating budget twice that of the NBA justify using its funds to build bigger sports facilities, pay million dollar salaries and do everything except share the proceeds with players? Oh yeah, those less-than-full scholarships and the NCAA’s mission to “increase the academic training and careers and success” of student athletes.
But the numbers show the NCAA had fallen short of its mission so poorly that in 2004 it was forced to create a program to gauge the academic progress of student athletes. Universities that fail to graduate at least half its student athletes every year could be fined, the number of scholarships reduced and possible suspension from its division conference. Eight of the teams in the 2014 tournament failed to graduate the fifty percent minimum. Eighty-eight percent of the teams graduated just 60 percent of its student athletes. So, of all the players good enough to make the team, and of all the teams good enough to make the tournament nearly half the student athletes don’t graduate. Statistics show the numbers are getting worse with each passing year. And if that’s not bad enough, less than one percent of college basketball players go on to play in the NBA. Most of them leave without college degrees, without a NBA career and without a clue as to what to do next.
So much for the NCAA’s mission to increase the academic training, careers and success of student athletes. Why don’t they just admit it’s about the money.
Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. For questions, comments and speaking inquiries email her at firstname.lastname@example.org