The Price of Fame in College Sports

When you think of the NCAA, you think of team rankings, top of the line athletes and facilities that are easy to the eye. Though, you rarely think of the inner workings of the organization alone. The hard labor of athlete exploitation and an unfit structure. From the outside looking in, it would seem student-athletes have it all, but the harsh reality is what's often times ignored. The Netflix documentary Schooled: The Cost of College Sports is an eye opening and notifiable, cut throat look into the realness of this organization.

The NCAA is a billion dollar industry that generates revenue all from college sports; which seems like an even trade deal for institutions. Recruit, build, renovate and expand, while athletes are offered a free education in return. It sounds logical right? However, I believe the crux of the problem is much bigger than what the NCAA initially thought.

March 31, 1906, the National Collegiate Athletics Association was founded by Theodore Roosevelt. What started out as an urgent way to fix and keep college football around while putting safety proclamations forth, turned into a multi-billion dollar non-profit organization; that asserts amateurism as the means of its echelon. According to the NCAA, amateurism preserves an academic environment in which acquiring a quality education is the first priority. Student first, athlete second. Thus, when we think of all the indications that make up professionalism in sports, it rings a fairly familiar bell. In all honesty, the only real reason why college athletes are seen as amateurs is because of the simple fact that they aren't getting paid, which is why this whole system is a little corrupt.

Don't get me wrong, it's a blessing and a great opportunity to receive a scholarship, be able to attend a university and get a free education, all while doing what you love. However, there comes a time when we should take recognition that being a student-athlete is more of a full-time job than anything else. Granted, scholarships help inner city kids and those who can't afford college on their own. It's a way out of the circumstance for most, but scholarships don't take care of expenses outside of the institution. There is more that comes into play here than tuition.

College athletics bring in so much revenue and the athletes who are generating it all don't earn or see a dime from the profit they are bringing in. You can't possibly sit here and think that using and exploiting the talents of these athletes with nothing to show for on their end, is okay. They're "students first" but are they truly benefiting from their amateurism in terms of being a better student? Any regular student has rightful access to receiving a profit off their talents and skills without risk to losing the scholarship that's putting them through school. Let's be cogent here, there is no other field whatsoever where people are told that they are unable to benefit beyond their own potential. Nobody cares if the president of the student body benefits from being able to lead. Nobody cares if a journalism or English student profits from writing a book, but the fact that there is a complete uproar when considering if a student athlete should be paid for what they even allow you to do for your program  is the exact issue.

This isn't a case of amateurism, it's simply taking advantage to feeding greed. How about we take a look at the rational economic exchange. The rational economic exchange is an act of transaction of goods or services, in which are transferred from the provider for a return in relative compensation value, from the receiver. This is done in a manner that then advances the interest of both parties in exchange of goods for goods. Economic exchanges naturally influence wants and needs. We're all born with basic needs. The need to eat, the need for protection and warmth. All of these factors then increase the demand for the necessities that will fix those needs like food, shelter, and heat or clothing. Needs are necessary, wants are secondary. To piggyback off the process of economic exchange, consumption follows. Consumption is a satisfying act, so to speak. To even be able to participate in economic exchange for consumption, a party has to exchange their skill or effort, enterprise, land and or capital-- for an income. Which opens up the playing field to then exchange that income for the consumption of necessities that they want or need. Next, the production. There are four main types of production:

1.) Land and Natural Resources.
2. ) Human Capital.
3.) Real Capital.
4.) Enterprise.

Can you guess which of the following is identically intertwined with the issue the NCAA is overlooking? Human capital. The value of human skill and physical effort, better known as labor. However, unlike the other economic productions, the NCAA is finding beneficial ways to increase exchange rates and capitalizing on factors that will guarantee influence. This all includes better advertisement, top-ranked players, uniforms, and facilities that all increase the chances of bringing the most sought after players in their school, which garners more money in return for them. What about the athletes?

Let's get to the meat of the matter.

Student athletes are there to play sports. Half of the time, athletes are in courses that have no significance to their major. They just need to be eligible in order to play. So, if they are "students first" how is this benefiting them at all? They have everything on their plate times ten. They have media duties, thousands in stadiums, jersey's in stock by the numbers in the student store ( that people are actually purchasing) and billboards all over town. They're in video games with no consent and used for promotional purposes. Not to mention, they miss an excess amount of classes for game travel. They are walking celebrities in their college town, signing autographs and they do it all for free education. Most say "they should be lucky they're in school at no cost". That's not the issue. The issue is that they don't benefit from anything that they produce. Yeah, a free college education is great, but what happens when they don't know if they should get gas or get dinner? What happens when the end of the school year rolls around and they don't get anything they do during the academic school year? They have an off-season, but can they afford their rent?

It's also important to consider that many of these athletes that you are bringing on to your teams aren't from the greatest upbringings. This is all they have to try and support themselves. They're working hard, showing up on time, doing everything that's asked of them, but yet are still struggling, and this is why we see a lot of athletes forgoing their NCAA eligibility to go after their dream to get to that next level and have the means to help and support their families. This very crack in the system causes them to not finish the education they first sought out to get. When most think of paying college athletes they think huge numbers. Of course, some athletes will be higher profile than the next and some sports take care of the cost of others. However, in terms of paying the athletes... they just need help. In my opinion, I believe that if a little more of that help and compensation were given, we'd see a decrease in the anxiousness to leave without securing a four-year degree. I believe the whole system would see a shift, in a good way. It would give the athletes a better sense of security. Now, it's always said to be "too complicated" in terms of paying athletes, because of x amount of teams with x amount of athletes. That's a given. However, provide them with the little help that they are continuously asking for. That's the issue that is being overlooked here.

At some point, the NCAA won't be able to ignore and push aside this matter for much longer. The industry has climbed and expanded far ahead of what it started out to be. These athletes are good, really good at what they do. They have to come to you first, to even get to the level they want to be. All in all, if they're going to be put on pedestals like professionals, advertised and desired like professionals, then they should reap the benefits from their own likeness and image just like professionals.