By Ken Reed
Sometimes the best way to explain injustices in the world is through real life stories instead of via numbers and dry factual statements.
That seems to be the case when looking at the economic inequities in big-time college sports today.
Take the cases of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and former USC defensive lineman Stevie Tu’ikolovatu.
According to a USA Today report, Delany will receive a $20 million bonus for the Big Ten’s 2016 fiscal year (on top of his salary, which is approximately $2.5 million).
Meanwhile, while Delany was busy cashing his checks, Tu’ikolovatu and his wife were spending part of the year living out of a car and an SUV.
Tu’ikolovatu transferred to USC from Utah. He arrived at USC to begin working out with his new teammates but due to a technicality with an NCAA rule, USC couldn’t provide him any benefits, including housing and food, until he was officially enrolled at USC.
Eventually, Tu’ikolovatu was given a bed to sleep in and went on to become USC’s defensive MVP and the MVP of the Rose Bowl. He recently was drafted in the seventh round by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now, whether you’re okay with the NCAA rule that resulted in Tu’ikolovatu and his wife living a homeless existence for a couple months or not, the bigger issue here is the economic injustice of a college conference commissioner pulling in $20 million+ while one of the stars on the field is limited to tuition, room and board (once he became officially enrolled that is).
We’re not talking about a Division III student-athlete playing for his small school in front of a few hundred friends and family. USC football is a big-time enterprise on par with the Los Angeles Rams. The Trojans pull in millions of dollars in revenue every year on the backs of young athletes like Tu’ikolovatu.
However you look at the juxtaposition of these two cases, it’s hard to imagine any other conclusion can be reached other than it’s simply not fair.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.