By Ken Reed
The NCAA and its media partners would like you to believe that the College Football Playoff (CFP) championship game is the ultimate celebration of college athletics.
The reality is, the title game is a mega example of social and economic injustice.
Everyone involved will be getting a boatload of money from the game, except, that is, the players producing the product.
ESPN is paying about $470 million a year to televise the CFP, yet the NCAA claims there simply isn’t enough money to share with the players.
Meanwhile, the salaries of coaches and athletic directors continue to skyrocket. Texas A&M recently gave former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher a 10-year, $75 million contract. Offensive and defensive coordinators are regularly becoming $2 million a year men. Not bad for “amateur” athletics.
While the pile of money in big-time college athletics grows taller and taller, the athletes are told that they must remain amateurs., and not only can’t be paid for their on-field athletic ability — directly or indirectly — but also can’t can’t receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses.
“You can’t justify giving millions to the guy who coaches the defense and not five cents to the people who play,” Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe company executive who now is the NCAA’s biggest antagonist. “Why can’t we do something extra for the kids? Never is that discussed because it’s verboten.”
Why can’t we indeed? NFL franchises and NCAA Power Five conference football factories both make millions of dollars annually. One big difference is that while the payroll expense for NFL franchises is about $150 million annually, the annual “payroll” expense for a Power Five football program might be a couple million dollars in scholarship costs. (And those scholarship dollars are really nothing more than dollars on paper that the school’s funny money accountants can take care of under the non-profit umbrella that big-time college sports programs are allowed to operate under.)
The general public is gradually catching on to the unfairness of the big-time college sports system. A poll conducted by the Washington Post and University of Massachusetts-Lowell found that only 52% of Americans now believe a scholarship is adequate compensation for college athletes. The study also revealed that 66% of Americans believe athletes should be paid when their names, images or likenesses are used for commercial purposes.
The CFP — a scam to begin with, since the champions of several FBS conferences, including undefeated Central Florida, weren’t even allowed to compete — doesn’t really result in a true national champion.
But it does expose the greed and economic injustice that permeates major college athletics.
— 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.