By Ken Reed

It’s Sweet Sixteen time at the Big Dance. On the hardwood, March is becoming more and more mad. Florida Gulf Coast is one of the NCAA tournament’s best stories in years.

However, the big-time college sports model remains as ugly as ever. And nobody lays out the case against the NCAA cartel system better than Patrick Hruby.

Hruby recently wrote a superb in-depth piece for SportsOnEarth entitled “The Gold-Plating of College Sports.”

He describes the current college business model beautifully (“a tax-evading, labor price-fixing cartel”) and makes it clear who’s getting screwed (“the athletes who do the actual, you know, work.”)

According to a recent joint study from the National College Players Association (NCPA) and the Drexel University Sport Management Department, “FBS football and men’s basketball players would receive an additional $6 billion between 2011-15 if not for the NCAA’s prohibition of a fair market.”

The study used publicly available information to determine the value of football and men’s basketball players’ full athletic scholarships relative to the money that revenue-producing football and basketball players would receive in a fair market.

The research project found that the average football and men’s basketball players from BCS conferences would receive an average of over $714,000 and $1.5 million, respectively, above and beyond the value of their full athletic scholarships over the four years between 2011-15.

How anyone can still believe that a scholarship is fair competition for these athletes is beyond me … but I digress.

College administrators have it made. When there’s no player payroll to deal with, there is a lot more money left to pay $5 million salaries to coaches and million dollar salaries to athletic directors. As Hruby writes, “When you don’t have to pay competitive wages for your actual workforce, there’s a lot more cash available to shower upon high-level bureaucrats.”

There’s also cash on hand to pump into new facilities, luxury suites, and fancy scoreboards.

Hruby warns us to not listen to college athletic directors who are out on the speakers circuit pushing the notion that college sports will collapse if revenue-producing athletes receive more than an athletic scholarship. He calls this argument “a subsidiary strain of uncut malarkey.” And he persuasively lays out the reasoning as to why.

So, this weekend, enjoy watching Florida Gulf Coast’s “Dunk City” offense. Check-in to tournament coverage to see if there are more big upsets in the making.

But also take time to read Hruby’s article. It’s a truly enlightening look at the specifics of how the NCAA cartel game really works.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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