By Ken Reed
The Huffington Post
December 30, 2014

Big-time college sports keeps getting crazier and crazier, and more and more unjust for the players.

The NCAA — make that the Power Five conferences that actually run the NCAA — recently made news by saying they’ll allow extra stipends for scholarship athletes to cover the full cost of attendance and maybe a pizza or two a week.

What a grand gesture!

Today, Jim Harbaugh will be announced as the new head football coach at Michigan. He reportedly has signed a contract that will pay him approximately $8 million a year for a total value of about $50 million. He will be the highest paid coach in college football, surpassing Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Harbaugh, like hundreds of other coaches, athletic directors, college administrators and television executives associated with college sports at the highest level, will be rolling in the dough. Meanwhile, the players responsible for the business behemoth that is big-time college sports will get a capped compensation package that is limited to a free pass to class, a puny dorm room to rest their heads and the now infamous “pizza stipend.”

College athletes have no representation like their professional counterparts. As a result, they’re getting screwed economically. Moreover, too often they’re left to handle huge medical expenses resulting from injuries incurred while playing for their colleges. That’s criminal.

Supporters of the current system say a free college education is nothing to scoff at. And that’s true. It indeed has great value for those athletes that take college seriously. But just because college athletes have the opportunity to get a free education doesn’t mean that they’re being compensated fairly.

According to a study by the National College Players Association (NCPA) and the Drexel University Sport Management Department, football and men’s basketball players at top sports schools are being denied at least $6.2 billion between 2011 and 2015 under NCAA rules that prohibit them from being paid.

Ellen Staurowsky, a professor at Drexel University, has said the fair market value of a football player at the University of Texas during the 2011-12 school year was $567,922 on an annual basis. The calculation was based on an NFL-like shared revenue system. The value of a “full-ride” athletic scholarship at Texas was $21,090 a year at the time of her study. As such, the fair market value denied (the difference between the fair market value and the value of the scholarship) was $546,832.

Big-time college sports is a classic case of economic and social injustice bred of a plantation mentality disguised by the term “student-athlete.”

It’s past time for the amateur myth to be blown up in college athletics, just as it was for Olympic athletes.

College sports would move forward and still be compelling. But things would be fairer.

And we could enjoy watching the games without feeling dirty about a dirty system.

Ken Reed is Sports Policy Director for League of Fans.

Follow Ken Reed on Twitter.


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