By Ken Reed

College football bowl games paid more than a half billion dollars to big-time college athletic conferences and schools last season. That’s a $200 million increase over the prior year.

As an entertainment industry, college football and basketball have never been healthier. The money keeps flowing in.

But here’s the catch: the athletes creating the revenue get only a sliver of it in the form of an athletic scholarship. The NCAA legalized athletic scholarships in the early 1950’s. Since then, revenues from Division I college football and basketball have soared but athlete compensation has remained basically the same, capped at a free pass to class and room and board.

For a time, most college football and basketball players were given four-year scholarships. Ironically, those were cut and transformed into one-year renewable scholarships as football and basketball revenues spiked. Today, a few schools have said they will offer a four-year scholarship once again but that’s still a far cry from the what the athletes’ true market value is.

Where else in American society are wages capped so egregiously?

“The NCAA’s amateur ideals are contrived,” says civil rights historian and author Taylor Branch.

Nevertheless, the NCAA moves callously forward. Four new bowl games are expected to be added next year. More bowls equals more revenue for the conferences and schools. Everybody gets to swim in more money, everybody that is except the people responsible for the product.

“The overall health of the bowl system is so important to our game because of the opportunities it creates for student-athletes,” College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

Seriously? This guy is a piece of work. It certainly isn’t creating any economic opportunities for the “student-athletes.” They aren’t even allowed to get paid for signing their autograph at the local auto parts store the week after the big game. And they can’t be compensated for having their picture appear in a calendar. Crazy stuff.

Sadly, this unjust system continues on.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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