By Ken Reed

The shoe and apparel arms race in big-time college sports has jumped to a new level.

UCLA signed a record $280 million deal with emerging shoe and apparel giant Under Armour today. That comes on the heels of Nike’s $252 million deal with Ohio State and $250 million deal with Texas. Less than a year ago, Michigan signed a then-record $169 million deal with Nike. Now, the Wolverines deal looks like a paltry sum.

Where does this leave the athletes at these universities?

TV and multi-media deals have skyrocketed in recent years at the Power Five conference level. Luxury suite, club seat, personal seat license (PSL) and ticket revenues are up significantly this past decade. And now, shoe and apparel sponsorship revenues are going through the roof.

Meanwhile, the athletes responsible for all these revenue streams remain strapped with NCAA-imposed amateur status. College athletes’ compensation is capped at an athletic scholarship — certainly nice but far from their true market value.

At some point, the economic injustice of the college sports model is going to need to be addressed. Everybody is getting rich in the big-time college sports game but the athletes themselves. On the big-time college sports plantation, athletes economic and civil rights are being deprived.

“I think college athletes have been conned out of their rights,” says civil rights historian and author Taylor Branch. “The NCAA’s amateur ideals are contrived. The current system needs to be abolished.”


Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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