By Ken Reed

It’s heartening to know that mainstream media outlets are increasingly highlighting the gross economic inequities in big-time college sports. For years, popular sports media outlets either ignored the issue altogether or defended the status quo of “amateurism” when it came to the topic of fairly compensating the athletes that bring in multi-millions in revenue each year.

USA Today’s Nancy Armour had a strong column this week calling for the power brokers in college sports to get creative about finding ways to more fairly compensate college athletes.

“There are two, very simple truths in college athletics: Athletes are not being fairly compensated for the value they bring to their schools and conferences or the revenue that follows, and there is more than enough money to correct that,” wrote Armour.

“When Nick Saban can clear $11 million, as he will this year, or Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany gets a $20 million bonus, it’s not hard to do the math and realize those kinds of payouts are only possible because the athletes are little more than indentured servants.”

Armour doesn’t advocate for athletic departments cutting monthly paychecks for athletes, justifiably noting the complexity of an arrangement like that. But she lists a laundry list of expanded benefits that schools and conferences could pay athletes, including paying for athletes’ families to accompany them on recruiting visits, health care beyond graduation, a 15-year (or lifetime) window for athletes to complete their degrees or earn additional ones once their eligibility is up, bonuses for graduation, financial support for athletes’ trips home, and letting athletes profit off their names, images and likenesses (e.g. from sales of posters of players in uniform, or using player likenesses in video games).

“The solution is actually quite simple: Take a percentage of the College Football Playoff payout and TV contracts for the NCAA basketball tournaments, and put it in a fund for expanded benefits,” wrote Armour.

Simple indeed.

Just 4.4% from last year’s College Football Playoff would equal $19.3 million. You could also pull a similar percentage from the $760 million CBS and Turner paid the NCAA for coverage of this year’s men’s basketball tournament. Together, that would certainly provide a nice start to providing a fund for more equitably compensating college athletes, most notably the football players and men’s basketball players responsible for the majority of NCAA revenues.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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