By Ken Reed

The national college football championship game on Monday night generated millions of dollars for the NCAA, the universities and their media partners.

The players that put on a great show of athleticism for the country? Well, they probably got a nice steak dinner.

Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Notre Dame made $6 million for themselves and their conferences by being selected for the College Football Playoff (CFP). Since Notre Dame is an independent, they get to keep the entire $6 million for themselves. The SEC will give Alabama over $4 million for playing in the championship game. Clemson’s take will be less because the ACC distributes bowl and playoff revenue equally among member schools, but it will still be a multi-million dollar payday.

Moreover, data from fiscal year 2017, based on what each university reported to the NCAA, showed Clemson with $52.3 million in total football revenue for the year and Alabama with $108.2 million in total football revenue. Clemson’s revenue will get a boost next year with the launching of the ACC Network, which could be worth an additional $15 million to Clemson.

The head coaches in the championship game are certainly getting rich. Dabo Swinney of Clemson and Nick Saban of Alabama will make nearly $20 million a year between them this season.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is also getting rich. The organization that oversees college athletics broke the $1 billion mark in annual revenue for 2017. That’s just the NCAA as an organization. The revenue for college sports as a whole, including conference and school sports revenue, is in the billions. The NCAA is a 501 (c)(3) organization that doesn’t pay federal taxes because the government considers them a non-profit, same as the Red Cross.

I’ll wait while you finish laughing.

Bottom line: It’s simply a rotten system that screws the players. Some people claim that the players will get their big payday when they go to the NFL. But as good as Alabama and Clemson are, only a relatively small percentage of the 85 players on each team will get an NFL paycheck. For the majority of these college football players, their only chance to make money off their football talents is now, while they are in college making millions for their schools and conferences.

But the NCAA’s draconian amateurism rules prevent that.

Things could be about to change for the players, however. A federal judge could issue a ruling in a lawsuit brought by more than 40,000 current and former college athletes in the coming weeks. The class-action case, called “National Collegiate Athletic Association Grant-In-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation,” went to trial late last year. The players as plaintiffs in this case seek a ruling that would abolish NCAA rules capping compensation for athletes at the value of a college education. They want conferences to be able to set their own rules on compensation.

“I can’t think of any other business where there’s such a transfer of wealth where there is in this case; where the student-athletes are basically powerless, and everyone else in the system is benefitting,” said Steve Berman lead attorney for the athletes.

Me neither.

In the name of fairness and economic justice, here’s hoping the judge in this case puts a kibosh on the sham known as college amateurism.

— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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