But There’s Still No Money to Share With Players

By Ken Reed

According to reports, Michigan State is close to offering the school’s head football coach a 10-year $95 million contract extension. Other reports say LSU is dangling an eight-year $96 million contract offer in the face of Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley.

Of course, these dollar amounts are obscene for non-profit academic institutions. And they certainly don’t help the NCAA and its power conferences argue that there is no money available to better compensate the athletes creating their huge entertainment product.

College sports are nothing more than amateur-based extracurricular activities for students on campus. Right?

In reality, 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. Meanwhile, Power Five conference football powers can pull in $100 million+ annually in revenue. Data from 2017 show Alabama made $108.2 in football revenue alone. You can add multiple thousands to that figure today. The NCAA, college sports governing body, makes more than $1 billion a year in revenue. Top coaches are making around $10 million a year.

On the other side of the fence, the players get chairs in classrooms, dorm room beds, dorm cafeteria food and, in recent years, a small stipend for basic living expenses. I’m certainly not downgrading the value of a college education, but in terms of true market value, the artificially-capped compensation packages that athletes get fall well short of what an open market would get them.

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

Some people argue that college players will get their big payday when they go to the NFL. But only a very small percentage of the 85 players on each FBS college 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. Instead they get room and board and a few bucks for an occasional pizza.

After immense pressure from courts around the country, state legislatures, and Congress, the NCAA has started to allow athletes to make money off their names, images and likenesses (NILs). That’s a HUGE step forward. But there are still steps that need to be taken in the name of economic fairness for college athletes.

The huge contracts being talked about for Tucker and Riley are but the latest evidence that the athletes are still getting screwed.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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