The NCAA’s 99 Problems

Zander Frost

There is only one organization in America that has managed to create a publicly accepted system that simultaneously steals from young adults as well as risking their futures, and it isn’t MTV. It’s the NCAA. The NCAA is an organization that managed to pull in $777 million this past year and estimates that its member institutions pulled in $6.1 billion in income and $5.3 billion more in students fees and outside support, all without paying the people it relies on in any tangible or negotiable amount. The question is, “will this last?”

What is often lost on the institutions involved is that the most important part of this situation is the students. The times have truly changed in this sphere; gone are the three to four year college careers (Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson), and in are the ‘one and done’ Anthony Davis’s and Kyrie Irvings of modern fame. The college education is no longer even a factor; it is now quite literally a run-out-the-clock situation. Instead of the athletics being used as a vehicle to attain a college degree, the education has become the tool of the NCAA to keep its prisoners in its grasp.

The NBA’s and NFL’s rules forcing all high school players to wait one and three years, respectively, before joining the ranks of professionals has forced them into the fold of the only secure place to develop their skill – the NCAA, of course. The NCAA essentially regulates them as prisoners during this stay, using education to justify all of their imposed restrictions and limitations. These students are then forced to risk their livelihood for at least a year, earning the NCAA money while risking a potential injury before draft night that could cost them all of their future income. The NCAA does not protect them; it offers no free security if they lose their futures, but it does graciously accept all of the money that their hard work might produce for years after they depart. It’s a

nonsensical arrangement.

The public opinion about the situation has been gradually turning against the NCAA. A recent lawsuit brought against the NCAA by famed athletes and coaches known as the O’Bannon lawsuit has opened up the biggest avenue yet towards serious NCAA reform. The lawsuit challenges one of the biggest moneymakers the NCAA has – the ability to market a former player’s likeness well after the player leaves the organization. It was pretty clearly exploited recently with the last ‘NCAA Football’ video game that featured the ability to put any Heisman winner from history on any team in the game. If the lawsuit falls the players’ way, then the NCAA could potentially see its revenue sliced, and new cracks could appear in

its foundation.

If we know all of this, then it’s pretty clear that the NCAA is aware of this as well and is taking action to prepare against it. Its most recent actions include refining and removing many menial rules (including allowing coaches to call recruits an infinite number of times), as well as granting players the right to accept 300 dollars each year for non-scholastic events. It essentially takes the current model and turns it even more business-like than it already was, while still giving students pocket scraps.

In a way, though, this is really the first time the NCAA has truly and completely crossed the threshold of an academic institution and become a pro-sporting entity. Its explanation seems to be the somewhat incriminating argument that because the payment is so little compared to revenues, it does not count as actually paying students. While the NCAA is right in that players are still being compensated far below their worth,  the organization seems to be acknowledging that it is, in fact,

giving players a raw deal. 

The issue here, though, is that now that athletes have received compensation, they are going to be able to argue that this compensation is insignificant, and must be increased. The NCAA has quite literally dug its own grave by giving even an inch to its detractors. This decision really does make it hard to believe that it is anything but the early 20th century Ottoman Empire of the 21st century and is just going to slowly crumble as time goes on, weathering a war of each-more-convincing-than-the-previous

supreme court lawsuits.

The NCAA is at a serious crossroads, one that pretty clearly fails to offer up a truly enticing option. It is at the point that the education it pretends to offer is actually denied and unwanted by many of its members, and it can offer nothing but to be the only option available. This is just not a sustainable business practice, particularly because it creates an ever-increasing number of respected public figures who detest it each year. It’s a giant, corrupt, self-defeating organization that is simply running out of fuel. So far, it’s not evident what direction the NCAA will go in next, but one can only hope that it takes a more

“student-athlete-friendly” approach.