On The Fence

Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 2/5/2014, 2:51 p.m.
The National College Players Association has their sights focused on player rights to a share of the billions of dollars ...

The National College Players Association has their sights focused on player rights to a share of the billions of dollars generated by colleges and university athletic programs. They argue and many feel convincingly so, that players are not adequately compensated for their efforts and are straight out exploited for financial gain in some cases. Among the swirling court cases making their way through the judicial system are arguments that bolster the notion of financial inclusion for athletes who in many cases face poverty while taking the field for their teams.

In a recent study published on their website, the NCPA and Drexel University Department of Sport Management conducted a joint study, which blames colleges sports scandals on a black market created by unethical and unpractical NCAA restrictions on college athletes. Examining football and basketball teams from Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) colleges, the study calculates athletes’ out-of-pocket educational related expenses associated with a “full” scholarship, compares the room and board portion of players’ scholarships to the federal poverty line and coaches’ and athletic administrators’ salaries, and uses NFL and NBA collective bargaining agreements to estimate the fair market value of FBS football and basketball players. The study highlights college presidents' admission of their inability to reform college sports and calls for federal intervention to help bring forth a new model of amateurism in college sports that emphasizes education, minimizes violations, and allows players to seek commercial opportunities.

Some of the highlights of the study were pretty shocking. The average scholarship shortfall (out-of-pocket expenses) for each “full” scholarship athlete was approximately $3,222 per player during the 2010-11 school year. Room and board provisions in a full scholarship leave 85% of players living on campus and 86% of players living off campus living below the federal poverty line. The fair market value of the average FBS football and basketball player was $121,048 and $265,027, respectively. And amazingly University of Texas football players’ fair market value was $513,922 but they lived $778 below the federal poverty line and had a $3,624 scholarship shortfall.

No matter where fans fall on the argument of "amateur athletics", it's hard to argue that the NCAA doesn't directly benefit from merchandising dollars generated by these so called amateur athletes. The sale of player jerseys, using a players name or likeness for video games or advertisements and the many millions of dollars forked over by television and cable networks to air their games make it a far from fair in my mind for the very players who make all of that a reality.

While it is hardly acceptable in my mind that players are left out of a fair share of the financial pie, I somehow feel that the argument will have to reach the Supreme Court to decide what is fair and who should be able to cash a check. This is an argument that will change the collegiate landscape no matter how it settles and that alone is good reason for sport fans to pay close attention to coming court decisions that will more clearly define what "fair" actually is.