Early this morning we noted that former North Carolina defensive back Deunta Williams, when he wasn’t accusing the SEC of paying for football players, took issue with what he described as “a broken system” as it relates to the NCAA and collegiate athletics.
“College football is a business, and the people who run college football are only interested in money and using the players as product to make money,” Williams was quoted as saying.
The thinly-veiled inference, of course, is that the NCAA uses “student-athletes” for their financial gain, a form of exploitation if you will.
Obviously, the leaders of intercollegiate sports vehemently disagree with that assessment. During an interview with Bob Ley on ESPN’s Outside the Lines Tuesday afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert addressed the criticism college sports has come under in relation to the financial benefits realized by the universities and how precious little is funneled back to the individuals who are actually responsible for the on-field work that’s made the game, in the case of football, the second most popular sport in the country.
Here’s the transcript of Emmert’s interview, courtesy of PFT‘s Mike Florio (yes, you read that correctly).
I’ll tell you the critique that I agree with, and the critique [is] that there’s such an emphasis in America on athletics as a route to fame and fortune that it has skewed far too many young people’s view of how you can be successful as a young person.
We surveyed our Division II NCAA men’s basketball players. Division II. Half of them believed they were going to make a living in professional basketball. Maybe one will. But half of them thought they might make a living as a basketball player.
We have far too few young people realizing that the route to success in life is to get a good education in middle school, high school, and college, and then go on and do all the things that people do in life. When we see a young person getting an opportunity to go to college, the $2 billion — second only to the federal government — the total amount of financial aid that’s proposed by NCAA institutions to young people, we see young people having higher graduation rates in Divisions I, II, and III than the rest of the student body, we see them having access to the best coaches, the best educators, the best trainers, the best tutors that help produce academic success like that. If that’s the definition of exploitation, then I don’t know what exploitation is.
I would have loved to have my kids exploited like that. I would love to have been exploited like that myself as a young man. The idea that somehow playing in front of a stadium with 70,000 people and being on ESPN SportsCenter diminishes you in some fashion while creating an opportunity for you to be known world-wide is somehow exploitation is a curious notion of exploitation. I think the vast majority of your audience would love to be on this show, would love to have a chance to have their name known widely.
If you want to be a professional athlete, there’s no better way to do it than to come to a high-level collegiate program, get the best trainers, best exposure, best coaches, best educational opportunities, and then go out and pursue your career. To me, that’s a pretty good opportunity.
As Florio adroitly noted in our email exchange, Emmert starts off by claiming that there is too much emphasis on athletics as a route to fame and fortune, and then ends by stating (contradicting himself?) that the NCAA doesn’t exploit athletes because it provides a route to fame and fortune at the professional sports level for a select few. Of course, all of this talk of exploitation and financial aid and pretty good opportunities boils down to one core issue: paying student-athletes for services rendered on the playing field.
The proposed $2,000 stipend, which has met stiff resistance from several corners of the collegiate sports world, is a fair-to-middlin’ start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. At bare minimum, and as we’ve stated ad nauseam in the past, players should receive a portion of the profits earned by a football program for the sale of jerseys and the like as well as a percentage of the profits from video games that utilize their likenesses in lieu of their names. That’s the bare minimum, and you can adjust your financial mileage accordingly.
The value of the education the players are receiving — or have the opportunity to receive if they choose to take advantage of the six-figure gift — should not be underscored, but neither should the value of their numbers and likenesses and such. While we don’t foresee a day, at least in the near future and as long as Title IX is the law of the land, where student-athletes essentially become paid employees of a university, there will at some point be a tipping point on the financial landscape as it relates to athletics at the collegiate level.
In fact, a four-letter word from the NCAA’s point of view — “union” — is already being bandied about as a potential remedy to the perceived inequities of the current system.
It would thus behoove the leaders of today to get ahead of that point and prepare for something that is inevitable somewhere down the road.