Sunday, July 27, 2008

Boyce Watkins, Jesse Jackson Talk NCAA: LA Times

Dr Boyce Watkins

Quick FYI: I will be on the Jesse Jackson Show tomorrow morning from 8 - 10 am. A list of cities is here.

Some of you know that I have been in an on-going campaign to challenge the NCAA on the fact that they do not compensate the families of college athletes for what they bring to campus. Below is an article I contributed to in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Sunday, there should be a syndicated column I wrote opposite NCAA President Myles Brand on the topic. You know that I am pretty candid in my thoughts (love it or hate it), so here are some reasons I feel that we should be outraged over this issue. I speak on this issue based on my 15 years teaching on college campuses with big time athletics programs, as a Finance Professor who understands how money works, and also as a black male who has seen the devastation of this system up close. Also, as a faculty affiliate with the College Sports Research Institute at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, I made it clear to the director that I intend to pursue the racial element of NCAA compensation inequity. I am not a fan of preferential treatment for athletes. I only want fairness for the athletes and their mothers. I am sick of seeing an athlete generate millions for his coach, while simultaneously watching his family struggle to pay the rent every month:

1) The NCAA extracts somewhere near $1 Billion dollars per year from the black community. The revenues earned by collegiate athletics are on the magnitude of the NBA, NFL and NHL. However, unlike these other leagues, the players are only compensated with a scholarship. Scholarships are valuable, but only a drop in the bucket relative to the money players bring to campus.

2) The NCAA contract with CBS sports for the TV rights to March Madness was worth over $6 billion dollars. This does not include hundreds of millions earned each year in concessions, endorsement deals and other extraneous benefits. This money goes into someone’s pockets, so the question is “Who takes this cash home? Those who earn it, or those on the sidelines?”

3) NCAA coaches in revenue generating sports earn as much as $4 million dollars per year, with a large percentage of that revenue coming from endorsement deals based on the clothing that players wear and appearances that players make on national television.

4) In contrast to the luxury experienced by NCAA coaches and their families, nearly half of all black college basketball and football players come from dire poverty.

5) The NCAA spends millions every year in a massive propaganda campaign. Their goal is to convince the world that paying college athletes or their families would be unethical and impractical. At the same time, many of the arguments they make about player families do not apply to their own families. For example, in the CBS Sports special I was on last year, nearly every single person on the special (Coach K from Duke, Billy Packer, Clark Kellogg, NCAA President Myles Brand, etc.) was earning hundreds of thousands, even millions from athletes, while simultaneously explaining why athlete families should not be paid. That’s worse than Dick Cheney and George Bush sending young people to die in a war that they or their families refuse to fight.

6) The mission of collegiate athletics, unfortunately, is more commercial than educational. Players are admitted to college every year with full knowledge that the player is only going to be there for a little while. Also, athletes are not allowed to miss big games or practice sessions to prepare for exams. Finally, coaches with high graduation rates who do not win games are fired, while winning coaches with low graduation rates are promoted and given raises. This creates poor institutional incentives and leads to a mountain of academic hypocrisy.

7) As an African American, I find it ironic that many HBCUs can’t pay the light bill, yet the NCAA is earning over a billion dollars every year from black athletes and their families. This amounts to a massive wealth extraction from the black community, where some of our most valuable financial assets are being depleted, no different from mining being done in Africa.

8) While one might wonder why the players don’t simply take another option, the problem is that the NCAA is allowed to operate as a business cartel, effectively allowing them to implement nearly any and every rule they wish in order to keep athletes from having other options. This form of operation is due to a political blank check being written by Congress that allows the NCAA to do things that would be illegal in nearly any other industry. The very idea that they’ve warped our minds to the point that we think it should be illegal or immoral to fairly compensate a young man or his family for their labor is simply unbelievable. Players don’t even have the same rights to negotiation that are given to coaches, administrators, or sports commentators, all of whom earn millions from the activities of players on the court.

Personally, I think this is wrong. The article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution is below, and I believe the op-ed is going to be in the Sunday edition (also in the LA Times, Chicago Tribune and some other places around the country). Finally, I am working on a CNN special to deal with this topic. I’ll keep you posted.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Like some of his Boston College teammates, Ron Brace has played the new “NCAA Football 09″ video game. Many of the animated players look and play a lot like the players they’re patterned after.

Brace has one thing in common with every player depicted: he’s not getting a nickel from the NCAA or game maker EA Sports.

EA Sports


Images from the EA Sports ‘NCAA Football 09′ game are derived from actual players, none of whom receive revenue from EA Sports.

· Letters of support: Pro | Con

· What do you think?

He has a problem with that.

Brace, and others, take issue with the fact that college athletes are not paid beyond scholarships and aid even as their efforts earn millions of dollars for the NCAA, schools and coaches at the Division I level. Since the players are the reasons for the revenue, they say they should get a cut.

“It’s like a job. We get up early, work out, meetings, class and practice,” Brace said. “We’re giving up a big chunk of our life. I see no reason we shouldn’t be paid.”

Others say that the value and experience of a college education is the equivalent of getting paid. They point out that many athletics departments don’t make a profit. Paying athletes would make those bottom lines worse.

“Few players truly move the needle in terms of attendance, TV ratings, or merchandising, but it would be like the free agency system in baseball; you’d get a few guys making a lot of money, and others fighting their way onto campus,” Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt said. “I think in the long run, the majority of student athletes would lose in that type of market.

“The idea is to provide educational opportunities for a lot of kids who could not afford one. I would hate to treat the few and leave out the many.”

Paying athletes is a topic that won’t go away because there is seemingly so much money to be had. Consider:

• At least 68 of 119 Division I football coaches have contracts for at least $1 million, according to Seven coaches in the SEC, including Georgia’s Mark Richt, make at least $2 million. Seven in the ACC, including Tech’s Paul Johnson, make at least $1.5 million. To compare, only five coaches in the nation earned as much as $1 million in 1999, according to USA Today.

• CBS is paying the NCAA $6 billion over 11 years to televise its three-week postseason basketball tournament.

• The Big Ten and Mountain West conferences have launched their own TV networks, which are projected to generate millions of dollars. The SEC is considering doing the same.

• Nike and Reebok, among others, negotiate million-dollar deals with colleges for the players to wear their apparel. Georgia receives $1.3 million a year from Nike, as part of a 10-year deal signed in 1999. Tech has deals with various companies, depending upon the sport. In 2006, those deals were worth about $325,000. Tech will announce a new deal with Russell in August that will cover most of its teams, according to assistant athletics director Dean Buchan.

NCAA president Myles Brand defends the system.

“You have to ask yourself why do universities engage in sports?” Brand said. “The answer is because it adds education value to the student experience. It [helps a student-athlete grow] as a person and acquire attitudes and skills that will carry through life.”

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