Reminder: NCAA Amateurism Is a Corrupt Sham, We Are All Complicit


The NCAA earned nearly $1 billion of revenue in its last statement. More than $700 million of that comes from the TV revenue from the NCAA Tournament.

Were players paid the approximate professional standard (50 percent) on just that NCAA Tournament television revenue, it would amount to $395,327 per player.

That percentage seems high for a player at a level below the top professional league. But, even a paltry 10 percent of the television revenue for March Madness, a more realistic figure under collective bargaining, would yield an average of $79,185 per athlete participant. Combined, the 884 scholarship basketball players in 2016 tournament will earn $0.

Amateurism never was noble. It was enacted to exclude the poor, keeping elite athletics a province of the independently wealthy. Amateurism has been done away with elsewhere. In its last vestiges with American colleges, it exists to keep those playing elite athletics poor.

Well, not just that. Amateurism ensures a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry remains tax free and schools are not liable for workers’ compensation or longterm healthcare. Think of the NCAA as a cheering squad, that won’t be paying for that third shoulder surgery you need later in life after coaches convinced you to play hurt junior year.

Student spending his increased, with tuition increases. That’s presuming the athletic department itself is funding the scholarships. Major, landmark reforms allowed schools to cover the ancillary cost of attendance and feed players adequately.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Where is this money going? Salaries. At least 39 coaches from last year’s NCAA tournament made more than $1 million per season. The lowest in the data set, Wofford’s Mike Young, earned $161,043, more than double the average salary for a full-time university faculty member.

North Carolina earned a No. 1 seed. It should be a fun month to be Roy Williams. Per his contract, Williams earns a six-figure bonus for each round UNC advances. If North Carolina wins the national title, Williams earns $925,000 in bonuses. If the APR rating is above 975, he receives an additional $75,000 for an even $1 million.

Yes, that’s correct, Roy Williams still gets bonuses for his players’ academic performance.

Of course, basketball salaries pale compared to college football salaries. Fifty-five FBS coaches earned more than $2 million in total pay per year in 2015. 106 earned more than $500,000.

Seventy-seven athletic directors, using dated figures, earned more than $300,000 per year. Wisconsin pays Barry Alvarez more than $1.2 million in total pay. That’s before you get to assistant coaches, administrators, ancillary staff members, and compliance staff necessary to comply with the NCAA’s byzantine rules.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

Then, of course, the administrators themselves need administrating. NCAA President Mark Emmert earned $1.8 million in 2013. He comes cheap, compared to conference commissioners. John Swofford at $2 million per year earns the lowest salary in the Power 5. His position’s 258 percent increase over 2004, accounting for inflation, was also the lowest.

What’s not spent in salaries, goes to furnishing the college sports industrial complex.

In 2014, 48 schools in the five major conferences alone spent $772 million building athletics facilities, $16 million per school in one calendar year. That figure is not counting huge renovations and projects at schools such as Appalachian State.

Oregon football players somehow require an elaborate spa, while there are NFL teams that make do without an indoor practice facility.

At a few schools, a small portion of the largesse makes its way back to the university. LSU could not afford to cut football as it is a vital source of school revenue. But, at a vast majority of schools, the athletic departments take further money out of the school.

According to USA Today’s numbers, 150 schools received more than 50 percent of their revenue from subsidies. 113 schools received more than $10 million from subsidies. 220 schools received at least $1 million.

Players are paid, purportedly in education. Even if you exclude North Carolina making up academic programs altogether, many of the “student-athletes” in the money-making sports of football and basketball are de facto majoring in eligibility.

Looking at basketball in particular, it’s not clear when serious academic work happens. It’s a two-semester sport. Multiple games are played during exam periods and academic breaks. No one has class on Thursday afternoons in March, right? Time to study would be something “student-athletes” would have to (gasp!) bargain collectively for.

Quite a few people are getting rich from college athletics. None of them are the athletes, who will, combined, earn less from the NCAA Tournament than I do covering it.

There is a word for a consortium to profit handsomely while regulating labor costs (in this case at $0). The NCAA, without doubt, would quibble with me using it.

Sure, you paid for your education, the value of which is not insignificant. But, you received a lot more from the university and were asked to contribute much, much less.