The NCAA’s “Whiff of the Plantation”: Critical Response

Dave Zirin’s critique of the NCAA and it’s corrupt structure was an extremely revealing read and answered all of my questions and critiques as the chapter continued. There are still a lot of questions to be asked about where some of the massive revenue is actually going. While Zirin did a great job of providing an image of the overpaid coaches, top of the line facilities, and high executive salaries within the NCAA there still seems to be a gap in how much is being spent vs. how much is being produced. I’d be interested to see a detailed breakdown of where all revenue goes; from merchandise & apparel, ticket sales, sponsorship, booster donations, and broadcasting rights just to name a few. There still seems to be a gap and perhaps that is the main issue, while there are very public examples of the corruption, there has to be more beneath it all that isn’t quite as apparent.

The issue is still like Zirin’s example University of Oregon are still treating football as a program that can produce revenue for the university as a whole and are basically investing everything in their football program in the hopes that a championship calibre team would put them in another category. The problem seems to be nearly universal across the NCAA, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that even in the free market there should not be this kind of failure rate in terms of actually producing profit in such a massive industry. There should be many more universities in big markets with great teams that should be producing profit for the academic side of things and are somehow unable to. This to me puts the vast majority of the blame on the NCAA, whether it be for direct tampering, outdated and poorly implemented policy, or general selfishness. This kind of universal failure has to be the result of the governing body as a whole.

It could be time for the high performance sports such as football and basketball to shift to a system similar to that of junior hockey in Canada. Independent leagues with privately owned teams with 1 purpose seperate from academics with rules and policies designed to help players grow into both high performance athletes and provide them with an opportunity to still be a student. While this system isn’t quite perfect in Canada either, especially with respect to Education as it is still more one or the other, it would free up the issue of compensating athletes and allow them to be paid a proportionate amount, effectively making them professionals. The challenge would be to somehow not completely diminish the academic experience outside of the “workplace”. Of course this would more than likely make expensive educations even more inaccessible without full time scholarships.

Frankly, there is no perfect solution. Every idea only creates more problems, The problem is the NCAA is no where near truly re-forming the entire system. NCAA executives are so well compensated there can be no motivation to change a system that works, at least for them. I believe Zirin was spot on when he pointed out that it would take a monumental, united stand from student athletes across all sports to truly force change. Frankly this might be the only option, but it comes with a whole lot of uncertainity and risk for thousand of student athletes that have no hopes for professional, million dollar future salaries. That kind of united front seems unlikely from those just hoping to get through university using athletics and move on with their lives. The system as it stands is an endless loop of insanity.

Zirin, D. (2013). Game Over How Politics has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. (p. 107-120). New York: The New Press.

***Posted October 30th, 11:23 PM (the WordPress Timestamp doesn’t always work)

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One Response to The NCAA’s “Whiff of the Plantation”: Critical Response

  1. belinahooper says:

    Very interesting topic. Understanding where all of the money disappears to is something that I would want to know ! It could be argued that the major “cash cow” sports are also supporting all of the others sports throughout the school, both varsity and intramural… maybe even club sports ? Who knows ! So basically, they support whatever the other teams cannot afford, such as: equipment, travel, accommodations, food + beverage, team building activities, etc. But other than that, I agree with you in regards to “where does the rest of the money go !?” Yes, there is the fact that some money can go to full scholarships, which does add up. If the average tuition per year for “in state” residents adds up to approximately $30,000 / year ($120,000) for the 4 year ‘full ride’, times that by about 20 per team, give or take (depending on the sport), that would be about $2,400,000 PER TEAM ! Then times that by 30 teams (male + female) ! That’s quite a lot of money on full scholarships alone !
    Here’s a little interesting tidbit aside. I was speaking with a hockey scout a few years ago, and of course, we got talking on NCAA scholarships. A very interesting fact he threw out was this…”There is enough money in the bursary funds of Ivy League schools alone (Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, etc) to give every female hockey player across Canada a full-scholarship to any school of their choosing for 4 years”… This BLEW MY MIND ! I think for most schools, they are quite comfortable financially, but the ones that we hear about that struggle are very few…
    So back to your point, yes, they could afford to pay their athletes, but will they ever ? That’s the main question. The most they will likely do is give each player a bit of extra spending money each month, but you also have to keep in mind this question… What if players are financially supported enough during their 4 years of school, but it all comes down to ‘what are they spending their money on in the first place?’… This would be an interesting study?

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