Cardinals and Tigers and Bears…oh my? Christian Mccaffrey (Stanford), Leonard Fournette (LSU) and Shock Linwood (Baylor) have all decided to sit-out of their team’s respective bowl games this year. Players choosing to sit out of their bowl game, while being 100% healthy, may become the next tactic in maximizing NFL draft value for potential picks. Doing so prevents injury and gives players 1-2 extra months to prepare their bodies to be in peak-drill-condition, rather than peak-football-condition. Although the flood gates have yet to truly open for potential NFL draft picks choosing their draft stock over their school’s final game, I think we’re at an inflection point, and I foresee this being the start of a mini-revolution—and hats off for doing so! Next year, we may see 10-30 potential 1st rounders all sitting out of their games. Or, maybe it’s a couple of star players from teams still in the much more “important” Football Playoff. Or, what if players start taking a full year off? By rule, to be eligible for the NFL draft, 3 years must have passed since you finished high school (meaning the earliest class you can declare, typically, is as a Junior or Redshirt Sophomore). Isn’t it fair for a Star RS Soph to say, “I have enough for NFL teams to evaluate me in my first year, I know I can’t enter the draft, but I am going to spend the next year preparing for the draft, getting my degree and sitting out the football season?” Hell, the Bears (ill-advisedly…should have listened to me…) took Kevin White 7th overall essentially after just one year of tape. Whether it’s these 3 young men this year, or the many I foresee after the flood gates open down the road, please know their choice is not a reflection on their character or some version of “putting self above the team.” It’s simply a calculating person making a logical, economical decision about his future, all while giving a giant middle finger to the cartel known as the NCAA.
College athletes, whether from Ohio State football to the Dominican University Women’s Track and Field, are “amateurs”, non-pros, meaning those that don’t get paid. Amateurism you say? What a noble concept, right? Playing for the love of the game and representing your place of higher learning, right? Does anyone know where the term even came from? Not the Olympics back in ancient Greece, no, but during the 1800s, where just about all sports were born, in England, by their upper-class. And those “pioneers” of sport decided that in order to keep the working class out of sport, they will enact this concept of amateurism. Think about it. At the infancy stage of a sport, the upper-class, in hopes of keeping the sport available only to those with disposable income, enacted the rule against getting paid for your talents in the sport. Then the Ivy League, front-runners of college football, carried this despicable torch into America in the early years of the game.
If you haven’t watched “Schooled: The Price of College Sports”, you need to check it out before you take any opinion on this:
It’s an excellent, thorough, clearly biased (deservedly so) documentary regarding the debate to pay college athletes. Don’t get me wrong, there are far more significant social issues in 20(almost)17 America (disappearing middle class, race relations etc.), yet there is no more blatantly obvious injustice in this world—as in relation to “not having a leg to stand on”/and not caring that their reasoning makes 0 sense – than the monopoly, the NCAA. Look at what Founder and former President of the NCAA, Walter Byers, the original “Goodest” and “Oldest” boy of em all, said in his last public address:
“You look at the young people here, and I suppose sports is a fountain of youth because each generation of young persons come along and all they ask is, Coach, give me a chance, I can do it. They go on and surpass the marks of their predecessors, and the excitement continues and it’s a disservice to these young people that the management of intercollegiate athletics stayed in a place committed to an outdated code of amateurism, drawn quite frankly, in 1056. They can count the house and they can multiply the ticket prices and they can read the TV contracts and it doesn’t take any great genius to understand that what was real in 1956 can hardly be remembered in the gross commercial climate of intercollegiate athletics today. And I attribute that to the neo plantation mentality that exists on the campuses of our country and in the conference offices and in the NCAA, that the rewards belong to the overseers and the supervisors. The coach owns the athlete’s feet, the college owns the athlete’s body and what trickles down after that can go to the athletes. All of this is not fair and I predict that the amateur code now based on a forgone philosophy and held in place for sheer economic purposes will not long stand the tests of the law.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the scam, here are the basics…
College Sports is an insanely stable $12 billion/year industry. Revenue coming from a combination of ticket sales, TV contracts, memorabilia/jerseys/clothing and other sponsorships—all untaxed mind you. And, all of which would not exist without the product—the games themselves. And the labor that provides that product—the games? The student-athlete. The “student”-athlete’s produce entertainment value, and customers pay for in ticket purchases, TV viewing and buying of other goods (jerseys, hats and other memorabilia). *And in return, the student-athletes receive 3-5 one-year (renewable, based on the Head Coach’s opinion, not a Dean/Anyone in Academia) full athletic scholarships (in FBS), along with room/board. Essentially 90-100% of the cost of an education (I won’t even get into that side of things here), those without their talents do not receive—and that’s it. You’re not allowed to work, sign autographs or receive a dime when a fan buys your jersey at the bookstore. Additionally, the athlete gets to showcase their talents in the NFL’s farm system, in hopes of one day, playing on Sundays.
*Note, that since a unit of labor has a binary “maximum value” they can receive (one year full scholarship or nothing), and the NCAA limits teams to 85 (of the 105 players on a team) total, NCAA D1A football essentially has the strongest, most limiting “salary cap” in sports. And when this point was posed to Mark Emmert, he laughed it off, (semanticly) saying that can’t be true, since there are no salaries in the NCAA.
Let’s look at it this way. Back in 08, ESPN got its hands on the financial records, of just about every D1A football program. After tallying up, and finding a few key ratios (you can see my data manipulation here), you can see only 14.5 cents of every dollar coming into a D1A program goes back to the student-athlete.
By comparison according to small.business.chron(yeah, it was the quickest way to find the data) companies typically spend between 40-80% of their income on salaries/benefits. And. just a year earlier, according to quickbooks.intuit (see page here) you can see what a typical company (by size) pays their employees in total…
Hence, let’s say your company has 60 employees, and the company brings in the average revenue for that bracket, $7,124,00/yr. (they call it receipts). If these firms were to act like the average team in the NCAA, meaning 14% of that 7 mil, per each of the 60 employees would receive an average pay $16,622.67/yr. Not a very attractive salary.
Sure, there are a lot of variables at play here, and I know this is bordering on apples and oranges territory, but the outrageousness of the value the student-athlete receives relative to their time commitment and how others (coaches, admin and merchandisers) are paid is still quite evident here. I can only think of one other deal that’s worse: Walter White and Jesse Pinkman getting 3 million of Mr. Fring’s 96 million Meth enterprise!!!
The bottom-line is this: it’s ridiculous not to find some way to have a large, controlled labor pool share in the vast revenues their talent, and their talent alone, generate. The only somewhat legitimate impediment to fixing this injustice is in the logistics…do we pay all players the same? Do all sports get paid? Etc. BUT, THAT’S NOT A REASON TO NOT MAKE THINGS RIGHT. Just because you can’t figure out HOW to do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD’NT do it!
This brings us back to the 2.5 studs skipping their bowl games. We all know, especially now with the (kinda) playoff, bowls are even moremeaningless. However, they make money for the NCAA. And from their perspective, the key to generating revenue via the post-season games is through name recognition, star players or studs. Fans tune in, buy tickets etc. to see the All-Americans, Blue-Chips and what-have-you play…you take 2.5 of those away from 3 games, we’re making a dent. If others step-up, and start intensifying this “walk-out”, it’s going to affect the one thing that moves that NCAA—their collective wallet. And would those same players participate if they were under “contract” or getting paid a substantial amount to play in that game? Maybe, maybe not. But one way or another, it’s a new, fresh reminder, that collectively we have recourse against an un-just monopoly.
Mr. Fournette, Mccaffrey and Linwood, I hope this has been just the beginning. I truly hope this is just the start of something much bigger, or maybe even, the beginning of the end, for the NCAA’s monopoly.