Today the NCAA men’s basketball championships begin, also known as March Madness (which is interesting because it ends well into April). Money will be wagered by the billions all in the name of a game being played by “unpaid” players.
The NCAA is possibly one of the biggest sports businesses going, as it’s players effectively have no salary and are paid “scholarships” to attend school, however, they do not share in the huge spoils of their work (the NCAA and the playing schools split a large pot of money from CBS, TBS and other networks). The amount spent on scholarships is closely monitored, and if players are caught taking money “under the table” are disciplined quickly by the schools (who would lose NCAA accreditation and funds if found out).
All of this may change soon, as Ed O’Bannon a former player for the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team is suing the NCAA and the case is going to trial . Mr. O’Bannon is fighting to be compensated for the NCAA selling his likeness (and/or profiting from it) specifically with EA Sports. This should make for a very interesting case, to see how the NCAA argues their rights as “Lord and Master” over the players in their leagues.
The NCAA is also fighting on another front as a group of players are attempting to Unionize the “Student” Athletes as well (the NCAA suddenly claims to be a scholarly organization only concerned about education in this case).
All of this to point out that while you are watching all these fine “student athletes”, remember, most of these kids won’t make dime one on any of this. Very few will make the NBA, more may play in Europe, but most will leave school (according to this article for basketball players the graduation rate is 70%) and do something else, with only memories of their glory days (and no cash in their pockets).
The coaches that you see prowling the sidelines however, their pockets, are full of cash. According to this article the average salary of the coaches that made the final 68 in 2012 was $1.4 Million. Holy cow! Yes, these men (and one day maybe women, I hope) are excellent tacticians, motivators, and hopefully teachers, but when you are making $1.4 M and your players are living a student’s life that is an amazing discrepancy.
Athletic Directors (the Coach’s bosses) on a larger cross-section earned (in 2009) on average about $324,779 according to Bloomberg and this article. That is nothing to sniff at either (and due to the size of the sample many smaller schools were counted to lower the average).
All of this to say, enjoy the Basketball, it is an amazing spectacle, and for a Basketball Loon like me, it is very close to Nirvana, but remember you are watching young men, who won’t be cashing in.