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The real problem with March Madness

by northstar at 10:40 AM on March 23, 2002

The madness that is the NCAA Division I menís basketball tournament is drawing to a close. Thrills, chills, heroes, and goats (et tu, Jason Williams??) abound. For sheer entertainment and excitement value, itís tough to beat. As Iím watching the tournament, though, I canít manage to shake a few questions.

Fírinstance, why does everyone seem to be making money off the tournament except the main attraction- the players? The NCAA has a multi-MILLION dollar contract with CBS, who makes money from selling advertising at premium rates. The universities, the coaches, the cities who host games- they all make money, as does everyone from T-shirt vendors to the beer guys. Everyone, that is, except the players.

Now, I know what some of you are going to argue- the players are on scholarship, and that should be considered just and adequate compensation. That argument might hold water- if schools kept the emphasis on the ďstudentĒ in ďstudent-athleteĒ. When you look at the deplorable graduation rates of many schools in the tournament, it should become clear that education is simply not a value. Besides, coaches are hired and fired based on won-loss records- not graduation rates.

What other industry is allowed carte blanche when it comes to exploiting 18-22 year-olds, most of whom have no legitimate shot of ever playing for pay beyond college? While you're perusing your brackets and trying to figure out how much money youíve lost, letís not lose sight of the fact that those ďstudent-athletesĒ are in most cases willingly participating in indentured servitude. Their willingness does not necessarily diminish the injustice.

comments (4)

On this, at least, we agree. I've long believed that college athletes should be given a stipend. They have no time to have jobs to earn money, most come from poor or middle class households that can ill afford to send them spending money, and they make beaucoup bucks for their schools.

In fact, I recently argues to a friend that at least part of the reason why my interest in college basketball (and, being from Kentucky, it was once a matter of life and death for me) has fallen off is that the NCAA has almost ruined the game. The focus on technical rules violations, rather than graduation rates or the best interests of the players and the sport, has made a mockery of what was once a pretty damned engaging enterprise.

by Muad'Dib at March 24, 2002 5:06 PM

Exactly! The NCAA is so conscious of protecting the "integrity" of college athletics that they have turned scholarship athletes into indentured servants. No one seems to care what happens to the players, who make all of this possible in the first place.

by northstar at March 24, 2002 8:13 PM

Not only do college ball players not have time for a job, it is my understanding they are forbidden to have jobs. It would just make it too easy for schools to entice student atheletes by guaranteeing them high paying jobs that they wouldn't actually have to work.

by mg at March 24, 2002 9:01 PM

And all the while, the tendentious NCAA focus on minor rules violations is ruining the sport of it. I am from Kentucky, where college basketball is all but a sacrament, and I can barely be bothered to care any more. It's not me that's changed, it's the NCAA.

by Muad'Dib at March 25, 2002 3:16 PM

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