Column: The blasphemy of the NCAA

Moriah Jefferson celebrates after winning her fourth national championship at the Banker's Life Fieldhouse. UConn has won 11 national championships under Geno Auriemma. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to cover the UConn women’s basketball team as they won their fourth-straight national championship and 11th in program history in Indianapolis.

Before the Huskies took on Syracuse and cut down the nets on Tuesday, my colleagues and I went to media availability early Monday morning before spending the rest of the day in the city. After submitting our articles, we headed over to the Indianapolis Zoo.

I’ve always heard that the older you are, the more depressing the zoo gets. My trip to the Indianapolis Zoo was my first in a while, and boy were they right.

I stood there in awe of an enormous bald eagle, our country’s symbol of freedom, surrounded and entrapped by nets. I watched a tiger do four laps around its small parcel of land in just about five minutes. Some parts of the zoo were fun. Those parts were definitely not.

After the zoo, we headed over to the NCAA headquarters and Hall of Champions, located just a few short miles away. The three of us toured the Hall of Champions, looking at some of the exhibits and learning more about the NCAA than I ever wanted to know.

As I walked around and looked at the photos of these student-athletes in the exhibits at the Hall of Champions, it hit me: the zoo and the NCAA really aren’t that much different.

Think about it. The NCAA and the zoo are looking to make money, and are profiting off the components that make it so successful. Those players featured in the NCAA Hall of Champions won’t get a dime for it, even though the NCAA charges admission. Student-athletes, much like the tiger at the zoo, are confined in regards to what they can and can’t do. Yes, they get to go college for either a reduced cost or no cost at all and receive meal money, but they can’t receive any other form of payment, or make any money from their own name as their schools and the NCAA reap the benefits. To me, that’s just ridiculous.

If any other business tried to do such a thing, there would be an outrage. But apparently it’s okay for the NCAA to do so as they continue to embark on their noble quest to preserve “amateurism.”

Don’t get me wrong, amateurism is a great thing. The fact that prospective student-athletes can use sports as a path to a high-quality education is a beautiful concept. However, when these student-athletes receive no monetary compensation from an organization that makes over $6 billion from football and college basketball alone and just recently signed an $8.8 billion extension for TV rights to March Madness, using amateurism as a reason not to pay them is absurd.

Granted, paying all these NCAA student-athletes is a lot easier said than done. However, with so much money available, there are a few ways to make it work. To me, using at least a portion of this revenue money to make four-year cost of attendance scholarships mandatory makes the most sense.

As of now, scholarships are on a year-by-year basis and can be terminated after a season for any reason, leaving student-athletes on the hook if they want to stay at the school they committed to. Not to mention, scholarships don’t always count the total cost of going to college, often failing to cover the cost of books and other necessary items. Cost of attendance scholarships fix that by giving money for travel, books and other things student-athletes might need.

On top of these four-year cost of attendance scholarships, athletes should be able to profit off of their own names, such as receiving a portion of the funds from their memorabilia being auctioned off for fundraising purposes or appearing on major university advertisements. These student-athletes are some of the best marketing tools that colleges have and are continuously exploited for that. It’s about time they get at least a portion of what they’ve helped build. It just makes sense to let the free market determine what each student-athlete is worth and not the NCAA.

With the NCAA making more and more money, the pressure is growing for change to be made, and slowly but surely it’s happening. As people begin to realize the ridiculousness of the model at hand, hopefully student-athletes can begin to at least get a sliver of the revenue they bring in for the NCAA in the near future.


Dan Madigan is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.