NCAA Basketball Pays Off for Everyone But the Players

NCAA Basketball Pays Off for Everyone But the Players

The college basketball finals are about to decide the new championship team. Each year the 32 Division I conferences are paid millions by the NCAA based on what teams get into the “March Madness” tournament and how far they advance. Last year’s payout was $216 million. The 2018 tournament television and marketing rights brought in $844.3 million, mostly from TV contracts with CBS and Turner Sports. The TV deal grows annually, and will pull in $8.8 billion in 2024.

The league makes millions. Colleges make millions. Coaches make millions. Players make nothing. For decades, universities have claimed that not paying their ballplayers preserved their “student-athletepurity, something more difficult to rationalize when their hoopsters drop out, leave for the NBA after a year or graduate despite illiteracy.

More recently, the NCAA justified this situation by citing a clause of the 13th Amendment that allows unpaid prison labor. This jaw-dropping argument is compounded when you realize that the purpose of the 13th Amendment was the abolition of slavery in the United States, and Division 1 college athletes are overwhelmingly African American.

The chorus to reform the obvious economic inequity has been joined by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), whose office has issued a report on the unjust situation. Maybe colleges will end the scholar-athelete sham and get out of bigtime sports altogether, letting the pros run their own development leagues. The NBA has already started their G League as a new entry ramp to the pros.

If you’re horrified that the future of college basketball will be decided by lawyers, know this: lawyers patented basketballs and hoops back in the last century.


“College basketball’s murky swamp of misbehavior,”  George F. Will, Washington Post


“How Classifying Athletes as Employees Can Save Colleges Money,”  Derek Helling, OZY


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Top image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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