Pay Zion

By Joseph Kratz


While March may come in like a lion, March Madness will come in like a whirlwind. The First Four games of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament begins today at 6:40 PM, with the bulk of the tournament beginning on Thursday. Culminating on April 8, the next few weeks will be filled with men and women, boys and girls, people of all shapes, sizes, creeds, and colors glued to phones in work, school, and church watching their favorite college athletes compete for the NCAA title.

Underneath all of this lies the inherent unfairness of the entire ordeal for college athletes; while the NCAA makes uncountable sums of money, NCAA athletes will make none. The NCAA has had a long history of ensuring the purity of amateur athletics in college. No athlete can make money in high school or college and still be eligible to play in the NCAA. This leads to obvious and blatant exploitation by colleges and the NCAA of college athletes for monetary gain.

Colleges can fill their coffers with ticket sales to see Heisman winners and future first-round draft picks, but the athletes themselves earn nothing. These are athletes who put their bodies on the line for their school, and that means that they are putting themselves at risk of a career-ending injury or, worse, death. Playing for a year in the NCAA can seem like a gamble for an NBA or NFL-bound athlete. A year of intense training and competition without fiscal benefits.

While it could be argued that college tuition serves as a monetary reimbursement, it pales in comparison to the benefits that the university reaps. By recruiting talent, universities ensure continued recruiting propaganda, providing them leverage for years to come. Additionally, many of the athletes that compete at the Division 1 level come from low-income homes, and the inability to get a job in college due to the demanding schedule of college athletics means that young men and women who might have contributed to their household income no longer can.

No fix will be perfect, and no fix should be rushed. Nonetheless, there should be asystematic reexamination of how we treat, view, and reimburse college athletes as collegiate athletics becomes larger and more lucrative.