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March 28, 2014

Student-Athletes Going the Way of All Flesh

Harry M. Covert

It's rather easy to take aim at government, politicians and all of the non-profit political parties that their fables are for the public's own good. Plus these entities are full targets for comment, good, bad and ugly


At the same time, probably the greatest myth of the current age is use of the student-athlete term at institutions of higher learning where football and basketball provide millions and millions of dollars.


Yes, the collegians may well earn college educations with full scholarships. But, and there are some big buts (pun intended) and not merely on the actual fields and courts of play.


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) governs sports programs for men and women in thousands of colleges and universities. With the advent of incredible television contracts, marketing techniques that use the young athletes, college football and basketball programs, primarily, are earning enormous profits.


A few days ago, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in a dramatic ruling that will roll down hill rapidly in every conference, school and athletic dorms, the "student-athletes" will now have the opportunity to share in the boundless profits.


Sports fans, the NLRB has shaken every level in the athletic fraternity, declaring that college athletes are employees of their institution. The particular door-opening came in response to Northwestern University players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships, allowing them to unionize.


Agents and lawyers will be knocking on the doors of college presidents and athletic directors. Why not? Take a look at all the receipts from regular season games, the bowl games, championships and television and radio coverage, all great revenue sources.


Newspapers suffer from all these by providing free news space for sporting enterprises. Few, if any, of the academic facilities buy advertisements in the public prints (forgive the old time description of daily, weekly and monthly publications).


Many critics will like to rag on the idea the athletes receive educations. Let's point out that not many of them end up in the professions; some do, but lots of the prime-time players end up in the National Football League and National Basketball Association. The remaining usually end up in hard times without degrees or educations.


In this weekend of the NCAA basketball championships, take a look at all the big name coaches. The majority earn more annual salaries than their college presidents and aren't included on the faculties, just coaching and recruiting and collecting appearance fees where everyone can see and hear of their wisdom on gridirons and basketball courts. They also earn more than $1 million each annually for coaching.


These two main sports provide funding for minor sports and it's all on the backs of young athletes. Once they sign the agreement for whatever school, they are actually chattel of the coaches and teams. They can't even take a free car ride or a lunch or dinner for fear of violating "ethics" and "rules" of the NCAA.


The athletes of today spend most of their days conditioning, practicing and using tutors to help them academically. It's also easy to say a player just can't seem to make it in the classroom while their coaches demand most all of their time.


The schools, without any care or concern, make oodles of money selling athletes jerseys, photographs and other dandies and the "student" doesn't get a dime – or a dollar in today's economy.


Such clichés as Rah, rah, team, team, and "all for one" and "one for all" are practically out of date. Today, its money, money and more money. One thing for sure is the young men and women performing for their schools have earned the right to unionize and be paid for their appearances. The NLRB has opened the door and the scrambling is well underway.


Those who may think collegiate games are merely non-profit for "old alma mater," should consider some of these facts.


In the 2012-2013 academic year, Northwestern University did not lose a bit. In fact, the program generated $30.1 million in revenue and expenses and profited $8.4 million.


The time is coming and quickly when young athletes leaving high school sign with agents, first; sign pay scales, second; and endorse scholarships bottom lines, third. Coaching styles will change with this.


As sports fans watch the Sweet 16 to the bitter end this weekend, count the profits for all the schools.


Let's see, the commercials will be broadcasting, "drink responsibly" over and over and announcers will be talking about the "great" and the "awesome" coaches. The latter, of course, will be looking for some new places to land for more lucre, that is legal tender.



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