Recently I saw where Chris Webber compared the situation NCAA college athletes are in to slavery. First of all, when Webber was in college, he was bankrolled by Michigan booster Ed Martin so, at the very least, he should exclude himself from the conversation. It’s highly doubtful his college experience was anything at all like a “normal” slave would have encountered. In fact, it was nothing like a “normal” scholarship student-athlete would have encountered. The fact that some of his own teammates consider him a pariah puts him in a different ctaegory from the normal student=athlete. Or slave for that matter, but, then, I’m only guessing on that part.
Webber now has a platform because he’s on TV and probably thinks it’s his duty to inform the public of the awful conditions NCAA athletes have to endure. Yet, for years he lied again and again (including to the grand jury) about his own cushy, illegal life he was basking in while attending UM – so he would only know by theorizing.
I have said for . . . ever that student-athletes have little to complain about – if they take advantage of all that’s afforded them. Full scholarships (room, board, books tuition and fees) can be supplemented by Pell Grant (for those who qualify), as well as “needy student fund” money. Making use of that would solve everyone’s, even the most destitute kid’s, problem (some are too lazy to fill out the Pell Grant form and many coaches feel “they don’t have the time to “hand-hold” the parents through the process). Now, in addition to that financial assistance, “cost-of-attendance” money, which is over and above what the scholarship covers, will be available beginning the 2015-16 academic year. (For a full assessment of my view of whether players should be paid, go to CoachGeorgeRaveling.com and read my guest column Why College Athletes Do NOT Need to Be Paid).
Sure, the universities are hauling in money hand over fist but, with the exception of a few, they’re not exactly rolling in dough. Funding all the non-revenue sports (meaning every one but football and men’s basketball – and, don’t forget, that although those two create revenue, it doesn’t mean they don’t spend more than they make) and keeping up with the Joneses in terms of facilities eat up any excess money that’s made. And now they’re faced with finding extra stipends for athletes. According to recently retired Virginia congressman Jim Moran, of the 1,083 college sports programs in the nation only 20 are profitable. (see “Jim Moran says only 20 colleges make a profit from sports” by Nancy Madsen of PolitiFact.com and the TimesDispatch.com, 12/22/14).
Where sympathy dries up for the universities, however, is in the salaries they’re paying their football and men’s basketball coaches. For example, the coach of whichever SEC West football team that finishes last will make at least $4 million. Hey, anybody can finish last. With the coaches being so handsomely compensated, the athletes feel (and are told) more money ought to be lining their pockets. Maybe this phenomenon should serve as a lesson for their future employment, i.e. when you work for a highly successful firm, the workers don’t often get to participate in profit sharing. Which is why, some will say, that’s why the Northwestern guys wanted to unionize. And, independent which side of that argument you were on, you can’t disagree what a mess it was, still is, and, undoubtedly, will be until those players are long gone.
At the risk of mixing a folk tale and a fable, what’s currently going on in intercollegiate athletics is what Henny Penny, aka Chicken Little was warning, i.e. “that the sky is falling” because the power brokers, aka the Power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame) are “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
Oprah Winfrey is someone who knows a little bit about the human spirit. Here’s her philosophy:
“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”