March Madness: It’s crazy to not pay the athletes

Drew Taylor

As a lover of college basketball, this month is probably my favorite month of the year. March Madness is here, and it’s as crazy as ever.

From Loyola-Chicago’s buzzer-beater against Miami to Buffalo’s shocking beatdown over Arizona to UMBC achieving one of the greatest upsets in sports history by beating Virginia and becoming the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the the NCAA Tournament, it’s been insane.

College basketball, especially the tournament, has always been something I enjoyed growing up. The talent might be of lower quality than the NBA, but the games are fun to watch. The bands playing their schools’ fight songs, the student section chants and the alumni getting excited for their team, it’s all part of the wonderful experience of college ball.

But recently, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit guilty while I watch. While the tournament produces a ton of revenue for the schools and the NCAA, the players who actually play the game are forbidden to receive a single penny for their performance. Some of the players are looking forward to future NBA careers, but the rest will never make any money for their hard work and success on the court.

It’s unfair to these players. They are bringing in the money for everyone else but themselves. The coaches get paid salaries up to seven figures. Universities are able to use players’ performances in the tournament for marketing purposes. An example is Florida Gulf Coast University still embracing the “Dunk City” nickname that it was given by fans and media years ago.

In the previous fiscal year, the NCAA alone reported more than $1 billion in revenue. This includes all sports for both men and women, but the men’s basketball tournament is the top money maker. Yet, for whatever reason, the players driving the revenue are not allowed to take a share of the profits.

The athletes are not only disallowed from being paid by their schools, but from groups that may want to sponsor them as well. It makes no sense that a college superstar is not able to make money by signing a shoe deal with Nike or Adidas, or is not allowed to be paid from a Subway commercial.

Some have argued that if players are paid, it will bring an end to possible corruption in college sports, where players are paid under the table against NCAA rules. This is not entirely true; even if they are paid, there is still a chance of extra money being given in secret for players to choose one school over another. But that does not mean that the players should not get paid at all.

While you enjoy March Madness this next couple of weeks, just remember that these players’ talent and hard work is exploited. If we really care about these athletes, we should fight to let them be compensated.

Drew Taylor is a columnist. Contact him a [email protected]