More on College Athletes

I wrote recently about the NCAA’s exploitation of college athletes, and on that topic we have Huff Po’s Leo W. Gerard first on the fragile nature of the athletic scholarship …

No, it’s that just like broken down greyhounds, injured college players often are tossed aside. Of course, a college can’t euthanize a ball player whose injury renders him unable to resume play or whose grades disqualify him — at least not the way a race track can put down an injured dog.
What universities can do is kill players’ dreams. And they do.

Over the past year, 169 players have “disappeared” from the rosters of the teams in the men’s basketball tournament. The National College Players Association, which is supported by the United Steelworkers, compared the 2007-08 rosters to the current ones and noted the missing players.

And then on the inadequacy of those scholarships …

In addition, a second National College Players Association study found that players also suffer because the NCAA prohibits universities from providing athletic scholarships that equal the cost of attendance. That means athletes, often from impoverished backgrounds, are expected to pay out-of-pocket for expenses not covered by what was described to them and their families as “full” scholarships. The study found the average cost to the athletes is $2,763 a year, but it’s as high as $6,000.

The NCAA needs to spend more on scholarships from the $545 million it receives each year from CBS Sports for the right to televise the men’s basketball tournament. The NCAA must end the prohibition on full scholarships, and the scholarships must be awarded for five years, an athlete’s typical length of stay.

Gerard is absolutely right, and his prescriptions strike me as sensible and tenable. Now here’s Dave Zirin on how to compensate college athletes:

Here’s one way to do it. Set aside a fraction of the revenue the tournament generates. Put it into a trust for players to have access to when they turn, say, 25 years old. Then, put restrictions on the trust – so student-athletes can use it to continue their education.

Yes, some of the kids in the tournament – a tiny fraction – are headed to the pros, and will be just fine financially. But the rest, many of them low-income, are dedicating time, risking injury and compromising their studies while generating millions.

What if they went on strike?

I see nothing wrong with Zirin’s idea, although it’s one that’s been floated before by many others. I’d also make access to the trust dependent upon the player’sgraduation–provided, of course, the university deigns to honor his scholarship.

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