Written by Jeremy Brown, Gatorsfirst.com Contributor
Let’s take a minute from our bowl picks and praying for one of our men’s basketball “big men” to gain 30 pounds over the holidays and talk about an age old argument: Should players receive a portion of merchandise sales?
In October 2008, the Knight Commission met to discuss the issue in what seemed to be a one-sided argument. This meeting consisted of former college athletes voicing their opinions; some to the extent of being very emotional, on how much student athletes are being “exploited.”
The basic argument was that universities are profiting from the popularity of athletes by putting their numbers on the back of jerseys and that players should receive a portion of the profit. Is this argument valid? Let’s look at some of the general arguments and assumptions about this issue.
Athletic departments make large profits each year
This could not be further from the truth. Most Div. I schools do not make profits from their athletic programs as a whole. The last numbers I have seen project that 80-95 percent of Division I-A schools do not make a profit.
The University of Florida projected a $68 million budget with revenues projected at $69.5 million. This seems like a large amount of profit; however, this is a school that won two basketball titles and one football title in the span of two years recently.
Other schools' athletic programs are supplemented by funding from their academic institutions.
Sporting programs are self sustaining
Football, basketball and a handful of baseball programs make a profit. No other programs make money. This includes all of the smaller men’s sports and all women’s programs that are required by title IX.
I know what you’re thinking: “But the Lady Vols win basketball almost every year.”
Yes, the Lady Vols go to basketball championships more often than Fulmer goes to Krispy Kreme, but sending a team from a non revenue-generating sport into a final/championship ends up costing the school money, not generating it.
I could go in depth about why this is, but let’s leave in depth discussions about women’s sports to “The View.”
Schools make large amounts on merchandise
Merchandise brings in less than $1 million annually to the University of Florida compared to the $69 million total revenue. Again, this number would be significantly less in a school that did not win back to back-to-back championships. Merchandise is low on the list of revenue behind boosters, sponsorships, ticket sales etc.
Taking all of this into consideration, should players get a cut? I personally don’t think they will. The whole idea of intercollegiate athletics is based on student athletes, not professionals. Aside from that there are a few major points that led me to think this will never happen.
How do these players get paid?
The Knight Commission came up with some whacky ideas including trust funds and accounts that players can’t access until they leave college. If universities started doing this, the next argument would be, “why can’t we use this money when we need it?”
Another option would be paying players while they are playing. This would make it even more difficult for smaller schools to recruit good players.
Why would you go to a smaller school if you could go to a school with a large fan base and make some extra cash? A larger school's ability to recruit players is lopsided enough without tempting players with extra money.
I don’t know where the money would come from
The larger programs might be able to afford this, but the smaller ones already struggle to pay the costs associated with running an athletic program (scholarships, traveling, coaching cost, etc). Even the larger programs would have problems with this because they use the profit from the large sports to help finance the smaller sports.
The money to pay players' portions of merchandise would also hurt non-revenue sports.
If UF sells a bunch of volleyball jerseys with Kisya Killingsworth’s number they would have to pay her a portion of that money. This money would have to come from a sport that already does not make a profit. This would cause schools to look twice at having sports that can’t support themselves.
Women’s sports might be ok with this because they are protected by Title IX, but what about smaller men’s sports? Men’s wrestling programs are already being cut in many parts of the country due to financial issues and Title IX.
The NCAA isn’t buying it
Typically, the NCAA will not budge on any issue regarding amateurism.
Article 12 of the NCAA manual explains the current legislation about amateurism in college sports.
Bylaw 12.01.1 states that only amateur student athletes are eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics.
The manual then defines a professional athlete as anyone who receives payment, directly or indirectly, for participation in athletics. This pretty much kills any chance of players getting paid under the current legislation.
With all that said, I do not think athletes should receive a portion of the merchandise sales. For the most part, I think players are getting a good deal with athletic scholarships alone.
I do not think intercollegiate athletes have it easy in any way, but some of them would not have been able to afford or get into the college that they are attending.
Between that and the fact that athletes graduate at a higher percentage than the general population, it is hard to feel sorry for them. Also, I can’t tell you how many people would have bought Gator jerseys this year without the No. 15 on them, but I think it would have still been a good amount.
A large portion of people are now buying No. 15 jerseys instead of generic Gator jerseys, but I don’t think the university cares what is on the jerseys as long as they sell. Overall, I think giving players a portion of merchandising money would create more problems than its worth.
*Note: I used the University of Florida athletics budget because this is a Gator site and it is one of the easiest to obtain. Also, I used Tebow’s name in the article so that more of you would read this.
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