Purdue's Rob Henry Among Student-Athletes Looking for Their Fair Share
While Tuesday's college sports headlines centered around West Virginia's pending move from the Big East Conference to the Big 12 Conference, there was another potentially much larger story happening.
A group of more than 300 football and men's basketball players have filed a petition with the NCAA asking for a cut of the television revenue the two sports generate.
More specifically, what the players are after is a share of TV money to go into what they are calling an "educational lockbox." Athletes would be able to use that money to cover the costs of continuing their education after their eligibility has been used. They would then receive the remainder of their share upon completion of their degree.
The NCAA's response was predictable—the same rhetoric as always about how it sets aside 96 cents on the dollar for student-athletes while not understanding, or completely ignoring, the fact that paying for tournaments and putting some money into the student-athlete assistance fund is not the same thing as really giving those athletes a fair share of the money they help to generate.
This is one that could get very interesting should it wind up in the courts, because the NCAA's strategy of serving up the some old tired lines about how scholarships are adequate compensation for players is likely not going to cut it.
That's not to completely dismiss the notion of there being value in those scholarships; there most certainly is value. Most students would go to great lengths to be able to get a free education.
But it's also time to realize that we are not talking about amateur athletics. Amateur athletics are what middle-school kids play. Amateur athletics are not a multibillion dollar industry with huge profits being made by everyone involved with them, with the exception of the athletes themselves, of course.
Purdue quarterback Rob Henry made a great point when he told the Associated Press on Monday, "Without the athletes, there are no Division I sports. There are no TV contracts, no coaches' contracts. Athletes should be the No. 1 priority."
Instead, the role of the athletes in the financial growth of college athletics is akin to the role of the average Egyptian in the building of the pyramids—they pulled the sleds that carried the giant stones.
According to figures compiled by USA Today, 31 of the 68 coaches in this spring's NCAA basketball tournament earned salaries of more than $1 million. Of the 120 coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision, almost half of them—58 to be exact—exceeded the million-dollar mark.
Meanwhile, players continue to get suspended because someone fronts them the cash for a hotel room or buys them a cheeseburger.
There are many people out there who still cling to the notion that these kids are lucky to be getting that scholarship and should be appalled and ashamed at the idea of asking for more in return for their athletic services.
Let people spend hundreds of dollars to buy a jersey with a number that you made famous and see how lucky you feel when you don't see a damn dime of it.
Students-athletes have been treated like children pretty much from the birth of college athletics. Did anyone ask the athletes at West Virginia if they wanted to leave the Big East? No, the decision is being made for them by adults claiming to be acting in the best interests of the student-athlete.
The simple reality? Those adults are acting in the best interests of their bank accounts. Period. Are we really so hypocritical as to think athletes don't deserve to do the same?
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