Solution Proposal Working Draft Livia

Introduction and Problem
The exploitation of college athletes, particularly athletes in Division I men's basketball and football programs, has been an ongoing topic of controversy within America's higher education system for decades. This controversy is accentuated each year by football and basketball championships, when the public's disposition of outright madness is exposed and vigorously expressed. During these times in particular, revelations and expositions proliferate, censuring low graduation rates and the recruitment and commodification of young men and women solely for their athletic talent and potential (Branch).

A succession of scandals in recent years have made this depravity of college sports constant headline news. The public expresses outrage each time a story about a student-athlete taking money form under the table comes to surface. However, the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, where student-athletes produce billions of dollars for universities and private companies while receiving nothing in return (Branch). The power of the system to hold these athletes out for derision while portraying them as subjects of moral disgrace distorts the real transgression here. The conditions of the athletic scholarship and transfer rules, prohibitions against agents, limits on due process, failure to deliver on the promotion to educate, and the unobstructed selling of athletic images are just a few examples of the tools of exploitation that benefits college sports leaders while oppressing those who actually perform on the field/court (Staurowsky).

The mix of business and college sports makes this topic so controversial because both sides seem to have legitimate arguments. People who believe student-athletes are far from exploited support their argument by stating that college athletes receive scholarship money, elite training opportunities, student-assistance funds, academic and support services, free medical care/insurance, and exposure/new experiences ("The Value of College Sports"). Others who believe athletes are definitely exploited combat these arguments by professing that athletes "work" a 50-60 hour week in training for their sport while having a relatively nonexistence social life. They are also not guaranteed their scholarships and experience immense pressure to perform at their best and obtain a certain degree of academic performance (Branch). Student-athletes are also required to sign what's called the Student-Athlete Statement in order to remain eligible for NCAA competition (Berfeld). Within this document is a section that grants permission for the NCAA, member schools, conferences, and "a third party acting on behalf of the NCAA" to use an athlete's name or image for promotions (Berfeld). Athlete's effectively transfer the right to profit off their own image to the NCAA. Robert Givens, a low student who wrote an article about the economic exploitation of student-athletes by the NCAA in the UMKC Law Review, commented, "Essentially, for as long as you want to play for this school at the DI level, you cannot make any money for anything that is directly tied to your athletic achievements…All of these possibilities go away with your signing of this agreement" (Berfeld).

This problem has sky-rocketed in recent decades due to the increasing business of college athletics. Many causes could be linked to this problem, but the most prominent cause is simply money. There's no doubt that college athletics generates a lot of money. The NCAA makes billions of dollars selling the rights to televise games and selling merchandise and jerseys (Thomas). The Student-Athlete Statement athletes must sign in order to participate and maintain amateur status makes certain that virtually any financial gain from an athlete's abilities, likeness, or name would go to the NCAA (Cline). The NCAA has athletes sign this contract supposedly to ensure athletes compete purely for the love of the game rather than for profit (Cline0. Yet, the NCAA, its member institutions, and coaches are able to benefit greatly from the profit. According to an article published by USA Today, the highest-paid public employee in 40 states is a college football or basketball coach (Cline). They earn salaries that are in the millions per year and are able to earn even more through endorsement deals (Branch). By contrast, the athletes they coach, whose skill and talent are the very reason for the coaches' fortunes, must sign away the right to earn any sort of income (Cline).

More specifically, the nation’s 25 highest-paid college football coaches at public universities are paid on average of $3.85 million a year in guaranteed money. The put that in perspective, that’s more than the $3 million NFL Jets coach Rex Ryan earned last year. There are 128 schools with football programs that compete in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (highest level of competition). Of the contracts obtained from 108 of those schools, it is revealed that the coaches of those teams will make an average of $1.75 million this year, which doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of dollars of incentives, perks, and benefits in their contracts. The average salary a DI men’s college basketball coach receives is $1.5 million, not including bonuses. However, coaches from the top basketball programs can make as much as $9 million (still not including bonuses). Athletic programs generate revenue that allows their athletic departments to be self-supporting and have millions left over to help fund academic programs. However, the leftover money usually goes into a fund and stays within the athletic department. This is because a college’s high-profile athletics program is often the strongest marketing device the school has. A team (in whatever sport) competing at the national level draws worldwide attention, which brings multiple benefits to the school. In order to compete at the top level, schools must maintain winning teams, which means paying millions of dollars to retain great coaches and developing the facilities of the athletic department to keep athletes fit and focused. Brit Kirwan, chancellor of the Maryland State University system, stated, “It’s really an embarrassment for higher education that at a time when both colleges and universities are having fiscal challenges and tuition is rising that has everybody alarmed, here we are paying coaches at the level they’re being paid.”

One proposed solution to this problem would be to simply pay the athletes for their hard work. Instead of fixing the problem, this proposed solution would just cause more major issues. For instance, how do you decide which athletes get paid? Is it every athlete playing in those sports of just the elite? The major problem within this solution is that you cannot pay players without invoking Title IX. Title IX prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. This covers all levels and areas of education, including athletics. All athletes (male and female) would have to be paid the same amount in order to avoid issues with federal law. Also, how would one determine the amount to pay players? Would there be one set amount for every athlete no matter the sport or the school in order to keep things fair? If athletes are allowed to get paid for endorsements, wouldn’t it give some programs an unfair advantage? The main point here is that paying student-athletes would cause more harm than good.

My solution to this growing problem would be to enforce rules that protect student-athletes from being exploited. More specifically, athletes should not be required to agree with everything on the Student-Athlete Statement in order to be eligible to play. They should not have to sign over their rights to the NCAA and allow that institution to benefit from their own skill. Also, coaches, athletic directors, and NCAA personnel should definitely not be paid as much as they are. The money needs to go back to the school as a whole instead of focusing primarily on the athletic department and increasing the coaches’ salaries to ensure that they stay at their university. The money should be dispersed evenly throughout the university with the focus on education and helping all students financially.

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