Though disturbing sexual molestation cases have rocked the NCAA of late, they are merely a distraction from the true problem of collegiate athletics: the façade that is the modern day student-athlete. The NCAA operates as a multibillion-dollar industry, with massive television contracts, lucrative endorsements, and millionaire coaches and athletic directors.
The hypocrisy in all of this is that the athletes, the reason such a profitable business can exist, are left out in the cold. This glaring flaw has produced many scandals; from the Fab Five’s vanishing banners to Jim Tressel and tattoo-gate, any casual fan is aware of the problem and its insistence.
I believe there are three options for remedying the NCAA.
The first would be the full-on dismantling of the NCAA, a process that would be lengthy and arduous because of the utter size and value of the institution.
The second option is for schools to pay athletes money generated by NCAA sports (basketball, football) at either a flat rate or at market value. I don’t see how this could function considering the NCAA is based on athletic amateurism, and to allow this would blur the lines between the NCAA and its professional counterparts.
A third possibility, a novel one of sorts, is to allow collegiate athletes to be sponsored by outside entities. I call it “The Matt Howard Solution.”
I’ve labeled it thusly because Howard, the center for the two-time national runner up Butler basketball team, is the perfect poster child for this alternative. Howard was a fine collegiate player, anchoring an underdog team to Hoosier-like success, but his future as a professional basketball player is far from lucrative; he is currently playing in Greece.
While enrolled at Butler he played an indisputable role in promoting the school, uplifting the community, and undoubtedly helping the school generate money. Why, then, should he be left out of the spoils? What would be wrong with a Matt Howard State Farm commercial?
For this remote scenario to happen, I would imagine the NCAA would have to release a statement sidestepping its real issue of revenue sharing, saying something along the lines of, “The NCAA recognizes student-athletes’ role as community icons, and therefore, will allow them to garner sponsorship from private entities not related to universities.”
An argument against this idea is the possibly resulting pitfalls of money being thrown at unproven and overhyped freshman that eventually flop (see Renardo Sidney) and do not have the positive impacts of a Howard. I would counter by saying that the attention and business built following such high-school prospects’ path to the collegiate level would justify any money such a kid could garner.
Another argument goes as follows: What would stop the big shoe companies (Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and now Under Armour) from “sponsoring” players and eventually completely dictating college sports?
Seeing as these companies already have massive contracts with nearly all Division I schools, I don’t see why allowing athletes to directly benefit from dealings with the companies would radically change much. And I’d hypothesize that companies would play a role in recruitment, and that Nike-sponsored athletes would most likely be playing on Nike-sponsored teams.
A final argument against such a proposal would claim this scenario would jeopardize the heart and soul of college athletics; that it would drive student-athletes to play for money rather than love of the game or school pride. While I am not happy to proclaim this, I must say that this is already the case.
If a Division I athlete is playing at the collegiate level purely as a stepping-stone to the professional echelon, he is already playing for the money. Conversely, if an athlete is playing because he loves the game and strives to win, a monetary benefit on the side would not change that.
This is not a perfect solution. I don’t believe there is a miracle remedy to the problem that is the NCAA. But I believe this to be the best option. It would avoid complete chaos and sustain an institution that this country cherishes.
Reach contributing writer Holden Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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