Why We Must Reform the NCAA

On college campuses across America this month, familiar sights and sounds have started up again as the college football world is now into thrust of fall camp.  It is a time where hungry freshmen and sophomores seek to dethrone their upperclassmen teammates on the depth charts and battle-tested seniors look to cement their legacy.

Over the next two weeks, these young men will work, sweat and bleed through the dog days of August as they prepare for another chance to chase their dreams, bring pride to their respective institutions and placate college football fans all across the globe. These young men play for the love of the game, for pride, and for many; their tuition, room and board.

However, the 2014 season will be one of changes.  The BCS era has finally come to an end, the playoffs are here and the world of college football now finds itself in the midst of an epic debate about the future of the sport.

College football is no longer the innocent little game that Rutgers defeated Stanford in back in 1869. It is now a billion dollar industry with million dollar coaches and mega tv deals and the courts have spoken; players deserve a piece of pie.

As the world of college athletics begins to grapple with the aftermath of the O’Bannon vs the NCAA ruling, one thing is certain; the status quo will not and should not stand.

How can we as a country constantly complain about worker-CEO wage gaps and allow a system to stand where coaches can be paid millions of dollars while their players are suspended for selling autographed t-shirts?

Even if  you believe that the non-monetary benefits of free tuition, room and board is fair compensation for players athletic commitment, it is hard to justify a system that both mandates non-monetary compensation and prohibit participants from profiting off of their name or image at the same time. No other student on campus has that restriction on them. If the star engineering student on full academic scholarship comes up with a new design and someone decides to sell his consulting services on the free market, no one stops him.

If college is supposed to be the place where we train our next generation of entrepreneurs, we are not doing any favors by doing everything we can to kill the entrepreneurial spirits of our athletes.

Furthermore, we have a system that tells our athletes who produce the biggest economic impacts (primarily young men of color) that they shouldn’t receive compensation or benefit from their name or image because other athletes in non-revenue producing sports wouldn’t get equal benefits. In a country that has spent the greater part of the past century promoting the concepts of the free market and capitalism, this is pure hypocrisy. There is no other industry in America outside of prison, that such a system would be tolerated.

Karl Marx himself couldn’t have dreamed up such a system of revenue distribution.

As we debate how to reform big-time college athletics in the aftermath of O’Bannon vs NCAA, the answer cannot be to place more restrictions on the lives of these young men and women or give the NCAA more power over them. Nope, it is time that we liberate our college athletes from a system that clearly does not work in their favor and build a system where they are more in control of their lives and decisions.

The current system is not only un-sustainable, it is un-American.

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