During the last few months, the movement to pay college athletes has gained more traction. In August 2014, a federal judge ruled that college basketball and football players should earn a share of the licensing revenues due to the use of their name, image, and likeness. The NCAA promptly appealed the ruling. According to the court, the athlete can gain access to the funds when they have graduated from college or left college. The funds should be placed in a trust. The minimum amount that schools should pay the athletes is $5,000 annually. The verdict is commonly referred to as ‘O’Bannon’ case. O’Bannon is a former UCLA hoops who filed a lawsuit after realizing that his image was being used by in an NCAA-branded video game. More than 20 other athletes joined the lawsuit; include five athletes who were active NCAA football players. The verdict came just a few days after the NCAA ruled that 65 schools in the Big 5 power conference should have the autonomy to set their own rules. The schools were ready to offer the athletes a certain amount of money to cover their cost of attending college. The amount of money that the colleges were willing to pay ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 above the value of the athletic scholarships they offered (Strauss para 2).
In addition, in March 2014, a regional direct of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) claimed that it was possible for football players from Northwestern University (NU) to unionize. This is due to the fact that the students acted as employees of the university. However, Northwestern University has since appealed the decision. The national office of the NLRB has not yet made the final ruling on the appeal. In addition, many papers claim athletes should be paid.
The lawyer who helped NFL and NBA players become free agents is striving to create an open market for college athletes. In March 2014, Jeffrey Kessler filed an anti-trust lawsuit that has the potential of altering college sports the way we know it. This is significantly different from the O’Banon case, which was limited to intellectual property rights. Kessler claims that football and basketball players generate huge revenue from the sports. Therefore, it is wrong for the schools to have laws that prohibit them from compensating the athletes. However, the lawsuit will not go to trial until at least the fall of 2015. If Kessler wins, the court may force NCAA to implement a real pay-for-play system, which is has feared for a long time. Paying the football and basketball players raises the question as to whether it should also pay other players. It addition, it raises the question of whether there are limits of payment the players should receive. Despite the fact that the judge of the O’Bannon case did not torpedo the traditional college sports model, the judge of the case seems to have made an invitation to another judge to do so (Strauss para 4).
The opinion of the judge of the O’Bannon case, Claudia Wilken, condemns the practices of NCAA. It leads to the removal of some of the most popular justifications that limit the compensation of college athletes to simply the value of their scholarships. The judge claims that the price fixing agreement among schools is detrimental to the welfare of the players. The judge also claims that it is not clear why colleges find it difficult to pay student-athletes yet they pay other students who are part of the student government.
It is a fact that college sports are not simply amateur. Different conferences have their own television networks. To increase their revenues, students switched to conferences that offered more money. In addition, the salary of coaches of college sports has increased significantly. Currently, the average salary of coaches of in the Football Bowl Division, which is the top level of college football colleges, is approximately $1.7 million annually. Over the past seven year, there has been a significant increased in the salary of the coaches, which has made them reach the current level. Therefore, parties that support paying college athletes claim that athletes should also get their share of the money. As such, Kessler picked the right time to file a lawsuit against NCAA. There has been a significant recognition among fans, public, and schools that the current system treats college athletes unfairly. Therefore, there should be a fundamental change to the system.
Wilkens just fell short of making athletes have the right to receive millions of dollars from schools. The ruling ensured that college athletes could earn money from the trust fund created by the revenues the sports receives. The NCAA has the right to limit the amount of money that the athletes receive. However, if the ruling of the court is upheld, it would make athletes of high performing schools in athletes receive a share of the hundreds of millions that the schools receive for the first time in the history of NCAA.
Wilken’s ruling could have ensured that college athletes receive as much as half of the television revenue from the sports. However, it leads to the creation of a new expense that athletic powerhouses would comfortably afford to pay. Despite the fact that schools offer athletes much less that the maximum amount set by NCAA, the ruling states that the schools may offer much more if there were willing. Some of the athletic powerhouses earn as much as $20 million in TV-rights alone. In addition, revenues from other sources make the sports departments have revenues of more than $100 million (Koroma & Gregory para 9).
The ruling gives NCAA the right to limit the amount of money that it places in the trust of the athletes. However, the money should not be less than $5,000 annually for every year that the athletes are eligible to compete. The ruling also gives the NCAA the right to enforce its current rules, including the rule that prohibits athletes from earning an income from their image by endorsing commercial products when they are still studying. The ruling also gives NCAA the right to enact rules that prohibit schools from offering certain athletes higher pay than other players ((Strauss para 7).
According to NCAA, opening the door for athletes to receive payments would ruin college athletes. Giving players a share of the broadcasting revenue would make funs turn off from the sports. In addition, it would increase competition in sports between different schools. It would also undermine the importance of academics for the college players. It is a fact that the college athletes do not receive athletic scholarships to simply engage in athletics. The major aim of attending college is to prepare them for a future productive life. Therefore, they should not be paid for engaging in sports while studying. Sports is simply a co-curricular activity that most students engage in.
According to NCAA’s president, offering paychecks to college athletes would lead to fundamental changes in colleges. On the other hand, parties that support payment of college athletes claim that top college athletic programs are similar to the programs of professional teams. They both have multi-billion TV contracts, ensure that athletes engage in grueling regimens, and have high quality facilities. However, the only difference between college sports programs and professional teams is that college sport programs have restrictions on the amount of money that the athletes may earn. However, these parties forget the fact that engaging in sports activities is not simply the major activity that the athletes have to undertake. The athletes also have to study (Koroma & Gregory para 3).
In its appeal of the case, NCAA claims that the court should acknowledge the fact that amateurism is critical in NCAA’s business model. Therefore, it would be wrong for NCAA to ensure that college athletes receive a certain portion of revenues from broadcasting rights. In addition, NCAA claims that the athletes do not have publicity rights. Therefore, it would be wrong to pay them. The 65 schools that were given more autonomy on management of their sports affairs are expected to vote in January. They would shed light on how to implement the ruling of the O’Bannon case (Terlep & Cohen para 5).
In addition, it is vital to note that college athletes who are on an athletic scholarship are actually ‘paid.’ They receive free tuition, meals, and a certain amount of money for miscellaneous expenses. In some bigger universities, which are more successful in athletics, the athletes receive academic counseling, life training skills, and other benefits. It is a fact that not all athletes are on a scholarship. In addition, not all athletes are on a full scholarship. However, the athletes receive compensation, which is the form of living expenses and educational benefits. This is essentially ‘pay.’ Student athletes also receive free professional coaching, fitness training, and support from therapists. Football and basketball players pay $2,000 to $3,000 every week to receive similar training prior to being drafted by professional teams. Using the valuations, students who receive a full scholarship in a major conference school receive between $50,000 and $150,000 in education, room, and coaching costs. Therefore, there is no need to offer the athletes a pay check in addition to the above benefits (Koroma & Gregory para 6).
Under the current situation, colleges have four options. The universities may increase scholarships to ensure that 13 men’s basketball players and 85 football players receive scholarships. To avoid violating Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs, the colleges have to offer a matching number of women scholarships. The scholarships would be across a number of different sports. The colleges may also increase the number of full scholarships it offers to athletes. This would enable the schools share the revenue from broadcasting rights among the athletes by offering them full scholarships. If the ruling of the O’Bannon case takes effect, colleges would have to establish trust funds. In establishing the trust funds, the colleges must ensure that they adhere to the parameters set by Title IX (Strauss para 11).
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