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The Abuse of The NCAA

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FILE - In this March 21, 2013, file photo, in this image taken with a fisheye lens, the NCAA logo is displayed at mid-court before Albany's practice for a second-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia. Barely a month ago, the NCAA was shamed into apologizing for trying to rig its own investigation into funny business at the University of Miami. According to a new report, that apology didn't go nearly far enough. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

Recently we looked at the absurd practices of the NFL. If you think these guys are bad, well at least they pay their players to have their minds and bodies wrecked by head on collisions. The NCAA embarrasses the NFL business model by taking all the same liberties with student athletes but insists they get these services without paying a penny in salaries. In fact, if you are a student athlete and take a little spiff from somebody like Nike, Under Armour or Addidas, you get thrown out.

At some schools, football revenues pay a huge portion of the schools total budget. College football is electric, fans are passionate and the popularity is growing thanks in part to the formation of the BCS (Bowl Championship Series). Revenues from lucrative TV contracts are great and expanding audiences via mobile delivery make it even better.

You are entitled to conclude with all of these growing streams of capital that college tuition costs must be falling like a stone. Yea right! College tuition is going up even faster than prescription drug prices. In fairness to both sides, colleges are spending in lots of important ways trying to keep relevant in a time of rapidly changing technology.

Nevertheless the value of a four-year bachelors degree in business, arts or whatever is diminishing due the speed of change in the job market. Experts like Elon Musk and Jeff Zuckerberg warn that Artificial Intelligence, the next big thing will only make the pressure on colleges even more intense.

That’s a shame but not your problem if you are the parents of seriously talented kid that is certifiable insane about playing college football. College administrators and other right wing radicals claim that the player is compensated with a four-year tuition free scholarship and the value of that amounts to $100,000 to as much as $200,000 depending on the school.

This logic carries several debatable points. The marginal cost of a college adding an extra student to a classroom is near zero. The building is there, the professor is in place and a desk has already been added. So from the standpoint of cost, how much is does the free scholarship actually cost. Almost nothing; well maybe a little if room and board are included.

But are the student athletes getting a full time education or majoring in easy to complete but useless areas? This is a difficult question to answer. In the past there was lots of antidotal evidence that things like Group Communication Dynamics or worst of all Basket Weaving were being selected as majors. We suspect that much of this is because football players get a bad rap about their intelligence. In reality though, smart, dumb or average everybody has to earn a living and it is the job of colleges to prepare students for this responsibility.

We argue that all NCAA athletes should be paid and that football players should earn the most based on their risk of injury. Right now the single most important economic reason for playing college football is to reach the NFL. At anytime a college player could experience a career threatening injury. If that happens, his career is down the drain and no degree in Communications is going to help.

Imagine for a moment the situation for a top ranked Heisman Trophy candidate. On the final play of the season he is tackled tearing his ACL. He wins the Heisman Trophy but drops in the draft from the first round to the third round. It winds up costing him $1 million in bonus money. This is hardly an absurd scenario. It is time to pay up and make things right.

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