College athletes need an alternative to the NCAA


Zoe Haworth

Politicians are supposed to unify, not divide

By Eric Bradach

Corruption, extortion and exploitation are nothing new to the competitive world of sports, but the big money in college-level sports has created an environment and culture that damages students’ education.

Ten individuals—including four NCAA basketball coaches and a top Adidas executive—were charged Sept. 26 with bribery and fraud by a federal prosecutor. The coaches are accused of accepting bribes to steer players to preferred financial advisers, business managers and agents. The Adidas executive is accused of arranging payments for high school athletes to secure commitments to Adidas-sponsored colleges and universities, according to a Sept. 26 press release from the Southern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising given the massive profit incentives. NCAA’s 2017 March Madness basketball tournament hauled in $10.4 billion in bets, according to the American Gaming Association. Meanwhile, the 2016 64-team tournament pulled in a record $1 billion from media rights fees, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and television ads, according to Investopedia. In 2015, NCAA’s 231 Division I schools spawned more than $9 billion in revenue, according to Business Insider.

These profits further encourage colleges and universities to push young athletes to the brink, so they spend more time on the basketball court than on their studies. Some might say it’s OK because the athletes will become millionaires after turning professional, but the odds aren’t in their favor.

According to the NCAA, only 1.1 percent of male college basketball players will become professionals based on the number of eligible and available draft picks in the NBA.

NCAA Division I teams play an average of 32 games during the regular season and could end up playing more if they qualify for the three-week-long March Madness tournament—not to mention the hours devoted to practices, summer training and traveling for away games.

Originally, college sports seemed like a saving grace for individuals who came from low-income households. They provided an opportunity for athletically gifted teens, creating a pathway to higher education and gracing a lucky few with full-ride scholarships. But now, college athlete recruiters give impressionable youths false hope only to have them work like dogs to drive their bottom line: profits. This violates their trust and robs them of their education.

If one is a college basketball—or any other college sport—fan who enjoys watching games and the social community surrounding it: great. No one should be against another’s—legal—interests and hobbies, but the massive profits in this industry have created an environment of exploitation and greed. Fans need to put the welfare of the next generation above their own pleasures. 

There comes a point when reform is no longer an option, and the culture around NCAA basketball, as this recent scandal suggests, is a precise example. The time has come to separate education and athletics at higher educational institutions.

An alternative outlet for professional sports recruiting needs to be explored. Some other route is desperately needed for college students who enjoy playing sports and would like to go pro without taking time away from their studies because, when an individual is in college, education must come first.