Op Ed: The NCAA, Amateurism, and Money -Zachary Faria

According to the Greenville News, Clemson is among the universities caught up in a federal investigation into college basketball, with former Tiger Jaren Blossomgame having received $1,100 in impermissible benefits. Clemson and USC joined NCAA royalty with schools such as Texas, Kentucky, Duke, Alabama, UNC, and many other universities across the nation in a scandal that could jeopardize the amateurism of college athletics.

The appropriate reaction is a simple one: who cares?

For years the criticisms of the NCAA’s amateurism model have grown, and for good reason. In 2016, the NCAA made over $995 million dollars. NCAA President Mark Emmert has averaged about $1.8 million dollars per year since at least 2012. In the fiscal year of 2017, the Clemson University Athletic Department topped $100 million in revenue for the first time ever, and, in the midst of one of the best seasons of Clemson basketball ever, head coach Brad Brownell is pocketing $1.9 million. Naturally, the whopping $1,100 Blossomgame received is the only money the NCAA model has a problem with.

While it may be violation of the Clemson Commandments to say such a thing, Dabo Swinney was wrong to say that paying college athletes is about entitlement. College athletes are no more “entitled” than Dabo himself is for signing an eight-year, $54-million-dollar contract last August. It isn’t entitlement for anyone to seek and receive the market value for their labor, including college coaches and college athletes.

39 States where the highest paid public official was the coach of a state university’s football or basketball program

It’s a fool’s errand to try and distinguish the difference between coaches and players in this way. In 39 states in 2016, the highest paid public official was the coach of a state university’s football or basketball program. Nick Saban has a higher salary than all but one NFL head coach. Kentucky’s John Calipari has a salary that would put him in the top five of NBA coaches. This doesn’t even factor in that college coaches can also profit off of endorsement deals, a privilege not afforded to players.

Players are also subject to arbitrary rules that coaches are not. Any player who transfers to another university is required to sit out of their sport the following year. Meanwhile, Jimbo Fisher will be on the sideline next year when Clemson travels to Texas A&M, even though he bailed on Florida State before their season was even over.

The NCAA is now at a crossroads. Do they hand down heavy sanctions against all the best NCAA teams right before the start of March Madness, likely destroying the college basketball season for years to come? Or do they wait it out and simply vacate the wins of the offending teams once the tournament is over, rendering the thing an entirely pointless experience?

Or do they take the third road, finally doing away with the foolish illusion of amateurism, letting the market operate freely instead of dealing with the constant under-the-table scandals that amount to a black market for athletic talents? This is the more intelligent and moral option, meaning it’s likely the one the NCAA is least likely to approve of.

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