Every sport loving child throughout the country dreams of one day making it big and having the opportunity to go pro. While many may not ever actually make it to the big leagues, each year hundreds are accepted into prestigious college programs. The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed in the early 20th century to regulate and monitor over 1,200 North American institutions and conferences. As many of us know, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether these athletes should receive compensation for their participation on the teams.
Recently, Lamar Dawson, a linebacker who played for the University of Southern California between 2011 and 2015, attempted to bring back a proposed class action law suit against the NCAA and the Pac-12 Conference. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. In his suit Dawson views the NCAA and the Pac-12 Conference as “employers” of college players since they set limits on pay and work hours, within the meaning of the FLSA. Thus, it is alleged that the NCAA and the Pac-12 Conference violated California’s Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying college football players a minimum wage.
Dawson is not the first and far from the last of the athletes to request compensation for the time they spend on the field and the court. Despite the “glitz” of college athletics these players put their blood, sweat and tears into their craft, many times at the expense of the college education they exchanged their athletic abilities for. Though there has yet to be a ruling in favor of compensating college athletes, it leaves on to wonder where does the revenue generated from the games go?
According to the NCAA website most of their annual revenue is received from two sources: Division I Men’s Basketball Championship television and marketing rights ($821.4 million) and Championships ticket sales ($129.4 million). These funds are re-invested into the program through various funds. With nearly $100 billion in annual revenue it is almost unbelievable that there are no funds remaining to at least provide the players with a stipend. Demographically, many of these student athletes come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. By making the decision to play for these teams they preclude themselves from taking on income generating positions. This means that once the excitement of the game season is over, many of these athletes may return home to families that are still struggling to make ends meet. There is no guarantee that they will be signed to a professional team upon completion of their program, not to mention if they are unexpectedly injured during the season.
While there may be no current legal support for the idea that college athletes should be paid for their participation, it is possible to make a change. If the NCAA cared about their students like they say they do, they should at least consider the possibility of compensation.