NCAA still doesn't pay its players: now that's true (March) Madness


College basketball players are always told that school should be their top priority. That is why, so the argument goes, “student-athletes” shouldn’t be paid: because that would detract from their academic pursuits. So why are they forced to spend most of their time training for games that bring in millions of dollars for their universities, but not a penny for them?

Too many top college athletes have , and the limited school meal plans are not enough. Shabaz Napier of the University of Connecticut as his team battled their way to a national championship title in 2014.

March Madness is projected to bring in around $900m for the NCAA this year. President Barack Obama, , has weighed in the debate surrounding the payment of players, but sadly .

We know from recent and scandals that players are doing little to no studying. Many of the top schools’ “student-athletes” spend on the practice field, watching tapes of their next opponent or doing other athletic-related activities. Class is an afterthought.

the NCAA can afford to pay players. Put in dollar terms, a 40 hour workweek on minimum wage would bring in around $300 , after taxes. That’s not a lot, but it would give a player the ability to not only survive but thrive. Tie this to academic standing, say a 2.0 GPA, and it incentivizes players’ to study. Being paid for practice and games would also alleviate much of the day-to-day stress than many “student-athletes” feel as a result of falling behind in class and assignments.

There are a number of other ways the and society can support players without diminishing the state of college sports and college athletes status as “amateurs.”

Athletes should receive a percentage of the revenue the universities earn on their behalf. It does not have to be a large percentage, but it should be conditional upon graduation from the university. Tying payment to graduation would create an incentive for players to finish school, especially if they are not going on to play professionally. A player who signs a professional contract with a major league, however, wouldn’t have to be offered a bonus, given that the starting salaries in most professional leagues would more than make up for them not receiving one.

Athletes at the top level of collegiate sports should also have health care for life, or at least be offered that option, given the high injury risk they run. Too many former college athletes are faced with despite many of those injuries being sustained while they were under contract with a university. Again, if a player makes it professionally, universities wouldn’t be obliged to pay for their health care.

These are fair ways to help players to succeed in the classroom as well as on the field. The NCAA could maintain the “student-athlete” guise while still raking in . The fact players are still not benefiting from their work on the field puts the “madness” in March Madness.

  • This article was amended on 26 May 2016. An earlier version said the March Madness tournament was projected to bring in $30m for the NCAA. The figure is closer to $900m.