March Madness Makes Mad Money

Did you know the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament generated a revenue of over $1 billion last year? That’s more profit than the NBA playoffs, the NFL post-season, the World Series, and the NHL Stanley Cup.

To get a personal visual, the NCAA makes more money in just a few weeks than the annual income of 25,856 of your friends and you combined. Guess how much money the players get? None. Zippo. Not-a-thing.

While the players are running up and down the courts sweating, bumping elbows and risking injuries, hitting free throws they practiced several hours a week for the last year, the bureaucrats of the sports world are on the sidelines eating nachos and making all the profit. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? I am a firm believer that “those who work deserve their pay (1 Tim. 5:18).”

You may exclaim: “They’re already getting a scholarship plus room and board paid for! Shouldn’t that be enough? Don’t be greedy!” Before you jump to hasty conclusions, look at the facts. On average, a full Division 1 scholarship is $25,000 per year. It seems like a lot, but let’s break it down.

First, money is spent solely on books, classes, housing, and meal plans. Therefore, the student athlete never generates any income. Also, the athlete is susceptible to injury. If he gets hurt, one call from the office will send this athlete away with nothing but the weight of student loans.

Second, players from low-income households resort to Pell Grants because they don’t have extra money to spend on groceries. I had a friend in college who was a student athlete and worked part-time at the university cafeteria. How is he supposed to enjoy his life when he commits to practicing 4 hours a day, attend classes, study, and work a few hours just for pocket change? I am not asking that we pay the student athletes like the pros. I suggest paying the student athlete $5,000 a year. This would give them some spending cash and an opportunity to start managing their money.

Third, top NCAA executives make at least $1 million per year. Guess who else makes money off these near-professional level athletes? Their own coaches. That’s right. The average coach earns at least $100,000 a year (The highest paid college basketball coach Rick Pitino, from the University of Louisville, makes $8.9 million a year). Don’t you at least think some of that money should be placed into the pockets of the athletes? Aren’t they the #1 reason why we pay to watch?

Although the NCAA is a non-profit organization, I believe billions of dollars are made off the blood, sweat, and determination of young men and women whose efforts are exploited to increase profit margin. As a Christian, I believe the love of money can distort a person’s worldview and hinder their integrity (1 Tim. 6:10). It is my hope that the NCAA recognizes this dilemma and is open to the idea of changing their philosophy in the years to come.

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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