A handful of top-performing and photogenic college athletes are now able to cash in on their talents and ply corporations to pay them for the work they do for universities. That perversion of the free market still leaves universities not only not paying for the value they extort from their indentured athletes but failing to provide them with educational opportunities equal to those offered the actual students on campus:
Athletes receive a desiccated version of the education provided to their peers — particularly in the revenue sports of Power Five men’s football and basketball. The institutions themselves acknowledge that they have ceded control over scheduling to television. In their formal letters of intent, athletes pledge to miss class for athletic pursuits. Choosing challenging majors becomes practically impossible; students are all-too-often clustered in classes perceived by campus advising offices to be less onerous. Coaches often receive bonuses for athlete academic performance. Fraud and cheating have followed so often that it is a matter of when, not where. There’s no getting around the structural reality: For students working full time to receive education-as-wage in a college sport, academics come second.
Even as universities and the NCAA force athletes to accept that an educational benefit is sufficient wage compensation for their talent (it is not), these athletes are producing an outrageous amount of revenue. That revenue goes to everyone else. The NCAA is now a billion-dollar annual monopsony. Thirty-seven public universities earn at least $100 million in revenue per year, the top three over $200 million. A significant chunk of that cash goes to football coaches, 54 of whom receive at least $3 million per year. Many are the highest-paid public employees in their states of residence [Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Jay M. Smith, and Stephen T. Casper, “‘Student-Athlete’ Has Always Been a Lie,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 2021.12.06].
If the Legislature really wants to make our universities more efficient and give all students more opportunity, it should get SDSU, USD, and other other campuses out of the sports racket.