Jared Leingang, Reporter
Every March, the National Collegiate Athletic Association holds a men’s and women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. The men’s tournament receives the most attention with the top 64 teams all vying for a championship trophy.
Many people print and fill out a tournament bracket from ESPN’s website with their predictions on who will win the championship. There are also websites like Fanduel that allow people to bet on their brackets with friends and co-workers.
In 2014, investor Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to anyone who could correctly predict the entire tournament. This year, Buffett offered $1 million a year for life to the employee of Berkshire Hathaway, a company he has shares in, who correctly predicted what teams will make it to round 16 in the tournament.
An average of 70 million brackets were filled out for the 2016 tournament, and Las Vegas casinos made a profit of $100 million in bets and an additional $1.19 billion was made off of TV ad revenue in 2015 from the tournament. Everyone profits from the tournament except the actual people who play the game, the student athletes.
Even the coaches get in on the fun. In 1975, the highest paid coaching job was $35,000, which today when adjusted for inflation, would equal $159,000. Television contracts and the popularity of the sport has raised the salaries exponentially. The five highest paid coaches in this year’s tournament were Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski, University of Kentucky’s John Calipari, Arizona University’s Sean Miller, University of Kansas’ Bill Self and Michigan State University’s Tom Izzo.
They all earn an average of roughly $5.6 million a year, with Krzyzewski’s $7.3 million leading the pack. The average annual salary of a Division I head coach is around $1 million a year, while the annual salary of the players is zero.
The athletes that actually go out on the court and play receive nothing in return for their efforts. They risk potential career-ending injuries and travel on the road all while trying to maintain grades to graduate. They miss class while on road trips and have to make up exams along with other classroom responsibilities. They should get paid because they generate the revenue for the tournament because without the players there would be no tournament.
The coaches receive bonuses for winning certain games so the players should receive some compensation as well.
Approximately 1 percent of men’s basketball players actually make it to the professional level. After college their basketball careers are likely over.
There’s the argument that athletes are students and not employees, and that should be true, but when the colleges they play for and the overall organization is a huge monopoly, it’s hard to look the other way. People don’t view a basketball player as a sports management major at college, they’re viewed as an athlete. It’s their job, except they don’t get paid for it.
The life of a student athlete isn’t a walk in the park, and although some get scholarships it’s only sports-based so if the person decides to stop playing the sport and focus on school the scholarship is revoked.
Former University of Connecticut star basketball player Shabazz Napier led his team to a national championship in 2014 and recently admitted that he had some rough nights.
“We do have hungry nights when we don’t have enough money to get food and sometimes money is needed,” said Napier in an interview with CNBC.
Student athletes do have some compensation with scholarships and other small benefits but as of last year, positive changes have been made. NCAA athletes receive an unlimited amount of meals and snacks while colleges have the option to cover players full costs. This goes beyond tuition, room and board to transportation and academic supplies. It’s a definite step in the right direction to ensure student athletes don’t have the burden of paying for everything.
The NCAA profits off of the hard work of the players they’re supposed to be supporting and the players receive little to nothing in return. It’s time a change is made.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost