Finally, real momentum is building in Congress to address the NCAA’s blatant use of college athletes for its – and individuals – personal gain.
Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.) released a report last Thursday titled “Madness Inc.” that takes direct aim at the $14 billion annually reaped in by the NCAA through on-campus sports and tournaments.
“It's time for the NCAA to find a way to compensate student-athletes. College football and basketball have become a multi-billion-dollar industry and everyone is cashing in except the players who are doing the work,” he said via Twitter.
Murphy is not alone in calling out the NCAA.
In March, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) filed a bill that would amend the federal tax code to allow college athletes to profit from “the use of their names, images, and likenesses via commercial opportunities.” This would include appearance fees, advertisements and video games.
Both Murphy and Walker, who are white, say the issue is more than a fairness question and use the term “civil rights” in backing their quests for change.
“More than half of the athletes playing big-time football and basketball are African-American,” Murphy said.
“And almost all of the adults getting rich off their exploits are white. And civil rights (are) not just about race. You have workers here being denied an adequate return on their labor.”
“Madness Inc.” is packed with factual financial information the NCAA would most likely never release to the public.
Between 2003 and 2018, revenues collected by college sports programs rose from $4 billion annually to $14 billion.
Within the Power 5 Conferences - Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences –12 percent of revenues go to athlete grant-in-aid, while 16 percent goes to coaches’ salaries. (Keep in mind how many more players there are than coaches.)
The 25 highest-paid football and men’s basketball coaches earn an average annual salary of $5.2 million and $3.2 million, respectively.
“Everybody is getting rich off an incredibly profitable industry except for the athletes,” Murphy said.
“If they can figure out how to make themselves rich, why can’t they figure out a way to share some of the largess?”
Walker calls the existing system “a violation of basic civil rights” because it prevents college athletes from benefiting from the same economic opportunities as “any other American.”
“On campus, if you are on a music scholarship, you can pick up gigs and be paid. Only college athletes have to sign a document that says you can’t benefit from your name, image or likeness.”
This is my personal example. Between 1979 and 1983, I was a football equipment manager for the University of Kansas. I received a monthly stipend that began at $80 and increased $10 per year. I received travel money for road trips. I received $10 the Friday before home games for meal money. I paid in-state tuition, although I was from Missouri and I also was allowed to work part-time jobs. During two-a-day practices for two weeks in August, I was paid federal minimum wage and overtime of time-and-half.
While the players received full-ride scholarships, housing and all meals, in the long run I came out better financially.
Walker’s bill, called the Student-Athlete Equity Act, would prevent tax-exempt organizations – including the NCAA and its member schools – from denying athletes the opportunity to make money by signing autographs or endorsing a particular brand of basketball shoes.
The NCAA would not be paying athletes, they would be making money on their own.
Naturally, the NCAA immediately released statement defending its financial restrictions on players and calling Walker’s bill “unnecessary.”
The charge for change has been building - and is gaining steam.
Last September, Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) introduced a multi-faceted bill making it easier for athletes to hold paying summer jobs, creates a scholarship program for athletes who don’t graduate before their athletic eligibility ends and provides full health insurance coverage to athletes who suffer sports-related injuries.
It went nowhere in the Republican-dominated House. It would stand a better chance now that Democrats have reclaimed the House.
Action is also coming at the state level.
California senate Majority Whip Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) has filed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” to allow athletes at the state’s 24 NCAA Division I schools “to be paid directly from a private or commercial source for the use of their names images, or likenesses,” This is how many Olympic athletes are compensated.
Several North Carolina House members are examining ways to provide legal protections for athletes. A bill would make it illegal for schools to derive revenue from the use of athletes’ names, images and likenesses without obtaining their written consent.
While no one knows what President Trump is capable of doing on any given day, Walker said he has been told that the president would sign his bill if it reaches the White House.
“I plan for that to happen this year,” he said.
“These are not feel-good things just to have conversations and dialogue,” Lawson said.
“We are trying to pass these bills.”
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton told the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche during last week’s NFL meetings that the current trend in new coach hires is bad for the game and minority coaches.
“I think we've got a diversity problem, like this season, what took place, that's hitting us square in the face. I think that not a lot was written or discussed about it,” Payton said.
“There are a handful of coaches that I know that if I was a GM, who I would be interested in hiring.”
Eight NFL coaches were fired either during or following the 2018 season. Of the eight new hires, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins is the only one who is black. Six have offensive backgrounds. One, Kliff Kingsbury of Arizona, has no NFL coaching experience.
(Owners and general managers) get so pigeonholed into – ‘cause this is cyclical, right, this goes -- and ultimately you would say if we did a little history, successful head coaches probably come from the east and the west and north and south.
“They probably come of both colors and they probably come on defense and on offense. And they're good leaders. They're great leaders. And, so, if you say 'well I just want the one that coaches quarterbacks and they're on offense,' well, then, you're going to end up with a smaller pool and you'll probably have less of a chance to be right, because already of eight hired there's going to be three that survive three years.”
Gosh, I wish he was the Dallas Cowboys head coach.
The Reid Roundup
Congratulations to UCLA sophomore forward Lauryn Miller and the Lady Bruins for reaching the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. UCLA threw a scare into UConn, which reached yet another Final Four, before bowing 69-61. Miller, an All-State player for Kirkwood High School, averaged 13.3 minutes per game, 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds. Over the course of the season she blocked 21 shots and garnered 22 steals … Last week I wrote Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler deserved his starting role in right field. He responded through Tuesday with two hits in 12 at bats (.167) and has scored two runs. He is also nursing a bruised toe … Great to see Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks bounce back from a blown save and loss to Milwaukee on Sunday. He was unhittable in a two-inning performance on Monday in Pittsburgh and got the win in a crazy 6-5 11-inning victory over the Pirates … The New York Giants are meeting with former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock this week. Word is the Giants will use the sixth pick in the first round to draft a defensive player – and hope Lock is available at No. 17 … The Washington Redskins also plan to meet with Lock this week … No black coaches made the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four, but (obviously) dozens of black players did. Of the 20 starters for Auburn, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Virginia in their respective Elite Eight games, 18 are black … Former North Carolina and NBA great Jerry Stackhouse, a Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach, was in talks with Vanderbilt about its head coaching position this week. Stackhouse was head coach of the Raptors 905 G League team the past two years and was named D-League Coach of the Year after leading the team to the title. Vanderbilt Athletic Director Malcolm Turner is a former G League president … Hanes is including Michael Jordan trading cards in packages of men’s underwear – I’m serious … LeBron James’ nagging groin injury has ended season early. He announced that he will not participate with Team USA in the World Cup and devote his time to training – and filming Space Jam II … Zion Williamson, the latest Duke superstar to not reach the Final Four, is considering playing with Team USA.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.