The College Football Playoff edges closer every day. The shiny production and high stakes create an aura around one of the NCAA's most popular events. However, there is an underbelly to this phenom that Mark Emmert and his counterparts hope you continue to ignore.
While college football becomes an even bigger enterprise, along with its sister production of college basketball and March Madness, the structure of player and management relations remains shameful. Many believe the opportunity to pursue a degree is ample compensation for the players risking health and sacrificing time for a university that rakes in millions from their performance on the field.
The evidence is there that conferences are creating close to billion dollar revenue paradigms and college football is the main driver behind these remarkable numbers. Schools like Michigan and Georgia create revenues between $40 to $80 million dollars every year.
Additionally, we can look at the salaries coaches make to coach players "privileged" enough to just have the opportunity to participate in higher education. Jim Harbaugh makes nine million dollars a year at Michigan as the top paid coach in college football. On average, SEC coaches are paid around four million dollars a year. These astronomical numbers are hard to swallow when comparing them to the life of a student athlete.
College football is an obvious success in regards to viewership and revenue generation; however, it is important to understand how the players are being treated. College football star Reggie Bush was the epicenter of a scandal that stripped the USC Trojans of many victories. His transgressions ranged from a rent-free house to paid for flights. There are far more silly violations on the college football landscape. Mississippi State reported violations over stickers and a table. South Carolina reported the improper use of cookie cakes with recruits.
NCAA rules for college athletes are both archaic and silly. One may find the violations behind the Reggie Bush scandal to be simply too much, but sanctions for a university football program over tables and cake seems to be outside the boundaries of the job description. Considering proper food and furniture should not inhibit a university's ability to function athletically.
The college football postseason is a microcosm of this juxtaposition between players and authority. Simply the payouts for all bowl games has surpassed over half a billion dollars. The College Football Playoff itself offers $6 million dollars to a conference for an affiliated team just making it there. The numbers tend to stack up pretty dramatically when looking at the details of the system.
Although the eye is on the College Football Playoff over the coming weeks, basketball's March Madness really set the precedent in regards to profiting off the backs of powerless college athletes. Michael Wilbon wrote an article on paying athletes being imperative after such a deal. The agreement between the NCAA and CBS/Turner Sports was close to 11 billion dollars for March Madness. The tournament runs over three weekends once a year. This exorbitant amount of money causes pause in how much the NCAA really collects in regards to all college sports. After all, football is still their main revenue generator.
The veil of amateurism at the collegiate level is methodically lifted with each passing year. As the dollars keep rolling in, the same ancient rules are instituted for college athletes from the days where it wasn't such a mammoth enterprise. It'd be possible to reform some of these conditions, but that would come at the expense of the profits made by the NCAA and others in charge. Phrases like 'amateurism' and 'student-athlete' are still used as digestible bites to frame the population's thought. While Emmert and his ilk are drowning in cash, those who create the wildly successful product are left hanging out to dry.
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]