Is the NCAA is Failing its Athletes?

from the New York Post

Jack Schmelzinger, Staff reporter

Every year college basketball fans eagerly await the matchup between Duke and  UNC. Whenever the two teams face off, it promises to be an excellent game. This year the contest was surrounded by even more hype than usual. Both teams are thought of as legitimate title contenders, and each has some of the most mesmerizing prospects that basketball has seen in years. Some of the most recognizable faces in America, including Tony Romo, Roger Goodell, and even Barack Obama, were gathered at Cameron Indoor Stadium to watch the heated ACC rivals battle on the court. Even with the star power in the crowd, most of the arena’s attention was on the floor. The spotlight hung squarely over 6’ 7” athletic freak  Zion Williamson. At only eighteen years old, Williamson has set the sports world on fire. It is impossible to tune into ESPN without drowning in highlight dunks, blocks, and even the occasional long-range shot. Williamson is shooting an outrageous 68.3% from the field, and he averages 21.6 points per game. He has already been labeled the surefire first overall pick of the 2019 NBA draft. He is poised to be a star, and a handsomely paid one at that. Williamson was at the top of the basketball world until, thirty seconds into the game against UNC, it all fell apart.

Before his team had even scored a point, Williamson was dribbling the ball at the free throw line when he attempted to make a cut to change direction. Unbelievably, his shoe gave out on him and tore to pieces, causing his knee to bend awkwardly. The injury ended his night, and quite possibly, his season.

Williamson’s injury begs the question: should college athletes be paid? He is less than a year away from becoming a pro, where he will make millions of dollars. A career-ending injury is always a risk when playing, and by playing in college for free, Williamson is putting his future fortune in jeopardy.

The potential lost earnings for the player are enormous, while the monetary gains for the NCAA and the institutions are just as monumental. The lowest price one could pay to get into Cameron Indoor that night was $2500, just $200 shy of the cheapest ticket to the most recent Super Bowl. The amount of revenue being produced by college, and  the lack of profit made by the athletes, is arguably even more noteworthy. Zion Williamson, the player whose highlights are shown on television endlessly, and who draws a sellout crowd to every arena at which he he plays, has not yet made a cent. He is a commodity to Duke University and to Nike, whose logo is on Duke’s jerseys and shoes–the same shoes that failed him. Not only is he forbidden to make money from basketball, he is barred from profiting off nearly anything other than having a job (which is nearly impossible since the average athlete spends 85 hours a week on school and athletics combined.)

These rules put in place by the NCAA would be considered hypocritical by most. The organization claims to be committed to preserving amateurism, but at the same time are making multi-billion dollar deals with huge corporations to televise games. They claim to always have the best interest of the “student-athletes” at heart, but they have been known to revoke the eligibility of players who accept something as trivial as a free lunch. Claims made by the NCAA that “student-athletes” are primarily students are not supported by average team practices clocking more than 45 hours a week-more than a full time job. Some people say that a scholarship is adequate compensation for these athletes, but comparing the average scholarship (less than $50,000) a year and the revenue that the NCAA brings in (over $1 billion a year) it is impossible to miss the inequity.

For the sake of the future Zion Williamsons of the world, there needs to be a change made to the outdated policy of strict amateurism in the NCAA. College athletes will continue to be taken advantage of until the injustice of the system is confronted and parity is demanded.