Today’s guest columnists are Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva and Johanna Mellis.
It seems like there’s no shortage of cash flow these days in the world of high-profile college sports. Massive new contracts are apparently signed daily, including one $ 100 million new deal for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, a $ 95 million extension for Michigan State’s Mel tucker, a $ 80 million deal for Mario Cristobal from Miami, and a superb, although dubiously reported, $ 110 million contract for Lincoln Riley at USC.
For those athletes doing the work that produces the lucrative show, however, the rules are different. The NCAAs new draft constitution specifies that “student-athletes cannot be compensated by a member institution for their participation in a sport”.
As Mason Forbes, a Harvard basketball player, put it: “Despite the deliberate mystification of this parasitic relationship, the extraction of wealth generated by athletes continues to be laid bare by the exorbitant salaries of NCAA coaches. jubilees in our faces.
Forbes isn’t the only one to take note. In one recent interview On the employment rights of college athletes, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said: “Under common law, the test is very straightforward. Do players render services to their college and does that college have significant control or the right to control over aspects of their daily work / play life? For me, they do. These words herald a potential revolution in the amateurist model that has governed university sport for decades, a model that produces $ 18.9 billion in annual income for the NCAA, universities, coaches and administrators.
It is clear that those in charge of the athletics department are paying attention. In one recent press release, LEAD1, an organization representing FBS athletic directors nationally, said: “85% of athletic directors surveyed responded that they were very concerned that varsity athletes are classified as employees… with d ” any corresponding benefits and protections such as rights to organize, strike, overtime wages, minimum wages, health and safety protections, and more.
We spoke to 13 current and former athletic workers on campus about their thoughts on the release of LEAD1 and the lavish coaching deals. Some athletes have been granted anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Athletes were not confused about the power dynamics at play in varsity sport. “ADs are concerned because it would involve a transfer of power to athletes who are currently powerless,” said Eric, a former FBS football player.
In particular, sports directors are among those who enjoy the most amateurism. Fifty-one athletic directors currently earn $ 700,000 or more per year, and 25 of them receive $ 1 million or more.
Players don’t even see a significant fraction of this compensation and instead are told they have new opportunities. offered by NIL. But athletes like Forbes aren’t fooled. “This move,” he said, “which encourages athletes to create and capitalize on a personal ‘brand’, further obscures the reality of athlete exploitation by shifting the burden onto the players.”
Indeed, the coach buy-back figures are surprising. Between 2010 and 2021, $ 533.6 million was paid to fire football and basketball coaches. This year a total of $ 90.4 million was paid to licensed college football coaches, LSU, Washington, USC, Florida and TCU each spending $ 9.9 million or more. at Miami, these buybacks are subsidized by a university health system which saw its income increase during the pandemic.
“Seeing the explosion in coaching salaries this year feels like a slap in the face for the players,” said Christian, current Power 5 footballer. “Over the past year, schools across the country have emphasized how empty their pockets are when faced with the idea of sharing income with athletes. But suddenly they come up with millions to lay off and hire new coaches. Indeed, while LSU athletics reported a loss of $ 81 million during the pandemic, they paid more than $ 16 million to buy out trainer Ed Orgeron before signing Kelly to his nine-figure contract.
Kobe, a current FBS football player, was disturbed by LEAD1’s remarks. “They want to take us to their school to make them millions of dollars, but they don’t want to give us rights that other ’employees’ are given,” he said, “even though the majority of devotes more hours to us and brings in more income than some employees. IRS defines full-time employment such as 30 or more hours worked in a week. Self-reported data compiled by the NCAA reveals that 19 sports would be considered full-time; FBS players work an average of 40 hours per week.
No conversation about exploitation and college sports is complete without a discussion of race. Notably, 75% of athletic directors at Power Five conferences are white. “This sport is dominated for a large part by whites, and those who play are predominantly black,” said the former Clemson cornerback. Danté Stewart. This disparity contributed approximately $ 17-21 billion wealth transfer black athletes in Power Five schools over a 15-year period, peaking in 2019.
For former UCLA footballer Kaiya McCullough, the fact that athletic directors do not want athletes “to have the right to defend their own health and well-being, their education or their livelihood, shows that these brokers in power prioritize money and power over the well-being of athletes. This is exactly why Grace, a current DI track athlete, is resigned to the reality that athletic directors “are going to continue to cause problems to keep their power and their money, and those problems are going to continue to trickle down to them. athletes. Jeannette, a former DI gymnast, agrees: “I am worried, alarmed and terrified that the voices of the athletes continue to be muffled and silenced.”
This is precisely why NIL cannot be seen as a moral reset for college sports. On the contrary, it is a new weapon in the arsenal of universities and administrators to discipline and control athletic work. In Forbes’ formulation, it is nothing more than an “NCAA sleight of hand” designed “to excuse our exploitation, individualize players and discourage us from achieving our common cause by organizing to receive a fair compensation and protections for our work.
The question is whether this time it will work.
Nathan Kalman-Lamb is a lecturer at Duke University and author of Gambling Misconduct: Injury, Fandom, and the Sports Business. Derek silva is Associate Professor of Sociology at King’s University College. Johanna mellis is Assistant Professor of History at Ursinus College. The three are co-hosts of The end of sport Podcast.