Editor's note: This column appears in a point-counterpoint regarding the validity of college athletics. Read the opposing viewpoint here.
Sports play a critical role in American society. That being said, commercialized NCAA sports do not belong at a university and should instead become privatized. As an institution, our foremost concern should be our students, not the financial interests that come with a multi-million dollar athletic enterprise.
Charlie Strong didn’t win as many games as other coaches, but he prioritized students. He instilled values in his players and taught them to be respectable men, not just money-making football players. Strong’s firing because he didn’t “win” a lot demonstrates the priorities of the UT athletic department — and why NCAA sports should not be a part of our University.
The NCAA makes $871.6 million in annual revenue. While the NCAA states that “student-athletes should be protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises,” an entity where the head coach receives a bonus of $250,000 for winning a technically amateur championship is undoubtedly a commercial enterprise. For some of the top athletes, even the most generous scholarship packages are a mere fraction of what they would be paid as professionals.
In 2014, Northwestern University football players went on strike, noting that they regularly worked over 50 hours per week for the team — on top of their regular academic obligations. The NCAA quickly shut these players down. NCAA President Mark Emmert said that allowing students to unionize was “grossly inappropriate.” Because of this, students are unable to negotiate for benefits such as health insurance policies without a $90,000 deductible for injuries sustained as a direct result of sports participation and worker’s compensation.
As a result, some of the best students in the nation cannot even pay for basic costs of living. Shabazz Napier, a star of UConn’s Final Four basketball team in 2014, admitted that he often went to bed “starving” because he couldn’t afford food. Meanwhile, his participation in the Final Four tournament brought the NCAA over $750 million. His university even collected $200,000 from Nike for sales of Napier’s jersey.
Sports teams should be fully privatized and professional entities separate from universities. This way, we can hold sports teams to the moral and legal standard that we would hold any other multi-million dollar corporation to, and promote fair working conditions for student-athletes.
But, the chances of universities abandoning the NCAA is about the same as UT going to the Cotton Bowl this year. It won’t happen — but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen.
Griffin is a government and Plan II junior from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @oglikesdogs.