Today, I’ll be talking about an assignment in my Journalism 452 class at the University of Oregon. The assignment asked for us to act as part of an organization trying to fight an issue we cared about and explain the why the issue was important through an infographic. Of course my first thought was to find an issue I cared about in the sports industry. As I searched the web for a topic I came across an interesting fact.
According to Jay Bilas, an college basketball analyst for ESPN, “CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting alone paid more than $10.8 billion to the NCAA back in 2010 for 14 years of rights to [broadcast games]”. The big college programs, such as football and basketball, are “a multi-billion dollar business where the only people who are restricted in their earning..are the athletes,” states Bilas.
Seeing billions of dollars being made by the very organization that claims to help student athletes is sickening. Being a student at a successful athletic school, like the UO, I see future professional athletes everyday. I always figured they had it made since they were going to paid well one day, but as the progressed through school and the workload kept stacking up I wonder how these student athletes passed their classes. I know they have tutors but even those genius minds have to sleep sometimes.
The truth is, these athletes are just student, they’re full time empolyees of the University working over 40 hours a week to perfect their craft which ultimately makes the school millions of dollars in revenue. Add on the school work they miss from competing around the country and that workload easily reaches 50 hours a week. Yet they receive no compensation from the school other than scholarship support, if they’re deemed a good enough athlete, and some are still forced to go to bed hungry.
So why don’t school’s give athletes more money to live?
Well, according to Bilas, the NCAA believes convering the athlete’s school expenses should be enough since it cost them money. Essentially, they’re claiming that after all academic expenses are paid for the school ends up lossing money. But in 2014 the average amount of revenue for the NCAA’s 10 biggest programs reached over $144 million and scholarship expenses totaled $12 million. So, unless the rules of math changed in the last three years, these programs earn more than enough annual revenue to compensate their athletes for all their hard work.
Immediately after seeing these numbers I knew I found my topic, but how was I going to attack the subject?
First, I made the issue relatable to all sports fans. Infographics are great becasue they help communicate complicated information in a simplified manner. By comparing the average career length and salary of professional athletes to that of an NCAA athlete I’m able to expose exactly how undervalued student athlete are treated. Notice how the average professional career lasts nearly as long as a college athlete’s. In both careers the athlete is making a sacrifices and working hours upon hours to perfect their craft. The only difference is, one gets to go home with a steady paycheck while the other goes back to their apartment, probably still hungry, with hours of homework left to finish. Doesn’t seem fair does it?
Second, I took the average revenue generated by the biggest division one college programs and the NFL and compared this with the expenses paid. As you can see the gap between revenue and expenses is considerably greater for the NCAA division one schools than the NFL. Why? Becasue the NFL compensates it’s athlete for all their hard work. The NCAA, on the other hand, believes the students are lucky to have their education paid and should be happy with just that.
Third, I compared coaching salaries. I took the salaries from the two biggest head coaches in college sports and compared them against three professional coaches. It should be noted that some of these coaches (Greg Popavich) have been with their specific team for a considerable amount of time and are compensated accordingly. But take a look at the difference between Coach Harbaugh and Joe Maddon. Harbaugh, arguably one of the better known college coaches, is earning nearly double what Maddon earns with the Cubs, after one season at the University of Michigan. If universities can afford to pay coaches this ridiculous salary then they can afford to compensate their athletes. At least enough not to go hungry.
Fourth, for the bottom portion of my infographic I really wanted to hit home the fact that these college athletes are struggling to get by. After putting countless hours of hard work on the field the last thing a student needs to worry about is where their next meal will come from. Scholarships, even those that are full ride, still don’t cover all expenses, leaving athletes with two choices. They can either go to bed hungry or ask for a meal from their friends or coaches, but in doing so they violate NCAA rules and risk lossing their scholarship. All because they wanted to eat a damn burger.
I hope my explanation of why college athletes deserve payment forces to think about the students the next time you’re out enjoying a college game. Also, don’t forget about infographics the next time you have detailed information that needs clear explanation.