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NCAA athletes deserve contracts

Following the Tar Heels victory in the NCAA Championship game, fans from across North Carolina celebrated at home and on Franklin Street. Immediately after the buzzer sounded and confetti floated onto the court, stores were ready for the crowds of ravenous fans with newly designed championship apparel. Countless options ranging from hoodies to championship hats fill Franklin Street’s many boutiques to offer fans a way to capture their jubilation and commemorate the victory. At UNC’s student store, mannequins advertised in a large glass display sport the freshest shirt designs available. As Tar Heel fans tout their apparel around Chapel Hill, the sports community cannot help to notice the revenue being generated for the university, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the NCAA.

While head coach Roy Williams receives a $925,000 bonus for his efforts in securing another title for the university, the lack of reparation for his players becomes increasingly obvious. In addition to Williams’ base salary of $2.1 million, the hall of famer will make almost $3 million this season. Meanwhile, his players received nothing more than congratulatory championship hats and nylon pieces of the championship nets.   

The Tar Heels pose with their 2017 national championship trophy.
The Tar Heels pose with their 2017 national championship trophy.

The reason why many players leave school before completing their education and receiving a degree is simple: money. Some members of the media have noted the positive impacts that paying players would have on their likelihood to finish school, and have led the movement from behind the television screen. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas has been a long time proponent of NCAA athlete compensation reform.

“If we really think it’s good for kids to stay in school, why shouldn’t we provide incentives for them to stay? It’s [paying athletes] a good thing,” said Bilas in an interview with Complex magazine.

Last year, the NCAA generated over $1 billion in revenue from the men’s basketball tournament drawing on ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, television advertisements, and fees for media rights. In April 2016, CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting paid over $8.8 billion to extend their contract with the collegiate body to keep the tournament on their networks until 2032.  

Many opponents of payment for Division I athletes contend that it would dramatically alter the equality of the current recruitment process. In theory, bigger schools with more money, like Kansas, Duke, or UNC, would be able to offer larger contracts and easily scoop up the top talent. However, thanks to these school’s shiny facilities, well-paid staff, and legacies of success,  they already procure the best players to become the powerhouses of college basketball. Paying the players would not make a vast impact on where the top prospects land in college.

There is no denying that money dictates college sports. In fact, a head coach of a state university’s basketball or football team is the highest paid public official in 40 states in the US. With so much revenue flowing in, the NCAA can no longer justify denying money-making, Division I athletes from the salaries they deserve.

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