The NCAA is working with various groups to find ways to keep college athletes from receiving benefits from sports agents. Most recently, there have been proposals put forth that would fine players for violating the rules.
The penalties may even stretch into the player's NFL career. The rules would be enforced by the NFL Players Union. The goal is for the NFL and the NCAA to engage in a stronger degree of collusion to ensure that athletes do not obtain revenue for their play on the field.
Much of the recent action by the NCAA comes from a probe into the program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where agents have been found to be interacting with players. In addition to illegal behavior among sports agents, the NCAA has investigated whether there was academic misconduct.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are losing big as a result of the probe, with three of their most effective players being put on the sidelines. One of the players, Robert Quinn, was declared ineligible after receiving $4,900 from agents, while a second player, Greg Little, received roughly $10,000.
I find it interesting that officials are concerned about some of the North Carolina players receiving a few thousand dollars in benefits for risking their lives on the field, while the coach, Butch Davis, is paid at least $1.8 million per year from the NCAA. Additionally, the NCAA earns hundreds of millions of dollars every year from bowl games, endorsement deals and selling jerseys of the players who march up and down the field. All the while, many of these players have mothers who can't afford to buy groceries and are getting evicted from their apartments.
I've often wondered why the NCAA and NFL are allowed to engage in collusion (along with state legislators) to restrict the labor rights of college athletes in order to keep them from receiving fair market compensation for their work. If any corporate entity wants to give money directly to the NCAA, they are always glad to take it. But if anyone attempts to share that money with the athletes who actually earn it, the NCAA immediately punishes the athlete and institution involved.
There is a racial dimension to this issue as well. Many of the players earning the revenue are black, while those who are receiving the revenue and making laws to control the athletes are white. As a result, the NCAA strips over a billion dollars per year from the African American community. Even more interesting is the fact that so many African American males are lured into a system that is far more interested in keeping athletes' hands off the money than they are in seeing that the athlete gets a proper education. As a professor at several universities with big time athletics programs (Kentucky, Indiana, Syracuse, Ohio State), I have seen this system up close for the past 17 years and it honestly disgusts me.
I am hopeful that one day, conscientious legislators will take steps to stop allowing the NCAA to operate in a way that would be illegal in nearly any other industry. If we were to try to restrict the labor rights of teachers, accountants, Major League Baseball players, or police officers in a similar way, people would be screaming from the rooftops. But for some reason, when it comes to college athletes, some of whom have struggling families, we are determined to help the rich get richer and to keep the athletes poor and uneducated. The entire African American community should be offended, and I plan to fight on this issue for the next several years.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.