“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR
Scandal and corruption is something are two qualities that the NCAA finds itself hard to shake institutionally.
More and more we see major events hitting important member institutions in the NCAA, from jaw-dropping sexual assault scandals to curious tabloid items involving international theft. If you want to feel dirty or disappointed in any way, the NCAA got you.
But no scandal, maybe recent or historical, can maybe match what we’re seeing as of late where the FBI is taking aim at the issue of current and former NCAA men’s basketball players possibly taking impermissible funds from agents and coaches during their college career.
No investigation into the NCAA has dug so deep into its dirty business and none has excavated as many high-profile names as possible targets for foulness as this one has. Because of all that we have heard more calls than ever for the NCAA to completely change or for it to be replaced.
With this recent scandal, does it create opportunity for lasting change within the NCAA, or opportunity for the NBA to create a solution to the college business?
Evidence that we’ve seen of recent NCAA infractions regarding paying athletes to attend their schools and quite essentially take care of them while under their care only confirms years of corruption within the business and the idea that college athletes should get paid for their services to their school program in addition to the full/partial sports scholarship they earn.
According to a study entitled “The Price of Poverty in Big Time in College Sport” conducted by The National College Players Association, 86 percent of college athletes live below the poverty line. The average out of pocket expenses for each scholarship athlete was approximately $3,222 per year during the 2010-11 school year.
In 2015, the NCAA made roughly $900 million in revenue just from March Madness alone, most of which came from the broadcast rights paid by CBS and Turner Sports. The media companies signed a 14-year, $10.8 billon deal in 2006 to broadast NCAA men’s basketball, its national tournament and the Final Four. As of 2013, only three percent of men’s basketball programs in the entire NCAA generated surpluses, which was in-line with previous years. No women’s programs were profitable.
The median loss for basketball programs during that time was $811,000, according to Jonathan Berr of CBS News MoneyWatch. Athletes are clearly making the NCAA rich, yet the athletes continue to be poor, not seeing any of the fruits of their labor.
The Fab Five era at the University of Michigan made the NCAA millions of dollars, yet they had their wins vacated for the Ed Martin scandal. Part of those millions the athletes made the NCAA could have been the solution to those survival issues, but instead harsh discipline took place. Former UCONN champion Shabazz Napier publically discussed having nights going to bed starving because he cannot afford food, despite the school providing meal plans.
“(Napier) says he is going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off of him. It is obscene,” said Connecticut Rep. Matthew Lesser (D) in an interview with CNN. “This isn’t a Connecticut problem. This is an NCAA problem, and I want to make sure we’re putting pressure on them to treat athletes well.”
With the pressure now being added to this crisis, how can the NBA be the difference maker? LeBron James has a valid answer.
“…If a kid feels like, at 16 or 17, he doesn’t feel like the NCAA is for him, or whatever the case may be, [then] we have a system in place where we have a farm league where they can learn and be around the professionals but not actually become a professional at that point in time. Not actually play in the NBA, but learn for a few years.” James said in a press conference earlier this week.
The G-League is a current farm system where NBA players go to develop their games and learn the ways of the NBA life while being paid. Top college players only go to college to play a year or two in preparation for the NBA, and some recruits are ready to play in the NBA right now coming out of high school.
There have been calls for the league to reconsider the high school draft eligibility rule and even possibly revamp the G-League to better allow it to be a destination for athletes who want to skip college and play in the developmental league for a year or two while making an honest living to take care of themselves and families and such reform is something that the NBA should definitely look into if it truly cares about the game of basketball and the players who will steward its future.
Other professional leagues, such as the NHL and MLB have such things in place, why not the NBA?
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio