“The Crimson Standard” Is A Slap In The Face To Exploited Athletes

Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State haven't been dominating programs as in past seasons. The COVID-inspired loosening of transfer rules, and NIL deals are helping college programs close the recruiting gap on these juggernauts.

Amateurism. You’ve heard the term used time and again as to why the NCAA places strict limits on the amount of compensation that its workers, which they prefer to call student-athletes, can receive.

Players are vilified and suspended when they attempt to sell their school-issued Air Jordan’s, and the FBI makes a huge spectacle out of the symptoms of what’s wrong with college sports, as opposed to the actual causes of those ills.

Meanwhile, the NCAA generates billions in broadcast television rights, while no student-athlete is entitled to a share, except for the cost of his scholarship, which pales in comparison to what players like Saquon Barkley, Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield earn for their respective programs.

College coaching salaries have escalated to the point where many of them are the highest-paid employees in the state, where they earn more than the actual university president.

When Alabama defeated Georgia by a score of 26-23 in a thrilling overtime session to win last season’s College Football’s National Championship, the Crimson Tide coaches weren’t just giddy because of their on-field victory. They also won at the bank, with the staff receiving a collective $1.27 million in bonuses for winning the title.

It was nice to see management getting rewarded for a job well done. But what about the labor force, i.e. the players?

Darren Rovell on Twitter

If Tua Tagovailoa was allowed to sign autographs & maintain his eligibility, he’d have no problem finding an autograph dealer today who would pay him a $500,000 to sign at a mall in Birmingham. https://t.co/M2NYixTT9f

 

And last week, we learned that Alabama is planning extensive renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium and Coleman Coliseum. They’ll be reducing capacity at both venues while adding premium seating.

Athletic director Greg Byrne said that the football stadium will eliminate over 1,000 seats with a massive video board going up in the South end zone and two new video boards on the opposite side of the field.

Renovations are slated to begin after this upcoming season with a total estimated cost of $288 million, according to Byrne. The plans also call for renovated locker rooms, recruiting lounges and concourses, among other enhancements.

Oh, and let’s not forget the addition of ten luxury suites, where the wealthiest of the Crimson Tide fan base can purchase one at a measly $5 million apiece.

The university has already raised $143 million toward the 10-year, $600 million fundraising campaign.

There’s no doubt that head coach Nick Saban and Alabama are the gold standard in college football, having won five of the last nine national championships.

But the question needs to be asked over and over again – where and how do the players, the labor force who actually drive the behemoth economic engine that is Alabama football, benefit from their efforts.

Alabama vs. Georgia National Championship Highlights 2018 (HD)

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Yes, a scholarship and college degree are a start, but anyone familiar with the overall economic landscape knows that they’re not merely enough.

The exploitation of labor and a system akin to indentured servitude needs to be addressed. Why does the NCAA insist on prohibiting the players from earning a salary?

The bogus FBI probe on the basketball side, if you remove the NCAA’s crutch of amateurism, would be nothing more than a case study in what every other industry calls the standard business practice of headhunting.

And if you think the football and basketball players at major programs are amateurs, you’re living in a land of fiction. Since the inception of the one-and-done rule, the best basketball players are only on campus for little more than a semester, attending classes to simply remain eligible.

And don’t believe for a minute that the players are to blame, because the system was designed to enhance the value of the sports’ television packages by having the best players in uniform, only if even for one season.

The majority of college football athletes who remain on campus for three or four years aren’t getting a true education as well, if we insist on being honest with one another. They’re taking courses designed to keep them eligible, which in turn keeps the cash registers ringing.

Alabama Training Days 2018 Episode 1 – Rolling with the Tide

Uploaded by NCAA Sports on 2018-08-10.

 

The scholarships for softball, field hockey players, swimmers and the like serve their intended purpose. But major college football and basketball is, by design, meant to profit off the student-athlete’s labor in ways that bring in billions, when examined in the aggregate.

And when some of those athletes fall out with their coaches, or prove to be less than expected, they can be run off the plantation while being stripped of their scholarships.

College football and basketball are merely minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA. And it’s time that the players get paid accordingly. They’re allegiance is to the athletic program, with the bottom line being that they are working on behalf of the university in an enterprise that nets huge sums of money.

And in any labor model that you want to look at, they’re entitled to some of that money.

If we really want to make things right, the players need to be compensated and the NCAA’s antiquated rules of amateurism needs to be thrown into the trash.

The schools should be required to provide lifetime scholarships, housing and meal allowances so that former players, no matter how long it takes them, can come back to school and finish their degrees.

At the same time, the players should also be assured that the school will be responsible, in perpetuity, for whatever lifetime medical care they need for injuries they suffered while putting their well-being on the line during their time on campus.

This is not an issue of pay-for-play. It’s an issue of pay-for-work. The foundational flaw of this flimsy idea of amateurism is that athletes are being denied the same basic economic rights and protections the rest of us take for granted.

And when you and your co-workers, i.e. teammates, are a major reason why Alabama hoists another championship trophy and spends $600 million on facilities upgrades, yet you’ll get suspended for pocketing a few hundred bucks for an autograph or selling some school-issued shoes and apparel, that’s got to be a supreme slap in the face.

Alabama Training Days 2018 Episode 2 Rolling with the Tide

Uploaded by NCAA Sports on 2018-08-16.

 

The Crimson Tide football program earned a profit was $45.9 million in 2017, with total revenue reaching $108.2 million. This summer, Saban received a new eight-year deal worth at least $74 million. His salary is $7.5 million this season and increases by another $400,000 in each subsequent year. He also gets an $800,000 signing incentive this year and would receive the same amount for completing each of the next three seasons2019, 2020 and 2021.

I have no problem with Saban earning what the free market economy of his field says he’s worth. But we should all have a problem with the labor force that he supervises, the actual players that work for him, the university and the NCAA, not being afforded the same rights and considerations.