Texas has among the highest grossing national college football programs, making almost every new NCAA rule have the largest impact here. The NCAA claims that all athletes are “students first, athletes second,” and often stay true to that. Graduation rates of NCAA college athletes have risen from 74 percent in 2002 to a new high of 88 percent in 2018. But it is also true that the NCAA athletes are what fuel the multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry. So, when will these young athletes start demanding their slice of the pie?
According to Dallas News, in 2017, the NCAA reported almost $1.1 billion in revenue. Nearly 90 percent of that one billion came from the sale of men’s basketball March Madness TV, championship tickets and marketing. In the larger scheme of things, college sports in the U.S. is a $14 billion-dollar industry. Of that, 38 Division One athletic departments bring in over $100 million a year in gross revenue.
Of those 38 schools nationally, Texas is the proud placeholder of the top two highest grossing football athletic departments. The University of Texas at Austin brought in $219,402,579 and Texas A&M brought in $212,399,426. Both programs are at the top of Forbes 2019 list of most valuable college football programs, earning an average of $93 million in annual profit.
When colleges continued to accumulate revenues and profit margins this high, it was only a matter of time before NCAA athletes began asking for their fair share in the business. This is the reason why Texas is supporting California’s new fair Pay to Play Act, which allows college athletes in California to hire agents and take their piece in endorsement deals. The bill prohibits anyone with authority over intercollegiate activities from providing compensation under the athlete’s name, image or likeness, or preventing an athlete from as a result of their game, image or likeness.
The issue really comes down to fairness. The NCAA, its coaches and the departments benefit while the athletes working hard on the field or the court cannot monetize for their skills. Often these athletes are coming from lower and modest- income families, and they could be monetizing on endorsements, signing autographs or selling merchandise. Especially in today’s day and age with social media, there is a huge unexplored platform for athletes to earn millions of dollars a year.
The law still does not allow colleges to pay athletes outright, because, well, they are still students. But the law could possibly relieve some stress of the financial pressures on athletes that have contributed to recruiting violation scandals. The law could help clear up the world of college endorsements.
The NCAA pushed hard against the administration of the law and said, “Changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through NCAA’s rules-making process.” Since the California law does not take effect until 2023, there is time for the NCAA to improve their process and distribution. But California Governor Gavin Newson says the law will “initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation and change college sports for the better.”
Between now and when the law takes effect in 2023, hopefully more colleges, including UT and Texas A&M, will begin to take similar legislative actions to rightfully support their athletes. Of course, their education is the primary focus, but at the end of the day, it is these kids’ raw talent and long hours of training that is funding this industry. Their continuous hard work and dedication deserve a reward.
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