The start of the college football season is rapidly approaching. College sports fans are eager to cheer for their favorite teams in hopes that their team will qualify for a bowl game or make it to the College Football Playoffs. In the midst of the excitement of the upcoming football season, is the debate of whether college athletes should be further compensated. United States Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, has authored two reports highlighting the injustices of the college athletics system. In the reports, Senator Murphy acknowledges the injustices of the college sports system as the rights issue that it is.
The current college sports system no doubt needs restructuring. The numerous academic fraud scandals and the NCAA rule violation scandals have made it immensely clear that the current system is flawed. Perhaps the most telling example of the need for change is the college basketball scandal that resulted in an FBI investigation and a criminal trial.
Change is Coming to College Athletics
Several state and federal legislators have introduced bills aiming to compensate college athletes in some way. One bill that is making serious headway is a bill in California entitled the Fair Pay to Play Act. The bill seeks to give college athletes in California the ability to profit from their name, image, and likeness by enabling them to garner endorsements. One may wonder why the issue of compensating college athletes is getting the attention of so many lawmakers. The issue is getting that attention because the issue of fairly compensating college athletes is a civil rights issue.
College athletes are being exploited. Everyone involved in big-time college athletics is getting rich except the athletes. Yes, college athletes receive an invaluable scholarship in return for their academic services. However, not all college athletes are able to get the most out of their academic opportunity. Many leave school without a degree and without an opportunity to complete their degree in the future. Many who do graduate, do not receive a degree in a worthwhile major.
Senator Chris Murphy Report
Senator Murphy released his first report entitled Madness Inc., How Everyone is Getting Rich off College Sports - Except the Players in March of 2019. He was prompted to write the report after he witnessed the unfortunate knee sprain injury Zion Williamson suffered when his Nike shoe fell apart during the Duke v. UNC game in February. Senator Murphy stated that Williamson’s injury for him "was the starkest example of a kid making lots of adults super-rich, who almost had his career ended without making a single dime."
Late July, Senator Murphy released his second report. The report is entitled, Madness Inc. How Colleges Keep Athletes on the Field and out of the Classroom. The second report highlighted the reality of the "world-class education" that college athletes are supposed to receive in return for their athletic services. Both of Senator Murphy's reports show that college athletes are not getting as good of a bargain as many may think. For that reason, every college sports fan should read Senator Murphy's reports. Here are four takeaways from the reports that all college sports fans should know.
1. Proportionally Coaches Receive More of the Revenue than the Athletes
The first report highlights the stark imbalance between the revenue that college athletes generate and the amount of money that is actually filtered back down to them. The annual amount spent on student aid is $936 million, while $1.2 billion is spent on coaches salaries. There are 45,000 college athletes in schools that make up the Power 5 conferences and only 4,400 coaches. There are 65 Power 5 conference programs. Only 12 percent of all revenue goes to student-athlete scholarships, while 16 percent goes towards coaches salaries. In effect, the coaches receive more of the revenue than the athletes. This is not to say that coaches do not deserve to be compensated for their work, because they do. However, should they be compensated in greater proportion to the college athletes?
2. Spending on Lavish Facilities is out of Control and Provides no Long Term Benefit to the Athletes
Many schools have invested in overly extravagant and lavish facilities for their athletic programs. The report highlights the facilities at Clemson University (Clemson) and the University of South Carolina (South Carolina). Clemson built a $55 million facility that boasts a miniature golf course, movie theater, and bowling lanes. South Carolina's facility has a video arcade and a sound studio for athletes to record their music. The most recent example of an overly lavish facility can be seen at Louisiana State University (LSU). LSU recently unveiled the $28 million renovations they made to their football operations building.
From the above picture and the aforementioned amenities, it is clear that spending on facilities has gotten out of control. How does a $55 million dollar building make an athlete better at their sport or in the classroom? Perhaps the athletes enjoy the facility a little while they are in college (if their strict schedules allow). However, there is no discernible long term benefit access to such facilities provides to the athletes once they leave college and begin their careers.
3. College Athletes are not Getting the Valuable Education that Everyone Thinks They are Getting
While many college athletes do receive a quality education, some do not. Many college athletes are not receiving the academic advantages that the general public is led to believe they are. Senator Murphy's second report highlighted the story of Stephen Cline a former defensive lineman for Kansas State University. Cline wished to become a veterinarian but was forced into a less demanding major so that he could focus on football. The NCAA sells education as the bargain that college athletes get in exchange for their athletics services. However, many do not get it.
So many athletes are like Cline and are not encouraged to major in the subject of their true interest so that they may focus on their sport. Not everyone truly cares about the value of the education athletes receive. This was made abundantly clear when the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC) sham course scandal was exposed. The NCAA chose not to sanction UNC, thereby showing their true commitment to ensuring each college athlete receives a world-class education.
4. When Examined Closely, it is Clear that College Athletes act as Full-Time Employees
The daily life of a college athlete is more akin to that of a full-time employee than a full-time student. Many college athletes are up at 5:00 am to report to 6:00 am practice, then to breakfast, then to class, then to another class. Before the athlete realizes it, it is time for a team meeting - another athletic-related activity. Hopefully, the athlete has some time to squeeze a shower and get some lunch in between. College athletes no doubt keep a rigorous schedule.
Senator Murphy's report highlighted a study conducted by the PAC 12 conference in 2015. The study found that college athletes averaged more than 50 hours per week on athletic-related activities. The report also highlighted the Northwestern University football team’s hearing with the National Labor Relations Board. During the hearing, the athletes revealed that they spent upwards of 60 hours a week on football-related activities. College athletes fulfill all of these obligations before they have had any time to think about their coursework.
To be a full-time student, college athletes must be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours per semester. For each credit hour, students are expected to spend two to three hours outside of class studying. This means that students are expected to spend between 36-48 hours per week studying. How is a college athlete supposed to spend 48 hours per week studying and roughly 40 hours per week on athletics and be successful at both?
Senator Chris Murphy's Report Emphasizes that Fairly Compensating College Athletes is a Civil Rights Issue
As the college football season begins, college sports fans should take some time to read Senator Chris Murphy’s reports. Upon reading the reports, they will better understand why there has been a surge in state and federal legislative involvement in ensuring equitable compensation for college athletes. Fans will realize that the debate is not just about money. It is about the restoration of civil rights to college athletes. Everyone should be able to profit from their own name, image, and likeness. College athletes generate billions of dollars each year for the NCAA, their school, and their conferences. College athletes should have a more equitable piece of that pie.