Recent Lawsuit Ruling Brings NCAA Athletes One Step Closer To The Money They Deserve

By Chris McAndrew, a Senior Journalism/Pre-Law major at Temple University

Imagine providing a service that produced millions of dollars in revenue every year for someone you represent, but never seeing a penny.  Say perhaps a 30-hour work week, all physical work, including no Saturdays off.

Collegiate athletics, specifically men’s football and basketball programs, have become important money makers for universities.  However, the athletes themselves see absolutely no portion of these earnings.  This issue has caused great debate over the past few years, culminating in various lawsuits against the NCAA and controversy over whether players should actually receive money from the programs that they work so hard for.

As NCAA athletes are becoming more marketable, the NCAA itself and the athletes’ respected universities are making a killing with no worries about who to distribute the earnings to.

However, these athletes’ quest for compensation is inching closer and closer.

The current major lawsuit involving this issue against the NCAA is referred to as the O’Bannon case (In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Litigation in the US District Court for the Northern District of California).  This lawsuit, led by former UCLA standout Ed O’Bannon, was started to try and get the NCAA to provide compensation to former and current players for rebroadcasted games.

In a recent decision, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against the NCAA’s request to preclude the law suit from advancing on procedural grounds (see below for the complete ruling).  The plaintiffs, which now include current men’s football and basketball players, have chosen to not only go after compensation of rebroadcasted games, but live games as well.  This addition could now be worth billions of dollars to the former and current players.

Look at how the universities use and abuse these athletes for their financial gain.

It is every high school athlete’s dream to play a sport in college, and when college recruiters and coaches come to your door you tend to listen.  These top schools will offer the athlete a “full-ride,” or free tuition, to play a sport for that university.  After a visit to the university and a talk with their parents, these athletes will choose to play a sport for that university in return for free tuition.  Now begins the hard work on the field, studying to keep that GPA up, and trying your best to have a social life.

The thought of playing a sport at the collegiate level for free seems like a pretty sweet deal, huh?  I’d agree if I didn’t know how much the university makes off these “free-ride” athletes.

To understand how much money these universities are making off these athletes, let’s do a hypothetical analysis.

Let’s say the full tuition for a university is $30,000 a year (which sad to say is becoming the norm).   These athletes are often offered a full scholarship, many for four years.  Adding up the rest of the football team, the NCAA allows Division I FBS programs a maximum of 85 full scholarships, would be a total of around $2.5 million a year.

Now obviously those were a lot of numbers and some pretty high ones at that, but let’s compare our hypothetical numbers to a comparable university and their profits.

At Pennsylvania State University, the in-state tuition per year is a little over $28,000 a year, including room and board.  So now let’s take that hypothetical $2.5 million a year in scholarships and compare it against what Penn State makes in profits for their football program.

According to, for the 2009-2010 football season Penn State profited a total of around $50.4 million, and that’s including their total expenses of $19.7 million.

I realize this turned into a huge math lesson, but let’s put this simply: universities make an astronomical profit off of their football and basketball programs.

I’ve heard so many different arguments against giving these athletes a cut of the profits, but the numbers just don’t lie.  These universities are raking in millions of dollars a year because of how well their football and basketball players perform.  Shouldn’t they get a little more than a free-ride?

Again, I understand where both sides are coming from.  If schools began paying their athletes then the entire structure of the NCAA would be changing, but isn’t change good?  Most of the revenue from these schools is going to pay the salaries of those high-up yuppies that everyone seems to complain about.  Wouldn’t giving some of that money to the people who made this all happen make a little more sense?

Now I’m not an advocate for giving thousands of dollars to these athletes and making their heads even bigger than they already are, but maybe we can learn something from the ideas of their coaches.  When asked before the National Championship about this matter, both Nick Saban and Brian Kelly agreed that players should receive some kind of stipend.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen with this lawsuit against the NCAA, but I do know that the issue of money is beginning to become a big one.  The attorneys for the plaintiffs in the suit already have around $20 million invested in the matter.  Don’t you think there’s a reason for that?

Whenever there’s big money and huge profits involved in any situation there’s going to be some kind of problem.  When it boils down to it, however, the NCAA is going to need to figure out a way to make everyone happy.

These college athletes work extremely hard for their universities, and all I’m saying is that if I were them, I’d be knocking on the president’s door asking where my cut was.

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