What Does the Future Hold? College Sports . . . - The Missourian: Columns

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What Does the Future Hold? College Sports . . .

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Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013 6:00 pm

very now and then a person of some stature in the sportsworld utters a public statement that college football and basketball players should be paid since they bring in so much money to the schools they represent. In particular, television has enriched college sports to the point that it decides the times of games and other items associated with playing a game.

A number of college players are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NCAA, the association that regulates and governs its member colleges and universities. Team stars are parties to the suit. According to Rachel Bachman, writing in The Wall Street Journal, these star athletes are part of a newly certified class-action lawsuit “that seeks certain slices of college-sports revenues, the biggest of which is broadcast-rights contracts. Before long, the players who stop viewers’ hearts with their play soon might receive a portion of the millions those broadcasts generate.”

here is a nonprofit group called the National College Players Association, which advocates for players on issues such as long-term health care and guaranteed four-year scholarships rather than the current one-year renewable ones, Bachman wrote. The group lacks the authority to negotiate. One thing that is sought is to create a fund from those TV revenues that players can access after their college playing days are over for certain purposes, such as health problems related to their playing days.

The movement for this pay for play, and/or certain benefits, all began in 2009 with a former UCLA basketball star who considered it unfair that the NCAA could license his image for a video game or sell broadcast rights to games he played in while prohibiting him from receiving any proceeds. There was a federal court ruling earlier this month that declared the case a class action, “meaning that all Division I men’s basketball players and bowl-subdivision football players are suing the NCAA unless they bow out,” Bachman reported. The players can’t recover funds already lost. A successful suit could force the NCAA to change the way it does business and cut players in on “burgeoning” TV rights deals, she surmisd.

t used to be that TV rights were in the millions. That

now is billions.

Reportedly, at some schools, athletic scholarships don’t cover everything. Some players graduate owing money for their education.

This lawsuit has major implications. In fact, there are so many that it doesn’t take much thought to come up with a list. Young men and women don’t have to play college sports. But for many it’s a free ticket to a college education. Many are poor, or even middle class, and it’s the only way they could attend college and ensure they don’t graduate owing a lot of money. For many, it’s a training ground for professional sports. There are some who enjoy the sport and want to play regardless of whether they have a scholarship, or only a partial one.

If paid to play, would it end up being a money bidding war among colleges and universities for athletes? That could get out of hand. Certainly, there’s intense competition for outstanding high school players. Add money to that and one can imagine all kinds of problems. Also, colleges and universities are constantly upgrading their facilities and going into debt, some of which is being retired from TV revenue, we’ve been told.

How would pay for play affect the academic side for players?

If all that would result would be a fund to help players in need after their college playing days are over, an argument could be made to justify that kind of situation. There is a fairness issue, it seems, in all of this. These college players are the reason colleges and universities are reaping millions of dollars from broadcast rights.

Where does all of this leave the fan? College sports is big business. Television rules because of the money it pumps into programs for the right to broadcast games. Television tells the school what time to start games. It pays for that right. Game times aren’t always convenient for the fans, even creating some hardships. Games are longer because of the commercials that have been sold that must be aired. But even with these inconveniences, the fans buy tickets and make donations to athletic programs.

Tailgating has become a social event for many of the people who attend games, that is, they go to stadiums, for the party atmosphere.

Getting back to the lawsuit. It may be in the middle of the summer of 2014 before a decision is given, or it could come sooner. The impact of a decision could change the structure of college sports.

/opinion/columns