The NCAA: We Gobble it Up, They Reap Rewards

12:13 PM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

The following is the latest in a series of weekly columns from WUSA 9 Sports Anchor Dave Owens on a sports-related topic. This week, Dave takes a closer look on the practices of the NCAA.

(WUSA9) -- The Louisville Cardinals had just finished running down the Michigan Wolverines in an electrifying men's basketball finale and you could hear the band tuning up the chords for CBS' "One Shining Moment."

As Rick Pitino's Cardinals basked amongst the confetti, one player in particular received the spotlight: Kevin Ware, Louisville's darting guard. A week earlier he became the poster boy for the 2013 tournament when he gruesomely injured his leg against Duke.

As Ware gingerly celebrated on crutches with the rest of his teammates, the basket was lowered down to him so he could take his turn at cutting the net. A subtle gesture, the least the NCAA could do.

After all, the NCAA had just finished raking in its annual bounty for putting on its men's hoops tournament. According to its financial statements, $10.8 billion over 14 years -- a gargantuan figure.
Some would argue that it was money well earned, and I certainly won't debate that the tournament is one of the top two or three sporting events of the year.

For me, however, it's becoming more and more difficult to ignore the dissociative nature of what the NCAA claims to be and what they actually are. A quick glance at its consolidated financial statements reveals its charter: the NCAA is an unincorporated not-for-profit educational organization through which the colleges and universities of the nation speak and act on athletic matters. Not for profit! Wow, could've fooled me.

During the Sweet 16 in Washington, D.C. I was reminded of that. I was conducting interviews and afterwards grabbed a Coke and headed out to the floor to watch the Miami Hurricanes practice. Sound the alarm: I was quickly reminded by security that I couldn't go onto the floor with a coke can in hand due to the NCAAs contractual relationship with Gatorade. So, I was instructed to pour the can of Coke into a Gatorade cup. Non-profit organization.

Not a bad gig, that NCAA. As a 501c3 entity, it pays no federal income taxes. Yet in 2011 it made over $630 million from television rights marketing fees, another $90 million from championships and the NIT, and an additional $21 million from sales and services. The NCAA thanks you for purchasing that Otto Porter jersey from the school store, by the way.

Which brings me back to Ware. As I watched him crutch himself to the rim and nip at the net, I got to thinking: does the NCAA help this guy out? After all, he and the rest of the 800 or so basketball players participating in the NCAA tournament are responsible for the massive revenues brought in by the NCAA right? We watch the tournament because of them, correct?

Turns out, the NCAA didn't pay for the repair of Ware's leg; Louisville did. The NCAA requires that all athletes have insurance (personal or through his or her school) before participating in athletic activities.
In truth, the NCAA does offer coverage for "catastrophic" injuries. The deductible for that? $90,000. So what sort of surgeries costs $90,000 anyway?

"We're talking about significant spine and neck injuries in those cases," says Dr. Fred Parker, who serves as Team Physician at George Washington University. Parker says surgery costs for an injury such as Ware's compound fracture might run somewhere in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. Significantly less than $90,000, that's for sure.

I can picture the NCAA saying: "Hey Kev, thanks for making us money but for your surgery, you and the school are on your own."
To be fair, this model is similar to what other athletic governing bodies have done for years. Any parent who has a son or daughter playing high school sports must prove they have some semblance of insurance before said son or daughter can participate.

The difference is such-an-such school district typically isn't raking in massive amounts of dollars and not paying the subjects responsible for that revenue stream. Meanwhile, former NCAA President Myles Brand took in over $1 million his final year in the position.

Uh-oh, I just struck a nerve! Did I just imply an unfair system exists where an entity collects mucho dinero and the workers don't see a dime?

Yes. The debate is not new. It's once again time to discuss separating collegiate revenue producing sports from non-revenue producing sports.

What would happen? In short, we'd reveal a deep dark secret that's existed for years. Many athletic departments don't make money and sustain only by pilfering off football and basketball.

We'd also realize average sports programs in major conferences many times survive only with the help of bowl game money from above average one's. In other words, Minnesota gets paid when Michigan goes to a bowl game.

Separating revenue sports would further increase the divide between the have's and have not's. Newsflash, it's already happening. The reason schools are jettisoning conference traditions now to realign is partly because many realize the day is coming when there will only be a few conferences of significance. The smart executives are trying like you-know-what to be part of those significant few. They would never say it, but in my opinion it's the reason Maryland left the ACC. The ACC football conference is dying.

Fascinating really. Who knows if change will ever come to the current NCAA model but it should. Each year I hear raging debates about athletes leaving school early and how it robs the purity of the collegiate experience and I get disgusted.

First of all, the number of athletes who leave early is about 1% of 1% of 1% of all student-athletes. Second, the story is so much larger than "one or two and donners." What's so pure about this money grab anyway?

NCAA execs know its current model is flawed and yet lucrative for them. All they have to do is keep up the façade of offering an education for a small minority of athletes who will make them millions and they don't even have to compensate them.
So as we watch the BCS Championship and March Madness unfold each season it's important to remember we're watching an unfair system unfold right before our eyes.

Most Watched Videos