Major NCAA sporting events always serve as an opportunity to reignite the debate over paying NCAA student athletes beyond the possibility of scholarships. The past week has been no different with March Madness taking center stage.
A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post found a 64-33 split opposing paying student athletes when asked "Beyond any scholarships they receive, do you support or oppose paying salaries to college athletes?"
When broken down by race, the results shifted considerably, as noted by Deadspin:
The largest split came with race: White respondents opposed paying college athletes by a 73-24 margin, while non-white respondents supported salaries for college athletes, 51-46. (Hispanics also narrowly supported paying college players.)
Meanwhile, CBS/Turner's $10.8 billion TV deal means that the NCAA receives an average of $11.5 million for each and every tournament game. Just a reminder.
Beyond the CBS deal, it's worth noting that the NCAA produces nearly $11 billion in annual revenue.
Despite the repetition of oversimplified ideas from the public such as "they get paid via a free education," the idea of everyone profiting from the hard work of the student athletes except the athletes has been drawing a lot of negative attention from the media.
The most recent news to bother the "pro-pay" crowd is Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith receiving an $18,000 bonus for Logan Stieber's wrestling national title at 141 pounds. Something that our own Mike Riordan said placed Stieber "among the greatest wrestlers in NCAA history."
Smith already receives over $940,000 a year in base salary and gets more than a third of the median American household income for Stieber's hard work.
Complicating things further is that scholarships for wrestling are notoriously flawed. As reported by Yahoo Sports:
Even the idea of a "full ride" is a misnomer. The gap between what schools dole out and the actual cost of attendance (cost of living, etc.) can be as much as $5,000 or more. And that's if you can even get a full scholarship.
The NCAA caps scholarships for wrestling at 9.9 per team. Why? Who knows? That's what the NCAA members decided to do even though a place like Ohio State could certainly afford more. The result is those 9.9 scholarships are then carved up and divvied out so even champions often wind up receiving only partial deals. After all, there are 39 men on the Ohio State wrestling roster.
Ohio State is a university where gaudy pay numbers make the situation for student athletes seem even more absurd.
Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer pulls in a cool $4,000,000 prior to bonuses. The assistant football coaches combine for just about $3,500,000. Thad Matta, the head basketball coach, pulls in $3,194,000. We've already covered the Athletic Director making almost a million himself. In 2012, Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan pulled in $110,025.36 just in base salary, not counting anything he made from running camps or any other revenue.
Meanwhile, an NCAA student athlete can't even sell personal property in many cases without it being an NCAA violation that could cost him his scholarship and education. They can't work a regular job because of the demands of training and travel for competition.
And, in the case of someone like Stieber, they're sharing a combined 9.9 scholarships with 39 other athletes on the team.
Just a little something to think about while watching the rest of the men's basketball tournament in the coming days.