College sports in the United States have been a major source of entertainment for many years. We live in a country where athletes are revered, looked up to, and something a great number of people strive to emulate. Because of this, athletes can command a very large salary, teams leagues and schools make immense profits off having these sports and athletes. There has always been a separation between those who play sports professionally and those who do not in this case, students that play a sport while in college. The phrase "student athlete" is shoved down the throat of every individual who does play a sport while in school. In every level below the division 1 college level I would say that "student Athlete" is an accurate description of what is required from them, academics coming first and then athletics. However, at the highest levels of amateur sport I argue that this is far from a reality.
The time when the phrase "Student Athlete" would have been accurate to say was a time when the leagues and schools that possess these athletes didn't make the profit they currently do. These schools use the abilities to make profits and increase enrollment rates at their schools, yet the players themselves see no compensation with the exception of scholarship money in some situations. Last year the NCAA made over 10 billion dollars in revenue, the most profitable football programs made just under 100 million dollars and profit. Yet for example Andrew Luck who is now a successful NFL quarterback was given and estimated $85.000 a year in scholarship money. The very next year after completing school he signed a 4 year 22.1 million dollar contract with a guaranteed 14.5 million dollar signing bonus, My question is what changed so drastically in one year that he should be paid so much more merely months after being paid a scholarship to Stanford University? My answer is the force that the NCAA applies to its players.
So far in Austrian Economics class we have discussed government interventionism and how it interferes in the market process. The situation of college athletes is similar with the NCAA acting as the force. In no other situation that I can think of, are peoples skills so artificially undervalued than in top tier college athletics. In a perfect "free market" these athletes would be getting paid much much more because there skills are highly sought after. Also I think that most economists would agree that some sort of government or force is necessary, that being said this situation calls for some sort of rules and structure from the NCAA. But to not pay these athletes anything outside of scholarship because the NCAA's classification as "student athletes" is simply wrong to me.
The NCAA can make this classification because they say that these students are students before athletes. However, the typical division 1 football player spends over 40 hours a week on his sport, also a basketball player whose team makes the NCAA tournament in march can be expected to miss as much as a month straight of school. I hope if nothing else these statistics would show that for many athletes school is not their top priority. I think with the amount of money these athletes bring in to their respective schools a free market would mean these athletes would begin to earn the money there skills demand. Its important to point out that any intervention by an institution acting as a force will create policies and those policies will move that "market" further from a free market. I think this example shows the institution does not always have to be a formal government.