Everyone knows Ralph Nader right? You know him for implementing the safety device on cars that keeps our doors latched, conveniently knows as the Nader pin. You know him as a one time Presidential candidate, but, did you know him as someone that has an opinion on sports? Neither did I, that was until today when I was surfing the web and found an article on espn.com.
It seems Nader has a major issue with college football and basketball being too much like professional football and basketball. Nader even went as far as calling the NCAA tourny the "2011 NCAA Professional Basketball Championships". So Nader has proposed to get rid of all College sports scholarships in an effort to "de-professionalize" college sports. Nader says that "an entire industry has developed in the youth sports arena, club teams, personal trainers, etc. - to prey on the families' dreams of an athletic scholarship." Nader also argues that his proposal will eliminate that "win at all costs" attitude by eliminating the incentive of a college scholarship. While Nader has not rolled out this proposal to congress yet, he vows to use all the levers necessary even using the families of previous athletes he says were forced to play when hurt or sick just to get a college scholarship. He goes on to say that either they get rid of the scholarships or the NCAA admits that these college sports are no longer amateur and drop its tax exempt status. Those are the facts of what I read and what Nader has in his plans.
So, as it stands now the reason the NCAA is tax exempt is because they claim they are a not for profit organization that takes the money that all their tournaments and bowl games and contracts with television programming and puts it toward education and scholarships. In 1999 NCAA gave CBS the exclusive rights to the NCAA basketball tourny for 11 years at a cost to CBS of 6.2 billion dollars or about 560 million a year. Thats a lot of money, and in order to keep their tax exempt status they would need to be spending that money on education and the furthering of their scholarship students. Are they? I don't know I would think the IRS would know. This is the part of Naders' proposal I agree with, but make the college's pay not the kids. If the NCAA is making a profit and the schools are making money hand over fist then have them do away with their tax exempt status.
If you eliminate athletic college scholarships you will essentially do exactly what Nader wants done away with. You will have created a farm team in a sense for the professional team, if the players that can make it in the bigs even go to college. Players that can make it in the pros(1% of the collegiate athletic population) will go to european leagues until they are eligible or just go right out of high school if they can. For that other 99%, 8% earn a college scholarship. I would bet that if you did away with these scholarships that at least half of these students wouldn't even go to college. Have you seen the great commercials the NCAA runs stating that almost all of their student athletes go pro in something other than sports, not going to happen if you get rid of the scholarships.
The other issue with getting rid of the scholarships is now the student athlete has rights to all the product with his or her name on it. I am not saying its right that under the current rules that the athlete gets none of that money its actually pretty sad, but rules are rules and the student athlete knows this going into it. But, lets face it, they are getting a free education. If you go with Naders' proposal the NCAA can no longer keep the kids from marketing their own shoe, they can control the jersey or at least the school can because of the name, but isn't this what Nader is trying to avoid?
On to Naders' last point that probably sticks out the most to me. Nader referring to sports as an industry preying on families' dreams of an athletic scholarship. I am not a parent yet but, don't you want the best for you children and for them to have the best of everything? Don't you teach your children to give 100% effort all the time every-time? Why do kids get straight A's in high school for bragging rights? No, its the hope to get into a good college and maybe get an academic scholarship. So, should we do away with those too? Could you imagine the uproar if that happened? I think parents and kids should be realistic, like I said earlier, 8% of high school athletes receive a college scholarship. Parents should be honest with their children, make sports important but make education more important. I think this is Naders' main goal but I just think he is not weighting the pros and cons. There are several problems with college sports and rules infractions and it is a money driven system but again, don't make the kids pay. Certainly don't make America pay and cut a way to educate more youth, at times like this we should be throwing all the money we can at education not cutting it.
Please comment if you would like, I have many more thoughts on this subject but if I put them all down this blog it would be a book not a blog. Thanks for reading!