COLUMNS

Money problems

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

Have you ever seen "The Dark Knight?"

Remember how The Joker was a self-proclaimed "agent of chaos," and he longed to see the "established order" come crashing down--giving way to total anarchy?

Well, according to Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany and NCAA President Mark Emmert, The Joker's grand vision may finally come into fruition if college athletes are paid.

Everything will come crashing down. Banks will be robbed, buildings will be blown to pieces, elected officials will be in constant danger and citizens will be forced to evacuate all of the major cities.

Okay, I'm just having some fun, but Delany and Emmert's melodramatic reaction to a possible scenario to pay players is pretty laughable.

Delany claims that the Big 10 will no longer exist if student-athletes are paid and the Rose Bowl, kiss it goodbye. It'll be as good as gone.

He went on to say that the whole college experience will disappear and Emmert, he whole-heartedly agreed.

In fact, Emmert added that if players are paid, college athletics will immediately turn into the minor leagues. This is not good because "minor league sports aren't very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience."

Call me a bright-eyed dreamer, but I suspect the fan interest over college sports will be slightly better than that of minor league sports regardless.

The reason Delany and Emmert have been making these wild and rash statements is because of the recent antitrust lawsuit brought on by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and others.

They dispute the NCAA's claims that college sports will explode into turmoil if players win the right to be paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses on TV and in videogames.

The idea of paying college athletes has always been there, but it has picked up some serious steam over the last decade because of the stacks and stacks of money college sports continue to generate.

Jerseys with players' numbers sans the names are sold for big bucks. The jerseys might not don the athlete's name, but everyone knows whom they are representing when they fork over the money to buy it.

When people started screaming "exploitation," the NCAA immediately announced they would stop selling them.

For years, videogames have used the players' likenesses without any kind of compensation. When the word "exploitation" reared its ugly head again, the NCAA ended their relationship with EA--the company that makes the games.

Of course, the NCAA still denies their athletes the basic rights that any other American citizen has.

They cannot make money off of their own autographs or memorabilia. They cannot be paid for being in commercials or being in any ad campaigns. They are denied the right to sign endorsement deals.

And now, with the demand for college sports and the huge numbers spawned from TV deals, the athletes are generating millions and millions of dollars, but they're not seeing any of it.

In court, Delany acknowledged that leagues like the Big 10 are bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. Each institution gets $25 million.

When asked how much the athletes get from the $230 million a year the Big 10 generates in broadcast rights and from the Big Ten Network, all he could reply was, "There is no athlete's share of broadcast rights."

The schools are doing quite well on their own.

In 2013, the University of Texas' football program brought in $103.8 million and walked away with a profit of nearly $80 million.

LSU made $68.8 million worth in revenue and cleared a profit of nearly $45 million, and that's just the football team.

My stance was always one that said that these student-athletes should be able to make as much money as they could possibly make off of their likenesses and talent. It's un-American that they are denied outside financial opportunities.

Though, I always said that the schools should not pay them because I feared that the payment system would be out of whack. Which athletes get what amount of money? Paying all of this money could put strain on the university financially.

However, when you look at some of the numbers listed above, it seems only fair that these athletes get at least a small cut.

I'm not proposing they get millions of dollars--far from it--but each player getting paid according to how much profit their team brings in makes a lot of sense.

The LSU football team made a profit of nearly $45 million last year. If you paid a 70-man roster $30,000 each over a year--which is just slightly above the average income for an American citizen--that only comes out to a little over $2 million.

That means there would still be a nearly $43 million surplus to work with, and that's just for football.

I know the naysayers will scream about the athletes already getting a free education and free room and board, but let's be real. They're not regular students.

Many kids get full academic scholarships, but 80,000 fans don't pay $40 a pop to watch them study for a psychology final.

Many kids get free rides as mom and dad pay their way through, but 80,000 people don't throw down $40 a pop to watch them play beer pong at a frat party.

I don't really think O'Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs are being unreasonable when they want the court to allow them to come together and sell the rights to their images.

It's not out of line for them to want a system where players would get a share of the surplus generated from TV, nor is it egregious for that money to be split equally among team members and handed out after the player leaves school.

But according to guys like Delany and Emmert, the sky will fall, and utter chaos and anarchy will ensue.

Don't worry though, they're doing their part to make sure the athletes get what they deserve.

They just eliminated the limit on the number of meals an athlete can have each year. Problem solved. Take that, Ed O'Bannon.