NCAA Fesses Up--in Prime Time
By David Henderson
The (subsidized) fix is in.
There are over 400,000 NCAA student athletes. And just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.
While the NCAA, with the above as its advertising line for the last few years, seems to think that this line makes the organization look good, it does the opposite for those who are willing to think about its implications.
The NCAA runs a tightly controlled cartel whose “profits” go to colleges and coaches. It’s not simply a private cartel but one backed by government force. Armen Alchian and William Allen, in their 1964 textbook, University Economics, were the first people I know to point this out. They pointed out that those colleges that decided to pay athletes would find their academic accreditation at risk. So why don’t new schools sense a profit to made and then enter and compete players away by paying them? Alchian and Allen answer: “[N]o new school could get subsidies from the state or major philanthropic foundations without recognition by the present accreditation group.” They add, “We have finally arrived at the source of the value of membership in the NCAA and related organizations: subsidized education.”
One could argue, “Well, the student athletes will cash in on their skills later when they go on to become professional athletes.” Not so, as the NCAA admits in its advertising.
Moreover, as Richard Vedder and Matthew Denhart pointed out in a Wall Street Journal article last year:
Of course, for the students who go on to the pros, putting off their financial bonanza won’t be a big deal. But most college athletes do not make the pros. They may not even end up with the basic skills necessary to succeed in other workplaces, since only a minority of student-athletes in major sports even graduate (25% in top-ranked University of Connecticut men’s basketball, for example). Long practices and missed classes make it difficult to succeed academically. A recent study funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation shows the academic performance of athletes is lower than non-athletes even at Division III schools.