WVU players in pro sports

Sorry, Student-Athletes, I Have Money to be Made- A Take on Conference Expansion

Image via: SBNation

The story broke a week or two ago, but went relatively unnoticed. However, Twitter began exploding last night with hashtags like “#SCANDAL”, #WVUtoSEC, and the ever-great #FireCraigJames” (not that Craig James has anything to do with the story…that we know of).
If you haven’t read the news, take a minute to review this article from www.boston.com.
The controversial comments made by Boston College’s Athletic Director, Gene Filippo, are quoted as:

“It had nothing to do with basketball, it was football money which drove expansion. It was football money and securing our future…We always keep our television partners close to us. You don’t get extra money for basketball. It’s 85 percent football money. TV – ESPN – is the one who told us what to do. This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball.”

According to the article, the ACC recently signed a deal with ESPN that will increase each member school’s revenue to about $13 million. Filippo speculates that the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will bring about increased numbers to the schools, as well. These statements alone seemingly echo the mindset in college football today: $MONEY$. (Note: The NCAA holds a tax-exempt status, and is touted as strictly a non-profit organization)

Let’s take note that ESPN isn’t the only organization in it for the cash. It’s long been known that the BCS is revered as a joke by many sports fans due to it’s obvious greed. Do we really need 35 bowl games? Are there honestly 70 teams that truly DESERVE to be invited to post-season play? In all honesty, probably not. However, those are an additional 35 chances for the NCAA, BCS, and television networks like ESPN to make a profit. Out of 35 bowl games, there are 2 (possibly 3, as the Chick-Fil_A bowl hasn’t been announced) that are NOT shown on ESPN or ABC. The Hyundai Sun Bowl will be broadcast on CBS, and the AT&T Cotton Bowl can be seen on FOX.
While this blatant greed and possible monopolization can easily be spotted by flipping through a few channels on the tube, the seemingly lost factor in this mess is often overlooked. What about the student-athletes? NCAA regulations restrict the players from being compensated for their contributions to their respective schools. According to the NCAA’s “D1 Summary of NCAA Regulations“, “You are not eligible in any sport if, after you become a student-athlete, you accept any pay for promoting a commercial product or service or allow your name or picture to be used for promoting a commercial product or service. [Bylaws and]”
So the NCAA, official Conferences, and the respective schools “sell” their logos to Nike and Under Armour, who then use the appropriate colors (often licensed and “sold” as well) and “random” numbers to make jerseys that sell to the public for upwards of $70.00 each. Let me ask you something…would you buy a jersey no matter what number was on the back? Would you go to your local retailer and say, “I want an Old Gold Mountaineers jersey with the number Pi printed on it!”? While that would seem to be a pretty cool jersey, we have to be honest. We buy the jerseys with specific numbers in mind, and those numbers are based upon the players that wear them. If you go to a sporting goods store, you are not going to buy jersery number 3.14159265… because it’s cool. You may buy a WVU #12, or #11, or maybe #3 plainly because of the athlete that sports that number on the playing field.
When Geno Smith steps onto the field and sees tens of thousands of fans proudly wearing their #12 Mountaineer jerseys, he doesn’t see dollar signs. Smith should see support, love, and acceptance. He can be assured that each one of those fans more than likely spent at least $65.00 for a peice of fabric with his number printed/sewn onto it. Would you spend that much money on a shirt with your spouse’s face or name printed on the back? Most of us wouldn’t. Some of us may, just to throw darts into it.
Anyway, my point is that these athletes make BILLIONS for the NCAA, conferences, universities, and companies such as Nike and Under Armour. What do they get, other than satisfaction? NOTHING. These students are relying on financial aid, scholarships, and loans to make it through college, and money-hungry corporations are thriving off their success. (Needless to say, I am a STRONG proponent of providing royalties to the athletes for selling their jerseys) These kids face the same struggles as John, the out-of-state-student that wants a chemical engineering degree. Even though John doesn’t play sports, he is still a key player in the university’s success. John’s final GPA directly reflects the institution’s academic quality, just the same as the star quarterback’s.
So these corporations are making money. Big deal. Actually, yes, it is a big deal when the interest of the student-athletes is compromised by big-time television networks who put the wellness of their wallet over the wellness of the students. ESPN has been accused of telling the ACC who to raid from the Big East. If this is true, and the reason touted is a larger television market, then how can we be sure the NCAA is overseeing the “best” for the students? Surely the NCAA could step in and say, “Hey, even if you aren’t violating federal regulations, this isn’t really looking out for the kids.” Money should NEVER hold precedence over an education.
This topic makes my blood boil. I was raised to work for everything you have and be glad that you have it. Right now, there are numerous student-athletes and schools working hard to make a name for themselves. Players want to go pro, schools want to move up to D1, and the controllers of all their destinies seem to be a gluttonous sports entertainment monopoly with conference puppets on its fingers, conference talking heads that will turn on a university or conference at the flip of a switch, and a sanctioning body that is supposed to represent them and their best interests, yet consistently allows the cash flow to supercede the players it claims to protect.
When will all of this debauchery end? Will someone finally step up against (start angelic harmonies, trumpets, and harps playing) the great governing body that is the NCAA? Does anyone even have the available cash to bring a case against these avaricious fat-cats? It makes me sick, it makes me angry, and it makes me sad. College football has become nothing but a giant cash machine with ESPN executives first in line for the “Dash for Cash”, followed by the conference presidents and the NCAA executives. All of them laughing hysterically at the student athletes that are flipping the machine off and on and reloading all of the million-dollar bills before the next cronie enters.
I wonder what will be the entertainment for this week? Will ESPN finally decide to kill the Big East and create their own SuperConference? Heck, they may even decide to buy the NCAA and replace the president with Craig James.
Good Lord, somebody seriously make it stop.
I’d really like to hear your opinions on this, whether for or against. Let your voice be heard. Heck, maybe someone from ESPN will read it and offer you a job.

About the author

Caleb Wygal

Creator of WVUPros and author.


  • Dude, the NCAA has nothing to do with expansion. Its the schools and the conferences. Also, non profit doesn't mean what you think it means. When girl scouts sell cookies, they're making profit. It just doesn't go to stockholders, its put back into the organization. This is a complicated issue and instead of having frank discussions, everybody is misinformed and just rant about it.

  • I know the NCAA isn't the "expansion culprit", and I don't believe I ever said they were. I stated that ESPN is allegedly orchestrating the conference shuffle while the NCAA sits idly by and does nothing to protect anyone but their own.
    I also know the definition of nonprofit. A nonprofit organization is not intended or established to make a profit. This touches on changes in the college football world, and although the NCAA was established as a nonprofit, it could have easily swayed from that classification. Your Girl Scout reference is a good one, and is the way a nonprofit is supposed to work.
    If I've misquoted anything I've previously said, let me know. However, I an not in any way "misinformed" about the points you suggest.

  • Anonymous: The paragraphs were spaced better than this when I pressed "submit." I see what you mean, and I'll do what I can to make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm new to the blogging scene, so still learning the ropes.

  • @Frank Rose: the NCAA sits idly by because they have 0 control over schools moving back and forth. Its like complaining to the President that the widget factory is moving to Houston. Conferences are the power brokers in college football. Other than recognizing the games, the NCAA has nothing to do with bowls either. It doesn't say who goes and it doesn't get money from them.

    Also, don't forget that the NCAA isn't anything but the school presidents. If you want a playoff, go complain to them. The NCAA is like congress, everybody complains about its dysfunction, but everyone thinks their representative is great and serves their own area's interest. Same thing with the school presidents. Go knock on Jim Clement's door.

    As far as non profits go, you just throw around that they might not be, but you don't give any examples. 95% of the NCAA revenue goes back to schools, the schools put it in their athletic budgets, and athletics generate alumni donations to the school. These donations pay for things like more athletics, parking decks, scholarships, cancer research, the van that orientation leaders drive around to give average high school students a tour, etc. Sure, technically there are a lot of people that profit in the form of jobs,etc. But you have to hire people to run your organization. You'll find lots of non profits that pay the CEO a bundle of cash. Do coaches make a lot of money? Sure. But I'm sure Nick Saban has made more for the U of A then some 40,000 dollar coach would. The other 5% the NCAA uses to run itself. Ever wonder why NCAA compliance is behind yahoo sports in investigations? Part of it is because they don't have the money to hire more compliance people.
    They have to pay for things like lacrosse playoffs.

    As far as not paying players, profiting off their likenesses, etc, these are all issues that need to be debated. But it muddles the issue when the NCAA is made to be a Mafia don, when its just a clumsy bureaucracy.

  • @brotha: The NCAA has a purpose statement, "The Playing Rules Administration staff will provide technical expertise and leadership for NCAA conferences, coaches, and game officials by developing and interpreting rules for intercollegiate sports to enhance the student-athlete experience and ensure fair competition." (NCAA.org) Now, as for zero control, I have to disagree. The purpose statement clearly includes conferences and the reference to ensuring fair competition. Can the current conference shuffle and possible destruction of the Big East not fall under that category? After all, if the Big East crumbles because of a greedy television corporation's interference, it could be said that the "fair competition" was destroyed by said tv corp by ordering certain schools be "raided" by another conference.

    Also, the NCAA is comprised of everything from the presidents, to athletic directors, to coaches, and even student-athletes. The NCAA website lists all members and their positions within the organization.

    The NCAA has the power to step in and remind these schools and conferences that the reason they exist is the student-athlete. In all honesty, I'm not sure why they haven't. If we end up with Superconferences, undoubtedly being under the orders of the BCS, then NCAA rules and regulations will again need to be tightened up to ensure compliance is continually met. According to your statement, the NCAA doesn't have the time or money to do that, so why do they sit by and let this conference shuffle continue, knowing that if they move to a playoff system, then they will be the ones in charge and not the BCS.

    It seems as one of two things have happened. Either you are a member of the NCAA, or you've missed my point. Even taking my words as your "Mafia don" analogy, I'm not signing Brando to play the NCAA in the movie. My feelings of disgust are brought about by the fact that the monopoly that is ESPN seems to be running the show when it comes to college football. I'd compare the NCAA to the made man that wants to take control of the family, but is afraid he'll end up wearing concrete shoes if he defies Lee Corso.

    You make some good points about the NCAA and money, but, if I remember correctly, our own Bob Huggins stirred the pot himself last year with similar complaints about the "theft" of money by the NCAA.

    I'm glad you take the time to express your thoughts. There's never anything wrong with standing up for your own opinions.