Why the NCAA Should Be Sued For Racial Discrimination

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Updated: December 15, 2006

NCAA NEW YORK — I despise the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). I hate them more than asparagus or burnt popcorn. Hate is a strong word, I know. But it’s the only word that properly summarizes the rage within me when I think about an institution that is probably one of the most exploitative in all of American history.

Why do I hate them so much? I am glad you asked. When asked on an ESPN show to provide an academic summary of the methods by which the NCAA is taking unfair advantage of its athletes, I had to go to the street. Maybe I watch too much BET, but the first thing that came to mind was “pimpin”. So, I simply told the host of the show that “It’s hard out there for a pimp, and nobody knows that better than the NCAA.”

To drive the point home, I used this example: “Stephen (the name of the host), if I were to go out here and earn you 20 million dollars, and you turn around and cut me a check for $2,000, I’m gonna find you and kick your butt…..Then I’m gonna sue you.” I think he got the point, since I could see him balling up his fists. I might be a professor, but if someone were to jack me the way the NCAA does its athletes, they would be begging for a beat down.

My hatred for the NCAA is equaled by my love of college sports. But my smiles turn to frowns when I see the thousands of kids being taken for a ride by the 50 year old farts who benefit from this multi-billion dollar industry. Coaches earn salaries in the millions. Lavish buildings are being financed on campuses where many of the athletes will never receive a degree.

Athletic directors, most of them non-minorities, earn incredibly high salaries. The kid on the field risking life and limb while his mama is still in the projects….he gets nothing. Not only does the kid get nothing, he doesn’t even get an opportunity to coach when his career is over. In many cases, he simply gets a one-way bus ticket back to the projects.

This degree of exploitation should be an outrage. Does it make sense that universities who don’t hire black professors, black coaches or even admit very many black students are earning billions of dollars from black athletes? At the same time, many historically black colleges and universities can’t even pay the bills. How much aggregate wealth is being extracted from the black community when these athletes are earning billions for their universities and not being compensated?

Again, I am glad you asked. In a research study conducted this year, using conservative estimates, I determined that $250 billion is being taken out of the black community over a 40 year period under the current system being used by the NCAA. My PhD is in finance, so don’t mess with me. Some argue that it comes down to graduation rates. They feel that if the universities ensured that these individuals were getting college degrees, the exchange would be fair.

Answer: no it would not. I value education as much as anyone (I have far too much of it myself), but a college degree does not give you what a nice 2 million dollar salary would. Some argue that it is the fault of the athletes that they are not graduating. Again, I do not agree. I see these kids in action every year. They are 18-21 years old, and essentially do what is asked of them by their coaches in order to play.

If they are told to get up at 6 am for practice, they do it. If they are forced to miss my class for a week to make a Thursday night game on ESPN, they do it. If they were being told to hit the books in order to get on the field, they would do that too.

Don’t get it twisted. It is clear that academics is far from being the top priority of the NCAA and college coaches. I have taught at Ohio State, University of Kentucky, Syracuse University and Indiana University (all with big time athletics programs). So again, don’t mess with me.

What does it come down to? It comes down to good old fashioned American values. If you believe that a person should get paid what they are worth, then you can only agree that the athletes should be paid fairly before the coaches and administrators.

The billions don’t disappear just because the players are not being paid. The money goes into SOMEONE’S pocket. Why IN THE WORLD would it make more sense for the coaches, athletic directors and others to get that money before the athletes do? Basketball games do not happen without basketball players. We all know that. So, as I said before, the NCAA should be sued.

They should be sued for being unwilling to hire black coaches and athletic directors. Terry Bowden, a powerful, white ex-coach from Auburn University, admits that black coaches are not hired because of pressure from alumni. This folks is discrimination. They should be sued for pillaging the black community of a valuable financial resource.

Some say that the athletes are to blame for this, since they are the ones choosing to do a job in which they are not paid. “Why not pursue other options?” I have heard some say. Good question. Well, if you are allowed to legislate a monopoly and unfair control over your source of labor, then THEY HAVE NO OPTIONS. Why do you think that there are rules in place that FORBID anyone from paying a college athlete?

Why is there a rule stating that a player must sit out a year if he decides to transfer? Why is there a rule in college football stating that the player must be in college three years before he is eligible for the NFL draft?

These rules are all designed to control the athlete and create a world in which he has no options. In addition to being a financial expert and a college professor who has seen the abuse first hand, I am also a black man. So, as I said before, don’t mess with me!!!