I highly recommend reading this series of posts about the larger economic/marketing issues facing college athletics as a result of the O’Bannon case at the Emory Sports Marketing Blog. The author’s point is that both sides bring a lot to the table, but one side enjoys far more of the feast, so to speak. And much of that is structural.
NCAA players have few rights and operate under significant constraints. Scholarships are renewed on a yearly basis so essentially athletes have one year contracts. In contrast, coaches operate in a free market system and can sell their services to the highest bidder. Coaches also typically have contracts that continue to pay them even if they are fired. Transfer rules are particularly one sided. If an athlete transfers, he must sit out for a season and the school can limit the athlete’s choices. Coaches can, of course, move on whenever a better opportunity arises (often the new suitor will pay the coaches buyout). The hypocrisy of these asymmetric rules is dramatically highlighted when NCAA sanctions are levied. Often the coach, on whose watch the infractions occurred, moves on while players then suffer the consequences.
Make sure you read it all, as he makes good points and asks some very thoughtful questions. And, boy, if this doesn’t sum up the current state of college athletic economics, I don’t know what does:
My ultimate conclusion is, therefore, that for schools to save their athletic programs it is necessary to remove the profit motivation from the system. This is, however, different from saying that profits should be removed. As I see it the main problem is that we have evolved to a system coaches and athletic departments can harness the loyalty of alumni and other fans to make themselves amazingly wealthy.
Greg McGarity wants to know what’s wrong with that.