How college sports in the US became an $8 billion inequality racket. And why might you fall | college sports

TThe first intercollegiate athletic event in the United States took place in 1852, when the recently formed rowing clubs of Yale and Harvard Universities in New Hampshire met for a regatta. Her sponsorship of a New England railroad executive was a sign of things to come and, looking back, a reminder that the profit motive has been embedded in college sports from the start.

It is unlikely that anyone on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in August would have imagined that he or she was witnessing the germ of a uniquely American phenomenon: that many of the world’s leading research and educational institutions would come to run commercial sports programs today generating over $8 billion in annual revenue.

For more than a century, the National Athletics Association has been the primary governing body for college sports in the United States. Comprised of three divisions, the organization has swelled into a multibillion-dollar group, with media companies paying increasing amounts for broadcast rights to marquee competitions such as College Football Playoff and the NCAA basketball tournament (commonly known as March Madness).

Since its inception, the NCAA and its member institutions have eschewed government oversight, independent regulators and public outcry to maintain a price-fixing scheme, under the guise of amateurs, that prevented athletes from receiving what the market would pay them. Basically, players were only allowed to receive compensation in the form of a scholarship in addition to room and board.

There are signs that this cartel is cracking and the 115-year-old’s monopoly grip is fading away. In June, the US Supreme Court unanimous ruling The education-related benefits that the NCAA imposes on student-athletes violate US antitrust law. Notable is the favorable opinion from Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who suggested that NCAA regulations restricting any kind of compensation — including direct payment for athletic achievements — may no longer hold up well in future antitrust challenges.

“The NCAA is not above the law,” Kavanaugh wrote. The NCAA formulates its arguments for not paying student-athletes fees into harmless cards. But the labels can’t hide the truth: The NCAA business model would be categorically illegal in almost any other industry in America.”

Ten days later, the NCAA announced that it would allow players to make use of their name, photo and likeness, easing restrictions on things like ad campaigns, autographs and paid appearances.

But as another college football season kicks off on Saturday, fundamental inequalities in a billion-dollar industry persist in the emergence of an unpaid workforce. How we got here is worth looking into.

The popularity of regatta at Harvard-Yale led to the emergence of other intercollegiate sports, no greater than college football. By the turn of the 20th century—decades before the formation of the NFL—football was already a business landscape prone to corruption and clamor for regulation and reform. Public distaste in response to the increasing death toll among college football players led US President Teddy Roosevelt to convene two conferences in the White House that led to the formation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS), the governing body that soon became known as NCAA.

Many of the regulations sanctioned in the organization’s original constitution still exist in some form today: prohibited payments to students based on athletic skills, prohibited player recruitment, player eligibility limited to four years for non-professional athletes – although they specifically allowed both coaches and institutions to do so. Financially benefit from intercollegiate athletics. Concerns about the industry’s growing commercial exploitation persisted in the ensuing decades, but the advent of television – and the sale of broadcasting rights – sent revenue into the stratosphere.

Young athletes have long accepted these terms simply because there are no paid alternatives. Since 1990, the NFL has refused to allow players under three years of age out of high school, while the NBA instituted a similar one-year rule in 2006. These age restrictions, which are collectively negotiated by unions, are Professional players and thus exempt from antitrust laws, forced aspiring professional athletes to join a college system that effectively acts as a development pipeline to the professional circuit.

Nearly 170 years ago, from its early days, it was clear that college sports in the United States were never just about competition. Now, finally, public opinion appears to be shifting about how much of the pie the fortune makers are sticking to.

As Kavanaugh wrote, “Not all restaurants in the area can come together to cut chef wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat from lower-paid chefs. Law firms cannot plot the salaries of booth attorneys in the name of providing legal services on the premise.” Love of the law.” Hospitals cannot agree to cap the income of nurses in order to create a “purer” form of patient assistance. News organizations cannot join forces to reduce the salaries of reporters to maintain the “tradition” of public journalism. Film studios cannot collude in Reducing the benefits to camera crews to ignite the “amateur spirit” in Hollywood. The job of setting prices is the work of setting prices.”

Over the next few weeks, Guardian US will take a look at inequality in college sports and how far it will persist in the future.

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