Student-Athlete Stock Market

I have a Master’s degree.  

“What! You my master now?  Let me aks you this, Can you kick MY ass?!?” [Bigger and Blacker – Chris Rock, 1999]

Probably, but that isn’t the point of the interview.  I have a Master’s degree in Sport Management. I could have elected to go to one of the most elite Sport Management programs in the United States, but I opted to go to an executive program.  By executive, I mean part-time. By executive, I mean executing a shitty job or 3 while working an unpaid internship or 2. The curriculum was what we made of it. The students ranged from nearly illiterate to downright genius.  As someone who wrote a book called – Memoirs of Mediocrity, you can guess where I landed with my 3.9 gpa. I liked some of my professors, and some were younger than me. It was some gray area between profit and non-profit. I felt it, and I won’t go into any more detail unless you want to pay me back an inkling of the debt it provided me.  What I will say is, it was explicitly demanded by our staff that we not discuss the NCAA and the contentious dilemma of paying athletes.

Well, I no longer attend the University, and simply because I no longer have a network of University of California graduates to help me research the data professionally, so I am going to tackle the ruling that I merely overheard this morning on my way to my shitty labor job.

California passes a bill 31-5 in favor or compensating athletes for their Image or Likeness.  

Now, I’m not pro-slavery by any means.  I am against this bill for only 1 reason.  It may not be what you think.  

However, These guys are pro-slavery.

I am against this bill because it destroys the sanctity of team sport.  This is afterall, what this ruling is about. Team sport once had a religiosity to its teams.  If you were from a certain city, it was your team that was represented before the players. This is the sanctity that the NCAA is fighting for.  The other side of the coin is that because the players are enslaved, the best ones should be able to sell their likeness. I agree with this wholeheartedly, which is probably why we weren’t allowed to debate this in my program.  I also agree that the elite few players on any of the top tiered athletic university programs have a likeness that tries to scratch the feet of those universities. I know the name Zion. I don’t know his last name, I just know he is a 1 and done player who was just drafted number 1 overall and is going to play basketball in New Orleans.  I don’t which university Zion attended, but I could easily name every university in the Atlantic Coast Conference easier than I could name the top 5 players drafted into the NBA.

I must be a holdover from a much older generation, because I don’t like that I can’t recall players on the teams of which I am loyal.  I don’t know who is on the 49ers at the moment, what I do know is that I lost the passion to keep up. I hear talk of different players on different rosters constantly.  I’m not that old, I do remember a time before free agency, but for the most part, free agency is the only way I have seen sport managed. Sure players ask for trades as much as they get traded, but when the last NFL collective bargaining agreement struck the favor on the players’ side, since that time Players must average 47% of revenue! This means if Kraft food services starts charging $600 per hotdog, the ownership must eat the cost.  I am all for redistribution of wealth, and if one side gets to turn whiter and older, and the other side is committing suicide from CTE, I am gonna side with the 47%.   

The transition from ownership capital to players’ capital is attempting to slide into the NCAA.  They don’t like that. They don’t pay their athletes anything! The economies of scale by which universities operate are so profitable that they can afford to pay for hundreds of athletes’ tuition, room and board, and food.  The freshman 15 wasn’t born from starvation. Now that California is attempting to flex on the NCAA, the NCAA is going to flex back. They are just a bunch of ex-jocks circle-jerking themselves at the end of the day, and the true power-players are the gilded bureaucratic institutions’ administration who gobble up money faster than any other industry I know of.

The only reason universities are non-profit is so they can continue collecting money from the State.  States are dedicated to having their populace educated. The institution who are being subsidized by the state Do.  Not. Give. A. Fuck. They only care about churning the most profit they can. Sure, some within the institution care and what to see the identity of their university carry on through generations, but a snake does not lead its tail by its heart.  The heads of these institutions only care about job placement, or advanced degree percentages insofar as competing with similar schools. Every university that is collecting state money is growing in capacity, physical size, and administration. The University of Alabama’s endowment is nearly $1 billion!  They sit on $883 million while operating at over $6 billion, oh, and they receive $216 million from the state of Alabama.  Why? Because they are in bed with each other more than any reality show.  We want out politicians to be educated, we don’t want them to be corrupt.

At first it was the team that mattered, no names on the uniform.  USC held on longer than most to not put names on the back of their players’ uniforms.   In this new ruling, does this mean that USC is going to lose out the best athletes because UCLA will put names on the back of their uniforms?  I will leave that stupid argument for the talking heads who like to scream at each other on split screen. I don’t care about any of that, I care about the fact that the players’ names will outrank the institution.  Both at the professional level, and collegiate level. These are the LA LeBrons, most people only want to see him. I only want to see him because I love hating Lakers fans. I don’t want it to shift into a Golden State Currys versus the New Orleans Zions.  I have a Pablo Sandoval jersey which I received from attending a game. I will likely never wear it, but it’s a nice memory. I do not celebrate what is on the back of the jersey as much as what is on the front – The SF Giants logo.  

I am not against players getting paid.  I am not against students being more powerful that the universities.  I am against the idea that we are looking at likeness and we are forgetting about what image is being projected.  I don’t want to look at college sports and watch some 19 year old kid selling more than a professional of similar quality.  

I do have a proposal that would make institutions of learning remain that way.  A stock market. A stock market where donors can contribute to all athletes that participate in Division 1 athletics.  Each player retains a baseline stock value that is on par with the endowment of the university. This will cost the universities nothing, as they can decide to buy and sell a determined amount of stock by which the player is worth.  If the player has a high social capital, and has a high investment capital as an athlete, maybe teams will buy the majority shares of the players’ stock. The player can cash in his stock when he decides to quit the university. If these players are not allowed to operate like the business they are trying to become, are the universities doing their job as institutes of learning?  If I am a business major, and I start a company, I might be able to be any one of these success stories.  Not a single one of those companies were met with an order from their respective universities to resign their business.  There are stories of patents created while at university, but that is a whole other kettle of wax.

The NCAA is a unique institution that operates outside of the university systems by which it needs.  However, the NCAA has negotiated deals that has brought billions of dollars to universities across the nation, so they get to push the universities around.  The NCAA is trying to uphold the sanctity of each sport it represents. I agree with that, I just don’t agree that a player should be withheld from his or her opportunity to earn money from whatever it is that made that student a valuable resource for their respective universities.  It’s theft, pure and simple, under the guise of conservatism – we’ve seen this before.

I don’t like that many of the sports I grew up with have been reduced to flashiness and the ability for one player to carry a team. I love football because the flashy player can easily lose to a great line.  The highest player in the league might be on a mediocre team because he needs 51 other great players, and a guy like Tom Brady can sneakily reduce his player so the team could fill its needs. There aren’t many other sports that need to reduce the star player’s salary in order to win.  It’s counter to every major sport in the world, and that’s why I love it. I stopped liking basketball because one player would overpower an entire team.  The LeBron era might be the last, as teams are now filled with 6ft 8”+ guys who can shoot 3s. I enjoy the team aspect of sport, I also enjoy the individual efforts from individual sports, but the 2 need not be intertwined.  The NCAA is fighting from this front, but as slave owners, they don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If they decided on my proposal – to create a stock value for every one of their athletes, it could teach these athletes about marketing, stocks and options, and how to properly run a business – each athlete will be his or her own business with life decisions to make at every turn.

My favorite part of this proposal is that every athlete can graduate with seed money.  Remember the 47% that the NFL players lobbied for? If we gave half of that to every athlete at every university, pooled together to abide by Title IX rules, we have a baseline to start with.  If I graduated from Colorado State University on the team, I would have a small sliver of the 4 years of revenue that the athletics program brought in – not profit, these schools say they don’t make profit, revenue.  At a dumb estimate of $10 per ticket, and 6 home games, a shitty school like Colorado State brings in $2.4 million in revenue, only to pay their team for room and board (pre-built within the university’s budget, often collected from the State of Colorado), Tuition (Which is even more of a write-off as the university has allocated capacity for scholarship students, and food (ok, so an athlete eats roughly 3-5000 calories a day, I’ll give them whatever that costs).  

I will even concede to the slavers the ability to retain the likeness of the athletes themselves.  These athletes would be playing professionally in another country if the universities didn’t retain them.  Some athletes fall prey to the trap set by the university system, but many shouldn’t be there in the first place.  My proposal doesn’t require much beyond the ability to read and conduct simple arithmetic. Let the players learn, let the university absorb their likeness because if weren’t for the team, they wouldn’t be there in the first place.  The idea of the team is to have the group be more powerful than the individual. If it there was never a Rutgers vs Princeton football game, there would never be such a large number of athletes who are paid illegaly.  

The reason the NCAA loves to continue to fight is that A) they get to retain as much as 47% of their revenue, and B) the press of their witch hunts continues to feed the money machine of their cash cow.  I am not in any position of power, I just want to say for the record that I think even the lowest division 1 athlete should have the ability to finish university studies, and have a severance package to start life in the real world.  The backup punter from North Dakota state contributes to the system just as much as the starting quarterback for the University of Miami. If there were no 120 teams, the champion would not look as great. We need to stop enslaving people, and this goes for the business world as well, I’m looking at you MLM whores.  No, I will not pay you to start a business that I could start on my own! What is it that you are providing me? (Sorry, just venting because I a guy wanted me to buy into his little employment scam and I told him I wasn’t in the position of being his customer, I was looking to be an employee).

It is very important that even the lowest players be compensated to appreciate the team as a whole.  It is important to retain low profit sports like Swimming and Track & Field. They represent a culture and should be fed by the sports under the NCAA’s umbrella first, then compensated by the university.  Not simply in what the university can provide for free, but as the fact that any athlete is a representation of the university, thus is a marketing wing for the university. A LaCrosse player at a small division 1 university will tell hundreds of people in his lifetime what university he went to, it was that person’s identity the entire time at the university.  Why shouldn’t he receive a miniscule portion once he graduates? Because the Universities want to collect revenue from every possible source while doling out as little as possible.  

Since these are all deeply capitalist ideas, let’s let the market decide!  A softball player from Southern Mississippi State might only have 1000 people attend her game, so her stock value might be low. It would make sense that her affiliation with the Football program, whose stock value is high due to its immense profits, should bump her up into an acceptable value upon her graduation.  This provides more than just a piece of paper for a graduating college athlete, it gives them a few dollars to begin their new career.

I only wanted to be a college soccer player.  I knew I wasn’t good enough to become a professional, but I spent hundreds of hours of my life representing the university I played for, and if I went to a university which had a profitable sport, I would be wearing the team’s logo everywhere I went.  When I look at the Cal State Long Beach logo, I don’t think about where I received my Master’s degree, I see the Dirtbags. The team may not bring a profit to the university, but the college world series brings plenty of profit to the NCAA. In fact, only about 20 programs generated a profit, but that is because it is within the motives of the universities to eat up as much of their revenue lest it become profit.  If it becomes profit, the State which the university is housed will stop dumping money into their coffers. If each student-athlete was a shareholder, as I am with many stocks, the student-athlete can vote on how money is allocated, spent, and ultimately distributed.  Without it, we will just continue the feudal system currently in place that is enslaving those hungry, driven students who are often trying to make the best life for themselves.  

I unabashedly call it slavery, because slaves were fed, housed, given clothes, and forced to work for profit with no benefit.  It fits the NCAA to the letter. The NCAA is a slave ship that needs to be curbed. I know that some will argue it is a Marxist approach to a capitalist system. It may be, but these are adults who have chosen the profession of being a student, specifically a student-athlete.  I had to take summer school and work during the summers simply so I could play on a team. I sacrificed, and I did not have time like Jerry Yang or Steve Huffman to make business connections and earn money while I was busy studying and playing soccer. My time on the field was 3 hours each day that I fell behind those types of people.  The University had pride in the team, and we had attendance, and if I had been given anything back from the 2 years I had spent playing a dumb sport instead of starting a business, I might not be so bitter about my choices. Yes, the 2 are certainly not related, but had I been given a stock value back in 1999 when I first started as an athlete, even if it was a penny stock value, I would have learned about the stock market, the options market, the NCAAs power, and the industry of sport long before I eventually became a master in it.  

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