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Show College Athletes The Money

By basketball players are pretty wound up about being left out in the cold when it comes to sharing in the riches they deliver.


As the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament gets underway, I find myself, once again, caught up in the excitement of watching extremely skilled, professional-caliber athletes competing for free while generating billions of dollars for their schools, television networks, merchandisers, and bookies; among many, many others.

Many say that Picasso-esque CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger popularized the term "March Madness" while broadcasting the annual tournament.

Brent Musberger and his "krazy" eyes

Sports fans obviously have a great deal of love for Musberger and his asymmetrical visage. Otherwise, why would a product like the Brent Musburger action figure exist?

The Brent Musburger action figure, described in the manufacturer's promotional literature like this: Everyone's favorite sports announcer Brent Musberger is recreated in this exciting action figure. Note to collectors: buy two-one to open and explore, and one to leave unopened in mint condition.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with their description. The Brent Musburger action figure is exciting. Although difficult to quantify, I'll accept the claim that Brent Musburger is everyone's favorite sports announcer. However, I just can't go along with the suggestion that I buy two Brent Musburger action figures, keep one in mint condition, and "explore" the other. That's what my Jenna Jameson action figure is for.

The Jenna Jameson action figure. Note the "Ages 12 and Up" advisory in the upper left corner of the package.

Anyway, this tournament is the only NCAA championship tournament in which the NCAA does not keep the profits. Instead, the money from the multi-billion-dollar television contract is divided among the Division I basketball playing schools and conferences as follows:

  • 1/6 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many sports they play (one "share" for each sport starting with 14, which is the minimum needed for Division I membership).
  • 1/3 of the money goes directly to the schools based on how many scholarships they give out (one share for each of the first 50, two for each of the next 50, ten for each of the next 50, and 20 for each scholarship above 150).
  • 1/2 of the money goes to the conferences based on how well they did in the six previous men's basketball tournaments (counting each year separately, one share for each team getting in, and one share for each win except in the play-in game and the Final Four).

Meanwhile, if the guys actually playing the games (and risking potentially career-ending injuries) that generate all this money take five bucks from a booster so they can buy a hot dog, their eligibility goes out the window and they can kiss their futures goodbye. Which brings me back to Brent Musburger and the origin of the term "March Madness."

Friends, Brent Musburger may have floated the phrase on the air for the first time. But the uncompensated players, having watched others amass vast fortunes off their sweat and hard work, have been extremely mad-with a noticeable spike in anger levels during March-for years. Some have even gotten so upset about the situation that they have spiraled uncontrollably into actual madness.

A highly-disturbed ex-Ohio State center

"I'm pissed off, absolutely," said a Marquette shooting guard who spoke to me off-the-record. "All that money coming in and I don't see one red cent. The word 'madness' hardly begins to describe the rage I feel."

That sentiment was echoed by a former Georgetown power forward now working as a residential real estate broker in a Century 21 office in a suburb of Atlanta.

"March Madness? What about November, December, January, and February Madness? I was infuriated the entire season. Then, I'd settle down to a low boil during the other months," he related in a phone interview. "When I'd see John Thompson in a $3,000 suit behind the wheel of his brand-new Jag? Christ, that had me seething."

Retired Georgetown head coach John Thompson in a very expensive, finely tailored ensemble

Almost to a man, college basketball players were, and are, pretty wound up about being left out in the cold when it comes to sharing in the riches they deliver. I had a conversation with a Villanova center who was so incensed about the whole issue, he had trouble even forming a complete sentence.

"I, I, what really gets me, is…is, is…is the [expletive deleted] hypocrisy, and the, the, the…[expletive deleted] jerks who, who, who-"

He then began slapping himself about the face and biting at his forearm, drawing blood. I called an ambulance and was surprised by the responding paramedic's "seen-it-all-before" attitude.

"We get March Madness calls all the time," he told me as he loaded the player into an ambulance. "But, if you think these guys seem furious, you should get a load of the football players. Indentured servitude and steroids definitely don't mix."

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