I was as excited as anybody to see the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team make the Final Four. I think Bo Ryan is one of the best coaches around, and a heck of a decent guy on top of it. He's a class act, and a coach who really seems to care about his kids, not just as basketball players but as people too. The New York Times reported on Saturday that his program has one of the highest graduation rates in the country.
So, I don't object to the better than $2 million a year that Ryan makes as coach any more than I object to the more than $1 million that Barry Alvarez makes as UW athletic director, or the hundreds of thousands of dollars made by other coaches and athletic department officials, or all the money made by NCAA officials.
I don't object to the millions brought in by CBS and the other networks, which broadcasts the tournament. I don't object to all the money in sales of team apparel and paraphernalia, and all the ancillary businesses around big time college sports.
Here's what I do object to: the players, the guys who actually perform on the court and the field, can't earn a dime of any of that. Even worse, at least in football, they can suffer long-term injuries and resulting medical bills. Yes, these athletes can get a scholarship, but that's a fraction of what they're worth. Without the players, Bo Ryan is a high school coach making maybe $50,000 a year if he's lucky.
So, the National Labor Relations Board was right last week when it ruled that the a group of football players at Northwestern seeking to unionize have a right to do so. They're spending upwards of sixty hours a week on their sports, and they are not so much the "student-athletes" as the NCAA likes to claim -- they are university employees. They deserve their share of the big take.
I'm happy that Badgers basketball player Zach Bohannon is a key advocate for the just compensation of the players, and Ryan and Alvarez don't seem to object.
This is just the right thing to do. I'll feel better about my love for college sports when I know that the guys doing the labor are getting their fair share of the enormous profits that they make for others.
Now, go Bucky!