Are You Being Exploited By March Madness?
Nathaniel Friedman

Who’s being hurt?

Hi Nathaniel,

Great article. I especially enjoyed your views on empathy and the importance of seeing players’ faces. A lot of what you said I completely agree with — only for football.

A few things I disagreed with or thought were more applicable to football:

For the lower tier of college players, their basketball future — if they have any at all — will likely consist of thankless play overseas and a lot of soul-searching. We know this already, even if they don’t.

This is a matter of perspective, but for those college players that go onto play in the top divisions in Europe or Asia, they can easily make over six figures while living in a foreign country. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to many that is an awesome experience. Even those that don’t make the top leagues, and instead fight for their careers in the second and third division, get paid decently, get to live in another country for six months, and then return home to get paid fairly well running camps/clinics while continuing to hone their craft.

But for football, this isn’t the case. The average NFL career is three years and there aren’t anywhere near the amount of leagues overseas for more opportunities. That doesn’t even begin to touch upon the NFL’s recent admission to football being directly linked with CTE, or the number of players that rely on addictive painkillers to get through an entire season. At the very least, basketball players have their health to look forward to. The same can’t be said for football players.

Also, in the case of the one-and-doners, those players that actually have an exceptionally high opportunity cost of playing college basketball for free rather than play in the NBA or overseas for millions, they’re the ones who have the best argument for being paid. Players from UNC-Wilmington don’t help their schools rake in millions of dollars during the course of the regular season; players in Chapel Hill do.

As much as I despise the NCAA and believe players should be paid, that salary should be dependent on how good the player is, and thus how much money their school can expect to take in thanks to their performance. Also, those one-and-doners are restricted to playing in college thanks to a rule the NBA imposed. Not the NCAA.

The NCAA should be able to reap at least some of the rewards for creating such a memorable event. In my humble opinion, it’s the best sporting event in the world.

I don’t mean to be dismissive of your argument. I really appreciated its nuance and breadth. I just think there are far worse sporting events — some also run by the NCAA — that deserve the brunt of the criticism.

Every single one of the players in March Madness is viewing it as the best experience of their life, win or lose. That’s a huge gift, albeit not monetary.

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