Revisiting the last exploited labor in the US

In a thrilling game that went down to the last second, the Clemson Tigers defeated the favored Alabama Crimson Tide, 35-31, Monday night.

Undoubtedly the ratings will be excellent. ESPN definitely got its money’s worth. In 2015, the sports network agreed to pay $7.3 billion over 12 years to televise the four-team college football championship series. That’s $608 million annually, for exactly three games a year. That’s over $202 million a game.

And the players – the labor – get exactly zero of that.

By comparison, the coach for Alabama, Nick Saban, gets $7.09 million a year.
Clemson’s coach, Dabo Swinney: $4.55 million.

The coaches for the other two teams who made the playoff this year get $6.1 million a year (Urban Meyer, Ohio State) and $2.7 million a year (Chris Peterson, University of Washington).

And that’s awesome!


The coaches get that much because they produce revenue and the schools decide they are worth it. However, the schools don’t get to decide what the players are worth. The NCAA does not allow it.

In a free market, someone is going to start allowing it.

To clarify a recent post, “The last exploited labor in the United States,” I’m merely in favor of that competition. I’m in favor of allowing any person to voluntarily accept money voluntarily offered. Right now, people are willing to give players money. When they get caught, the player is punished.

Think about that. In the United States of America, people are punished for voluntarily accepting money that is voluntarily offered. That is un-American.


No one knows exactly what that competition will look like. It could take the form of the five “power” conferences leaving the NCAA and making their own rules. These power conferences are the ones that make money in football and basketball. They currently subsidize the other, smaller, less lucrative conferences in the NCAA

To be clear, I’m not saying college athletes are oppressed by any government entity. I am saying they are oppressed by a cartel, the NCAA, that has a monopoly and limits their wages.

Like any monopoly, market competition will bring it down. And I favor the competition that the market will bring.

We are already seeing it begin. Two college running backs, Denver’s own Christian McCaffrey, and Leonard Fournette opted out of their schools’ bowl games this year. They are both projected first round picks in the upcoming NFL draft. They chose to not play another game for free when an injury could have cost them millions as professionals.

Makes sense to me.

The NCAA will either have to provide a competitive offer or see them lose more labor, earlier.


Sometimes those opposed to a free market in college athletics say that the players should be happy with the scholarship they get. After all, they agreed to it.

Indeed, they did. And they should be happy.

And if some other school can make them happier, even better.