WASHINGTON – March Madness kicks off this week, and it seems like everyone involved is making the big bucks. Except the players.
The NCAA is projected to earn about $1 billion this year in TV rights for the men’s basketball tournament alone.
But players get no money—only the thrill of victory…or the agony of defeat.
North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker says that’s just not fair.
He’s introduced a bill that would allow NCAA athletes to profit from the use of their names and pictures.
Big time college sports programs attract cheering fans and bring millions of dollars to schools each year. But college athletes get nothing…no TV money. No money when their name or picture is used to sell tickets…or even video games.
Some lawmakers say that’s not right.
“I believe in free markets. I think that is what makes America great,” says Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC).
Congressman Walker says his bill would allow college athletes to earn money, not from the schools, but from outside companies.
“If those folks want to go back home and work somewhere on the side to be able to have access to that likeness they are allowed to do so,” he explains.
Under current NCAA rules, student athletes receive scholarships, but stand to lose their eligibility if they sign endorsement deals.
Walker says his bill would change that and provide income to star players, as well as those who won’t ever play professionally.
“In theory that sounds great,” says Lisa Delpy Neirotti, George Washington University Sports Management Professor.
But Neirotti says benefits should be strictly tied to education and that adding outside money to the mix could lead to corruption and it’s certainly a distraction.
“Signing autographs, doing photoshoots or commercials these take hours,” she adds.
Neirotti says scholarships are expensive and schools aren’t getting rich on athletics.
“There are only a handful of schools that are profiting. The majority are losing money,” Neirotti continues.
Supporters of the bill say it provides opportunity for students. But opponents say only a small number of players would benefit.