By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
After the Connecticut Huskies beat the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 in Monday night’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball championship, the university’s women’s team earned a record-breaking ninth national title by crushing Notre Dame 79-58 on Tuesday. However, despite the massive public exposure these young competitors get and the profits their university makes from the games, the college students aren’t allowed to earn money from the sport.
When Huskies superstar Shabazz Napier told reporters he goes to bed “starving” because he can’t afford food, his comments ignited a debate among lawmakers and citizens about whether or not the NCAA should let athletes earn something for their efforts.
This isn’t the first time a national debate has taken place over college athletes receiving money, and just last year the NCAA had to deal with Texas A&M football quarterback Johnny Manziel allegedly selling autographs. Colleges explain that they want students to focus on schoolwork, and that offering payment might turn college athletics into more of a business than an extracurricular activity. However, considering how often investigations reveal that college athletes get off easy when it comes to grades and sometimes can’t even read above a 5th-grade level, such arguments can seem flawed.
Still, even mega stars like Napier aren’t asking for a whole lot, and just want at least some return on their hard work. Connecticut lawmaker, Representative Matthew Lesser, was very touched by Napier’s story, explaining, “He says he’s going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off of him. It’s obscene. This isn’t a Connecticut problem. This is an NCAA problem, and I want to make sure we’re putting pressure on them to treat athletes well.” NCAA President Mark Emmert, however, thinks that treating college athletes more like money-earning employees is “grossly inappropriate” and says, “It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.”
Images courtesy of UConn Huskies Facebook.