The real objection to paying college athletes

GEORGE E. CURRY | 1/10/2016, 11:23 p.m.
As the University of Alabama football team prepares to line up against Clemson University Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona, to ...
George Curry

(George Curry Media) – As the University of Alabama football team prepares to line up against Clemson University Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona, to decide the national collegiate championship, it’s worth noting that the Crimson Tide wouldn’t be “rolling” in success and the money that accompanies it without its Black players, led by 2015 Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry.

In 2003, the University of Alabama’s athletic budget was $37 million, according to The New York Times. Today, it is more than four times that – $153 million. Nick Saban, Bama’s head coach, receives a salary of $7 million a year. The university gets $9 million this year in licensing fees alone, a figure that will total $103 million through the 2024-25 season. Learfield Sports guarantees Alabama up to $14 million a year for multimedia rights, including programs and game-day radio headsets.

Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa has been expanded twice to reach 101,821 seats and 31,000 people are on the waiting list for season tickets. There is also a long line of companies waiting and willing to pay six-figures for a luxury suite.

The Tide is rolling in cash.

Having grown up in Tuscaloosa, I know all too well that until Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was forced to end his “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the university in 1963 and allow two Black students – Vivian Malone and James Hood – to enroll, Blacks could do menial work at the Capstone, but could not attend classes or serve on the faculty or as administrators.

In 1955, the United States Supreme Court ordered the University of Alabama to admit its first African American, Autherine Lucy, who was represented by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. On Feb. 3, 1956, Lucy enrolled as a graduate student in library science. The university barred her from using the dinning hall and living in the student dormitories on campus.

Three days later, Whites rioted and Lucy was suspended, supposedly for safety reasons. Federal courts ordered her reinstated on Feb. 29, but she was expelled on the grounds that she had slandered the university.

After Malone’s forced admittance, Blacks began attending the University of Alabama in greater numbers. Blacks are star athletes at Bama and a couple have served as president of the student body, which is 81.6 percent White.

But the University is no different from other major White universities that exploit its athletes for financial reasons. According to the NCAA, most of the football and basketball players at the university level are African Americans.

The Washington Post recently reported, “With the money made from college sports increasing every year, the way colleges treat their athletes has become controversial.

“That’s because college sports is a tremendously lucrative business for everyone but the athletes. The National College Athletic Association will receive $7.3 billion from ESPN for the right to broadcast the seven games of the College Football Playoffs between 2014 and 2026, and $11 billion from CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast ‘March Madness’ over the next 14 years.