The celebration of men’s college basketball starts with the First Four in Dayton, a shiny marketing tool unveiled by the NCAA when it added more teams to the revenue generating for everybody but the players Men’s Basketball Tournament. The NCAA’s March Madness revenues are in the hundreds of millions of dollars and is made off the labor of college students who may get an almost full scholarship out of the schools in the tournament. That has some people thinking about alternatives to what is a gold mine for coaches and athletic directors but not for players. There are two proposals that have been floated that are designed to rectify the players’ salaries situation and create havoc for the NCAA and its television partners. LaVar Bell, who is disliked by many people in the basketball industry both on the college and NBA levels, has pitched a plan called the Junior Basketball League that would hire 80 high school graduates who could get into college programs but want to be paid. Bell’s proposal is to give players between $3,000 and 10,000 a month.
The other is the Historical Basketball League. The backers of the HBL want to pay players and work with historic black colleges and universities to organize a summer league. The league could pay the players $50-100,000 annually if they make college club teams. The players would attend classes during the normal school calendar. The NCAA has no incentive to pay the players. Member schools claim sports programs lose money but the programs are important to schools for various reasons including getting more applicants to a school if a football or basketball team is good. The NCAA survived an attempt by Northwestern University football players to unionize as the National Labor Relations Board said no because it could upset the delicate balance of college football. There is ongoing pressure to change the system.
Rick Pitino won’t be part of March Madness.