On Monday night, Twitter, ESPN and all other conventional media sites lit up as an enormous March Madness audience witnessed Kevin Ware, 20, of Louisville snap his tibia in an open fracture that protruded through his torn knee cap; Ware’s tearful teammates regained a fiery momentum, defeated Duke and advanced to the Final Four. They celebrated by holding up their fallen comrade’s jersey in a powerful moment. However, the heroic courage of the Louisville squad is tempered by a sobering reality, one in which Ware may be forced to pay his own medical bills for an injury sustained in a collegiate sport. Universities do not pay athletes as a result of NCAA rules. At a school that generated $42.4 million revenue in the 2011 to 2012 academic year from men’s basketball alone, this rule seems unjust.
However, the method of compensation in college sports suffers from aberrations found in professional leagues. For instance, most collegiate athletic scholarships last only one year, and physical injuries compromise renewal. Meanwhile, while players’ scholarships might not cover housing, their coaches are receiving exorbitant salaries — the average in 2011 was $1.47 million. Coaches in most Division I universities are rewarded based on number of championships won, even when those pennants come at the cost of their kids’ academic and medical futures.
As his teammates surrounded him on the court, the fallen Ware reportedly told them not to worry about him, but just to win. The remaining players did win. Meanwhile, the NCAA, which struck a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS Sports in 2010 to broadcast raw talent like Ware and his co-stars, blatantly and illegally continues to extract maximum profit off the backs of its athletes through publicity, which is ironically increased by these horrific events.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 2 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]