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Why the legalization of sports gambling is bad for college athletes

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The gambling law change is yet another way for everyone but players to profit on college athletics

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Every Saturday, from August 25th, to December 29th in 2018, there will be college football available for fans all over the country to watch. From Hawaii @ Colorado State in Week 1, to the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 7th, there will be thousands of games being played by thousands of 18-22ish year old athletes.

In that four-and-a-half month period, there’s plenty of money to be made. Every televised game generates advertisement revenue for the NCAA, TV networks, advertisers, and individual conferences and teams. Every game will generate revenue from ticket sales and concessions. That money, once again, will go to schools, which will then likely go to coaches, administrators, facilities, and any other whims of the school.

During the season, various TV networks will advertise upcoming games using highlights from past games, from the nation’s most exciting players, athletes like Ohio State’s JT Barrett, Tyquan Lewis, Jayln Holmes and Mike Weber, or USC’s Sam Darnold and Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush, among many others every week, every year.

The promotions benefit the TV networks, the NCAA, and the teams participating, because they’ll drive eyes to the game, and increase revenue for all parties. None of this basic college sports economics is new to the system. Ever since NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma in 1984, TV networks have been able to sell college football with ease.

A new beneficiary was introduced to college sports yesterday. The Supreme Court, unsurprisingly so, ruled that sports betting being illegal is unconstitutional. So what does this mean? Well, it means that many states are likely to legalize sports gambling, and they’ll almost certainly do so before the college football season. This also means that the newest group legally allowed to profit off of college sports are the fans and followers of the sport.

They join a group that includes TV networks, the NCAA, universities, unaffiliated clothing and merchandise shops, and pretty much everyone else in America. You know who that group doesn’t include? The only group of people in the country now that can’t profit off the work of college athletes? The absolutely endless, grueling, physically devastating work of college athletes? The only group in America left that can’t profit off of college athletes is college athletes.

This whole system of various groups profiting off of college sports depends entirely on the athletes that play the games. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, built on “student-athletes,” and fully predicated on absolutely never paying the players that do the work to make the game happen.

That phrase, “student-athlete” is a common answer to why young men doing an increasingly brutal and violent job aren’t allowed to legally receive pay for their work. The fact that players at D1 schools are given scholarships to the schools of their choice is talked about as sufficient remuneration for anywhere from three to five years of hours in the weight room, on the track, on the practice field, and ultimately, in the games.

The general evaluation the “free” education athletes are receiving is also, almost always, extremely overblown. Cases like the tutor scandal at North Carolina are not in any way rare in college sports, and more likely than not, if a team wants to compete, their players are working their full-time job as football players and not actually benefiting from the full scholarship they’re given.

No matter what the NCAA wants to think, or what fans want to think, college football is about football, and about making money off of it. Not about seeking a higher education, or being a balanced student and athlete. That takes us back to the original point of the matter, how, in the grand scheme of things, what players receive for their work absolutely pales in comparison to what everyone else in America can now make off that work.

None of this is to say that there’s anything inherently wrong with betting on sports, pro or college. If that’s how someone wants to spend their money, I have absolutely no issue with that, and feel that they’re free to do as they wish.

Gambling, much like TV networks, unaffiliated stores, universities, coaches, and everyone else that profits from the sport, are just taking advantage of a completely broken system, and can’t really be faulted for taking what’s given to them. The broken system, of course, is the NCAA, and their model of amateurism. It’s an exploitative and grotesque model, and the sooner it dies the better.

In 2018, Division 1 college football coaches will makes roughly $300 million in total, or around $2.5 million per coach. Athletic directors will make roughly $600,000. TV networks will make millions, if not billions on games and advertisements. Gambling will generate more money than ever with its legalization. And through all of this, the players won’t legally make a dime. Just pay the damn players already.