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10 Things the NCAA Can Do to Fix Their Broken Student-Athlete Business Model

By Jamar Johnson, 10/11/17, 4:30PM MST

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Should we pay college student-athletes for the wealth they create?

There are some good college basketball coaches in hot water right now. A recent FBI investigation revealed the dark side of college basketball.

Unfortunately, no one is talking about the root cause of the problem. Or what steps we can be taking to end the issue of college athletic programs breaking the rules.

The root problem with college sports is money! Money has corrupted the “universities” and not it’s athletic programs. I can go deeper on the money plot. For now, I'm focusing on the denial within the general public of college sports being a business empire. Excuse me, a BILLION DOLLAR business empire.

 Hey, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, guess what? It ain’t a dog!

Think about it for a second. Everything in college sports has evolved. The uniforms. The equipment. The facilities. The broadcasting rights. The coaches pay, but not the business model for the student-athlete.

In business, great companies have great systems and processes. This allows for their organizations to thrive. However, it doesn’t matter how great your system and processes are if you don’t have great people. So we have to include student-athletes as part of the equation of universities creating tremendous wealth.

This post is my attempt to spark a conversation that will move this issue forward. Instead of being stuck in the blame game with the coaches. Or even worse going backwards (i.e. having racial and emotional toned exchanges).

As a former college student-athlete, this is my attempt to avoid the race and emotional communication issues and talk substance and solution.

Here are 10 Things the NCAA Can Do to Fix Their Broken Student-Athlete Business Model

1. Declare a new top 40 Div I program level and tournament system for volleyball, basketball, baseball, and football. Schools with athletic programs valued over $100M will qualify for this Division level.

2. Top 40 schools should be allowed to increase their scholarship headcount. Top 40 schools must give “guaranteed” 4 year scholarships to student-athletes. Provided student-athletes with an option to pursue their education to the P.H.D. degree level. Student-athletes are helping universities build or maintain multi-million and billion dollar athletic programs. The educational investment to the student-athlete should be of similar value.

3. Increase the student-athlete monthly financial stipend to an adult individual living wage. Or increase monthly financial stipend to $2,500 to $3,500 per student-athlete. Student-athletes should not receive any type of salary due to labor and compensation compliance laws. This would only muddy the legal issue of creating a new student-athlete business model or contract.

4. End the current NCAA SAT/ACT academic requirements for student-athlete entrance to college. Red-shirt all incoming freshmen for the first year of college. This will only improve a university’s athletic pipeline of student-athletes. This will also foster academic development and the maturity of a student-athlete as an individual.

5. All red-shirt Freshmen student-athletes must achieve a 2.8 or 3.0 GPA to gain eligibility. A student-athlete’s scholarship can be revoked if the GPA standard is not met. Or maintained by the end of their red-shirt freshmen year.

6. Sports administration management, personal finance, and relationship communications classes should be made mandatory during the freshmen and sophomore academic years.

7. After a student-athlete’s sophomore season they should be allowed to sign with an agent. The student-athlete can then accept an advance payments up to $500,000 (at the risk of the agent/agency).

8. Student-athletes that accept advance an payment, must commit to remaining at the university until graduation or the expiration of their athletic eligibility. The university can then levy a fee up to $1M or withhold the release of the student-athlete’s personal and professional branding/marketing rights.

9. Create a real partnership that has real commitments with professional sports organizations on (this or a) new NCAA student-athlete contract. Something like the NFL's no draft policy on college underclassmen.

10. Provide on-going transparency with student-athlete advocacy organizations. This will foster continuous improvement to form a healthier and sustainable NCAA student-athlete business model.

BONUS SUGGESTION: Improve on the current whistle-blower program. This would help to ensure that all adhere to a new NCAA student-athlete contract.

I’m a proud graduate and former college basketball player of the University of Nebraska. I love college sports. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the 10 suggestions above. Add your thoughts or suggestions that could improve the NCAA Student-Athlete Business Model.

Remember, you can’t make it if you don’t shoot!

ABOUT JAMAR JOHNSON

Jamar Johnson is the CEO & Chief Commissioner of the Community Basketball Leagues, speaker, and author of the book Improving America One Basketball Game at a Time. Jamar’s passion is helping aspiring basketball players, coaches, and basketballpreneurs succeed using the CBL’s league platform.