Balance of Power
In college football, the only remaining amateur participant is the athlete. All other parties receive healthy compensations: coaches, administrators, TV deals, conference commissioners, athletic support staff, college presidents. The best interest for everyone, except the athlete, is a maintenance of status-quo. The other parties are compensated only due to the risk and choices assumed by the student athlete.
The students have the least power: their image is sold, their bodies are used, and their time is required.
Anti-Trust: Cannot Play NFL until 3 Years After High School
For three years of a players life, end of high school to NFL eligibility, universities in the United States are a football monopoly. College football is the only opportunity for advancement for student athletes -- it is the path. It is essentially required for student athletes to put their bodies at risk for sub-par compensation.
If the NFL allowed students to enter the NFL draft out of high school, this anti-trust question would be insignificant. However, the 3-year rule appears to be a back-room handshake among college administrators and the NFL. Colleges receive cash flows from the athletics for 3 years, and the NFL can mitigate the risk of paying a high school senior millions of dollars.
The Only Way Out of Current Predicament
What are the moral obligations universities have to their most productive revenue streams:
- Athletes receive nominal compensation compared to the athletic revenue: $100 million in revenue for the the top institutions, and their athlete compensation is negligible.
- Athletes in marketable sports are spending massive amounts of time chasing an opportunity to show themselves worthy to play professional sports: practice, weight lifting, practice, training. These activities do not often translate into employable skills in other disciplines.
- Body damage: concussions and other injuries. What is the long-term cost of a concussion? What about future income lost because of a concussion? What about quality of life? Given more information on concussions, do institutions have obligations to protect the student for the long term?
Largely, I believe unions are detrimental to industries. However, when the balance of power between employers and employees are as skewed as college athletics: a strong athletic union is the only way to restore the balance and fairly compensate all parties.