The National Collegiate Athletic Association will find any way to keep money out of the hands of athletes. Now, that includes giving out $100,000 to non-athletes to tell them how to improve the lives of athletes.
The association has announced that it has awarded $100,000 in grants to various researches who “will bring tangible benefits to college athletes,” including mindfullness training, career development, mental health support and others.
To be clear, those are all noble goals, and many of them are already part of the athlete experience at universities. But ironically, the plan that would create the most tangible benefits for college athletes would be to just give those $100,000 to them.
The NCAA has long claimed that athletes only want to play for “the love of the game,” and that making money would somehow corrupt more noble pursuits. However, while college athletes collectively generate billions of dollars for the industry—some schools earn more than $100 million annually—many athletes live in poverty with hungry nights.
One study found that 85 percent of FBS football and basketball players live below the poverty line.
While money can’t buy happiness—certainly a favorite line of the NCAA—the stress of living below the poverty line is known to correlate with depression and cause a decrease in happiness. If the NCAA were to allow schools to pay athletes for their labor, then it’s likely more athletes could escape poverty and improve their mental health.
However, that would mean athletes would have some control over their own situation, and it would mean universities couldn’t profit, with administrators giving themselves and athletic department employees ridiculous raises, like they do now.
Mental health is important to the NCAA, unless it involves doing the one thing that could make the biggest difference of all. Caring that much about athletes—enough to let it hit your pocketbook—is just a bridge too far.