March Madness Money: NCAAB Coaches Sign Multi-Million Contracts While Athletes Work for Free

As the March Madness season approaches, teams and fans alike are prepping for another intense season.

Behind every team and every win, a coach is earning millions in salaries and bonuses, while top players are working for free.

According to USA Today’s NCAAB Coach Salary database for the 2019–20 season, the top ten highest paid coaches are earning upwards of $3 million to $8 million. University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is the highest paid among all NCAAB coaches, earning $8,208,000 in total pay and bonuses. However, outside of Calipari’s base salary and bonuses are also added luxury benefits including private flights, vehicle stipends, phone stipends and country club memberships.

In addition to their multi-million salaries and bonuses, NCAA coaches’ contracts also include a “buyout” amount, which is the severance money coaches are guaranteed if they are fired. John Calipari’s buyout alone is $60.3 million.

The main argument for these large salaries and benefits are the coaches’ ability to recruit top players, bringing in large profits for the university. Additionally, recruitment itself is also an expensive endeavor. Between Sept. 1, 2016 and Jan. 30, 2019, the University of Kentucky spent more than $1.4 million on recruitment trips alone.

Despite this extremely lucrative and expensive industry, college athletes are still not given any compensation outside of scholarships and what are considered “education-related benefits.”

This brings up the age-old question of should college athletes be paid? As of today, regardless of the athletes’ talent, skill, likeness and labor, they are provided no payment for what is practically a full-time job.

However, in the Supreme Court case, NCAA vs. Alston (2020), lawyers of multiple NCAA players are challenging this issue, claiming that the NCAA is violating antitrust laws by depriving players from receiving compensation. A decision for this case is expected in June of this year.

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