Think about this for just a moment.
A group of old, mostly white, men get together and conduct an auction every year.
The subject of that auction? Groups of young men - who have been watched as they grew into young adulthood, and who were, over the preceding few years, graded on their strength and stamina.
Then, these old men gather together and agree on who acquires ownership of these young men.
The work performed by these younger men is strenuous and difficult - often involving life-changing injury or even death. Four to five of these young men die every year from being pushed to work through the scalding summer heat.
As a result of the sacrifice of these young men, the old white men get very wealthy. They earn millions and millions of dollars off of the work that these young men do.
The young men get nothing. Well, that's not exactly true. They get a place to stay, they get some food, and they get some teaching. But that's it. While they toil, day in and day out, to make their "owners" millions of dollars, the young men are paid nothing. Not One. Thin. Dime.
18th Century American South?
21st Century America. Today. Now.
The owners are the NCAA and their shareholders, the Universities, their Coaching Staff and the BCS hosts.
Billions of dollars are earned every year, primarily from Football and Basketball.
And the players get none of it.
And if the players are found to have "cheated" and received a bag of groceries for their efforts - their representative is their "owner" - the University. Whose only interest is protecting their "property". It's akin to a 18th century slave being charge with a crime, but being told, "You don't need a lawyer, your owner will protect his investment."
Maybe this sounds sort of melodramatic.
But, consider this.
Eric Legrand was a starting full-back for the Rutgers University football team.
On October 16, 2010, shortly after turning 20 years of age, Eric was injured during a football game, and suffered a life-changing injury. He severely injured his spinal chord and was left a quadriplegic. Not only would he never play football again, but, clearly, his prospects for supporting himself and raising a family were severely impacted by this injury. The medical expenses, alone, would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And there is no clear obligation on the part of Universities to fully insure their athletes even for their costs of medical care - and there is absolutely no compensation for athletes whose earning capacity is impacted by their efforts on the field.
What of Eric Legrand? Well, he's been forced to rely upon charity to pay for his medical bills and to help he and his family pay for living expenses - through the Eric Legrand "Believe" Fund.
Nice gesture by Rutgers, no?
Meanwhile, the guy on the sidelines, Rutger's coach - who doesn't have to put his health on the line every day, well, the NCAA and Rutgers takes care of him very well, thank-you.
With bonuses, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano could earn $2.25 million per year. And unlimited use of helicopters and jets for "work purposes". And don't you worry about HIS extended medical plan. Of course, that's chump change compared to the real money - which is made by the Universities and BCS hosts.
Texas earned almost $69 million last year. That's net. After expenses.
And Georgia did almost as well, earning a net of $52.5 million.
And as for the BCS bowl games.
Well. The director of the Sugar Bowl earned $645,386.00 for that one game. The director of the Fiesta Bowl pocketed a cool $592,418.00 for his one game.
Eric Legrand gave a good part of his life to college football and was entitled to nothing. But room and board and some education.
Should we pay NCAA players to play college sports. Not directly. But what would the harm be of taking away the "slave-owner" profit of the NCAA, the Universities, the coaches and the BCS hosts - and putting a reasonable portion of that profit in a first-rate medical insurance fund. And maybe at least some decent disability coverage. And - if there's some left - maybe an annuity for former athletes.. to get a little something after they are turned out to pasture.
Of course - it's illegal under NCAA rules for student athletes to obtain independent representation for their interests.. though some courts have recently suggested otherwise.
Yes - they do have a "Student Athlete Advisory Committee" - controlled and funded by, you guessed it, the NCAA.
However - in the past few years, a relatively small but growing organization is seeking to change this - who is independent and, often, in opposition to the NCAA - the National College Players' Association.
Their funding is limited - currently nothing approaching the power of University sports programs and the NCAA.. but it's a start.
By the way.
The grade given to the Rutgers University medical policy governing student athletes - including Eric Legrand?
They refused to provide details of their policy when requested.