Millionaire Coaches, Billion-Dollar TV Contracts and Zip for the Players

The players of Ohio State or Florida will be named college basketball champions tonight.

Regardless of who wins the game, players from both teams will end up big losers in the financial bonanza that March Madness has become, critics say.

From coaches to colleges to TV networks, everybody makes millions off the games -- everybody that is, except those who actually touch the ball.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has strict rules that prohibit student-athletes from receiving any compensation. As another basketball season wraps up, a group of critics is once again questioning why the students -- many who have grown up in poverty -- can't cash in.

Boyce D. Watkins, a finance professor at Syracuse University, equated the NCAA's leadership to "a bunch of pimps."

"Basically pimps are the types of people that control you and manipulate you and try to persuade you that they are trying to protect you," Watkins said. "There are many rules in place that are not protecting the athletes' interests. They are protecting the NCAA's interests."

Watkins said some players' mothers were being evicted from their homes while some coaches' wives were flying to games on private jets. "How in the world can you ever justify that with any degree of sanity in your head?" he said.

Watkins said there was nothing wrong with making money, except if you failed to share it with those doing most of the work.

"A coach can't win a basketball game if he does not have basketball players," he said. "The crime in all of this is that many of these players, they come from poverty and their families really need this money."

While NCAA's rules prohibit any financial gain by students, coaches can sign multimillion-dollar shoe contracts -- essentially forcing their players to wear a certain brand of sneakers. The players can't enter into similar deals.

Players are prohibited, in most cases, from signing autographs. They can't talk to professional teams until after the end of their college athletic career.

But that hasn't stopped them from becoming commodities.

Take the video game world.

Electronic Arts produces a game called "NCAA March Madness 07." While NCAA rules prohibit the company from actually including the players in the game, most fans can recognize their favorite players.

Jordan Edelstein, director of marketing for EA's basketball franchises, said the game used player numbers, heights, weights and skin color but didn't use names or any other likeness.

Because they are not officially in the game, the players don't receive any compensation.

The NCAA does, though.

EA enters into a licensing agreement with the NCAA through its business arm, the Collegiate Licensing Co., Edelstein said.

That agreement allows the video game maker to include school logos, specific fight songs and crowd chants, and replicate the layout and look of the college arenas.

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who writes books about the sports industry, said "few and far between" players go on to the pros. Most, "walk away with nothing."

He said that about half of the students graduated, but that really doesn't prepare them for life either.

"A very large share that do graduate after six years really haven't learned very much because they're in phony classes and they're given special treatment. Tutors do the work for them," Zimbalist said.

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