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March Madness: Do Scholarships Leave Student-Athletes Powerless in the NCAA Game?

A scholarship system that once empowered student athletes now leaves them at the mercy of their coaches -- and a multibillion dollar industry.

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And then there’s simply making it to graduation. In recent years, as many as 80 percent of black college basketball players haven’t graduated. While the graduation rate gap between white and black college basketball players is slowly closing, there’s been little effort on the part of the NCAA to reform its one-year athletic scholarship policy. Instead, former NCAA athletes have taken their case to court.

In 2010, a former Rice University football player named Taylor Agnew filed a class action lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that the one-year limit on scholarship was in effect a price fixing scheme by the league and its member universities. Agnew’s athletic scholarship wasn’t renewed when a new coach took over his former school’s football program.

“People look at the NCAA as kind of outside these laws, but they’re really not,” Steve Berman, one of Agnew’s attorneys, told the New York Times. “Here, they have entered into an agreement restraining the length of a scholarship that kids can get, and we think that’s anticompetitive and is harmful to student-athletes.”


Jamilah King is the news editor at Before joining Colorlines she was associate editor at WireTap Magazine, an online political publication that was a project of The Nation Institute.

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