John Oliver Exposes the People Who Are Bilking College Students of Millions

The month-long frenzy of branding and sponsorship known as March Madness is upon us. This college basketball tournament, which now rakes in over $1 billion in advertising revenue, has come to exemplify everything that is wrong with college athletics. As John Oliver put it in this week’s segment on the NCAA, “There is nothing inherently wrong with a sporting tournament making huge amounts of money, but there’s something slightly troubling about a billion-dollar sports enterprise where the athletes aren’t paid a penny.”


Not only do so-called student-athletes receive no financial compensation, they also receive subpar educations, can be dropped from teams in the case of injuries, and must adhere to all regulations stipulated in a 440-page manual. As Oliver quipped, “The only other thing that has that many finicky little rules would be a sex party at Wes Anderson’s house.”

At the same time, coaches, universities and major brands are making tremendous profits off of these young players. Popular videogames feature college athletes without paying them royalties and schools spend millions on coaching salaries, but everyone balks at the prospect of actually paying students for playing.

Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, who earns a cool $3 million a year, is one of many outspoken critics of paying college athletes. In his mind, “There’s enough entitlement in this world as it is.” 

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