The voice on the other end of the phone is passionate, and he’s becoming more passionate by the second. His words grow louder and they fly out faster.
“I grew up in the streets,” he says. “I’ve seen pimps in action. I look at the NCAA and I say, ’Wow, these guys would make excellent street pimps.' What they say -- and I mean this in all seriousness - is what a street pimp would say to a prostitute.”
This isn’t some radio shock jock speaking. Dr. Boyce Watkins is an assistant professor of finance at Syracuse University. He’s in town tonight, delivering a lecture at Loyola College titled, “The Business of College Sports: Is the NCAA Playing Fairly?”
I ask him to explain tonight’s message a bit.
“The model under which the NCAA currently operates was designed without excessive commercialization in mind,” Watkins explains. “Since that time, you see where this amateur sports organization has become effectively a professional sports league that refuses to pay its employees.”
Ahhh, one of those you’re thinking. Kick sports off campus! Tear down the arenas! Set flames to the football field!
But Watkins insists he isn’t against college sports. In fact, he loves them. So I feel a bit better. See, March always brings about conflicted emotions. I love filling out the brackets and love following the tournaments -- even though there’s an undercurrent of hypocrisy, unfairness and disparity that fuels the whole show.
I admit: For me, there’s a sense of guilt.
The NCAA is in the middle of an 11-year, $6 billion contract with CBS to broadcast tournament games. Coaches on the sidelines make seven figures a year, even though no one’s tuning in because they want to see what color tie John Calipari’s wearing. And shoe companies are pouring money into universities across the country by the truckload -- but the kids who have to wear the shoes don’t see a dime of it.