mark-emmert-ncaa-650x409The NCAA decided today that all of its senior executives will go without paychecks for four years in a sign of solidarity with the student-athletes they regulate.

Beginning on the first of next month. 74 existing employees of the Indianapolis-based college athletics organization, including its president Mark Emmert, will be stop being paid and work exclusively on a voluntary basis. Any new employee will have to go four years before being compensated. 

“This is really the least we could do,” Emmert said in an interview with the NBC Sports Network. “We ask thousands of kids each year to work like dogs without so much as a minimum wage in return. Meanwhile the NCAA makes billions off of their efforts.

“It’s only fair that we hold ourselves to the same standards we expect from our student-athletes. So I gathered my top executives in my office last week and proposed this plan. The vote was unanimous. We’re looking forward to showing the next generation just how easy it is to live on $0 a year.”

Fair or Foul?

The NCAA has been under fire in recent months for its longstanding policy of not allowing student-athletes to be compensated for their labor. Although their hard work draws in billions of dollars in revenue for universities and the NCAA itself, the average wage of a college sports player is precisely $0 per hour.

Although the NCAA defends the arrangement as upholding the noble idea of the “amateur athlete,” many question that principle in an age where every other aspect of college sports has been commercialized to the highest degree.

Several lawsuits that challenge the NCAA’s ban on paying players have been working their way through the court system. Last year a court barred video game maker Electronic Arts from releasing new versions of its college football games without compensating players.

Meanwhile student-athletes at Northwestern University have recently been given the status of employees and told they have the right to unionize.

The issue took on added significance this year when Shabazz Napier, the star player of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball champion UConn Huskies, told reporters that he often goes to bed “starving” due to lack of income.

It is estimated that the NCAA made more than $700 million from the “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament that Napier’s team won.

“These kids are making a sacrifice. We recognize that,” Emmert said, “and we want to let them know that the good people at the NCAA are right there in the trenches with them, fighting for the ideal of not being paid for hard work.”

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