National Signing Day makes a joke of amateurism

National Signing Day is an overhyped joke of feigned amateurism.

Each year, major sports networks journey to high school gyms across the country to let us sports voyeurs witness giant boys declare their intentions to play for large college football factories to cheers of their adolescent classmates.

Meanwhile, these same boys, who have far less leverage and little to no legal representation to demand equity in inking National Letters of Intent and Player Athlete Statements, sign away their rights to collectively bargain, negotiate market value compensation for their undercompensated labor, and ability to immediately profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness.

As players enter these institutions of higher learning, the education they bargain for is not guaranteed past the year they currently play, is not on par with the rest of the student body, and graduation rates that lag behind the rest of the student population.

Subscriber revenue and advertising dollars pour into network coffers during a news cycle for college football analysts to break down the impact the nation’s top high school football prospects will have on each institution.

Networks benefit because they pay enormous rights fees to air seemingly endless games for each season, which drives up the revenues and values of Power 5 conference football programs.

Four of NCAA Power 5 Conferences the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, and ACC all have their own television networks, either alone or with partnerships with other established sports networks.

Although the Big-12 doesn’t have its own television network, the University of Texas does, by itself.

Big Ten king of the hill Ohio State’s football program is worth over $1.5B, while defending national college football playoff champion Southeastern Conference’s University of Alabama’s football program is assessed a shade under $1B.

For a comparison, the National Football League’s least valuable team, the Buffalo Bills, are valued $1.6B according to Forbes Magazine.

To give further perspective on how NCAA Power 5 football operates like a professional sports league, consider Ohio State. The Buckeyes football program is valued higher than 18 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams, including the $1.45B Forbes valued 2017 World Champion Houston Astros.

Ohio State University’s football program is also worth more than any National Hockey League team except the league’s most valuable team, the New York Rangers, valued on par with OSU at $1.5B.

The money doesn’t only flow into the universities themselves.

The sweet talking coach swooping down into the homes of high school’s most talented prospects earn millions of dollars.

At least 20 college head football coaches salaries were over $4M in 2017, including University of Alabama’s whopping $11.1M paid to Nick Saban.

Despite the fact college football programs have up to 10 high paid assistants, universities claim to be too broke to pay players.

All of this is adds up to an inequitable system where parents are funneled into a system that doesn’t guarantee a quality education or the promised land of playing in the National Football League.

According the statistics released by the NCAA, the large governing body of college athletics, of the 73,660 NCAA college football athletes who play, only 1.5% go on to play football professionally.

The trade off for the infinitesimally small chance to go pro? Brain trauma.

An October 2016 study by Veteran Affairs – Boston University Concussion Legacy Foundation brain bank reported 138 out of 152 (91%) brains studied of deceased former college football players had brain damage in the form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more popularly known as CTE.

The foundation also reported uncovering CTE in players from 39 of the 64 Power Five conference schools, including national champion University of Alabama.

The study of brain trauma should be more paramount to college athletics than National Signing Day when it is possible it is 60 times more likely for a college football athlete to sustain traumatic brain trauma than it is to become a professional athlete.

NCAA has a long running commercial that acts almost as a disclaimer to signing a letter of intent.

The frequently run in game advertisement provides the statistic on the number of total NCAA “student” athletes and then says “almost all will go pro at something else.”

National Signing Day certainly doesn’t look, sound, or spend like something else.

The punchline is amateurism, and as long as the system remains status quo, the joke is on all who participate.


Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, on-air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and licensed yoga instructor. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast for his production company 528 Media Group and has appeared on and has contributed to Vox.com, CNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, WGN, Fox Business Channel, ESPN, Clear Channel, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.

© 2018, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.

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