- - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

If the Left believes its own demagoguery, it turns out all those liberal university administrators are greedy, capitalist pigs. And considering how many college athletes are minorities, they’re racists, too.

Last week, a branch of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled that college athletes are eligible to be unionized because their workload resembles that of an employee more than that of a student-athlete.

Right on hypocritical cue, those within academia wringing their hands over “income equality” for the downtrodden blasted the decision and vowed to appeal it nationally. The unions, who underwrote the cost of the Northwestern University football players who filed the complaint, cheered the decision in the hopes it would add more victims to their roster. Two of the Left’s brothers in arms now have taken up arms against one another.

And in true Leftist fashion — they’re both wrong.

The business model of college athletics is rife with injustice and hypocrisy because it operates outside the natural laws of economics. This is what happens when those who live in ivory towers insulated by tenure attempt to play utopia. The ruling class of college athletics lives in a world mostly set apart from the accountability of the free market, just as the ruling class in our government does. Of course, the coaches they hire and fire based solely on win-loss records and the fans they pilfer for higher ticket and concession prices do not.

Caught in the middle is the student-athlete in so-called “revenue sports” like football and men’s basketball. Their toil is subsidizing almost every other sport at their school, which are loss leaders. They’re watching their coaches receive six- and seven-figure salaries and job-hop if they want, while they usually have to sit out a year if they want to transfer to another college. They’re watching video games being made with their likenesses and jerseys being sold with their numbers.

Last year the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate sports, was forced to stop allowing customers to shop for team jerseys by player name on its website, once ESPN’s Jay Bilas exposed the fact the NCAA was profiting from branding star players who are supposed to be amateurs. For example, if you went to the website and typed in the name of University of South Carolina football star Jadeveon Clowney into the search engine, his jersey number came up for you to buy. On the other hand, if you searched for the second-string punter’s name, nothing came up.

Academia has been profiting mightily off of these student-athletes for a long time in exchange for a “free” education. But that free education doesn’t actually cover the full cost of attendance, and given the demands of being a student-athlete, working for extra money like the typical student can is usually not an option.

Furthermore, most of the big-time programs operate with most, if not all, of their finances independently of the university’s actual budget, and have to reimburse the school for the cost of these scholarships as well. The coaches’ escalating salaries are largely paid for by outside sources like media revenue and booster donations, as are the Taj Mahal-like facilities being erected all of the country in hopes of luring future recruits.

Translation: Academia has a cash cow with almost no overhead to speak of.

At the time the original idea of a scholarship for athletic performance contract was first devised, the branding and merchandising with which universities make millions of dollars off student-athletes had yet to be implemented. But the landscape has changed. College sports are now victims of their own success.

As recently as the 1970s, the number of television appearances your school’s football team could make was regulated. Now just about every game for every school is televised somewhere, and television revenue is climbing into the hundreds of millions annually. That money is not just from behemoths like ESPN. Look at the money the offshoot college sports networks are making like the Big Ten Network, which pays member schools an additional $25 million a year in revenue. While these liberal universities preach the politics of wealth redistribution and class warfare to their student body, they’re bilking these student-athletes (many of them from poor families) for massive amounts of cash in exchange for a “free education” that doesn’t actually cover all their costs. There is no “social justice” in that.

Access to that much money with little to no competition is like handing an arsonist matches. You’re just begging for bad publicity, like the athletic director at Ohio State University who received an $18,000 bonus because an amateur Buckeye wrestler won a national championship.

But unionizing may not be the answer.

If the players unionize, that means they’re now employees. If they’re employees, that means the compensation they receive in exchange for their jobs is income — taxable income. The players would trade a bad deal for an even worse one. If you think you can’t get a fair shake from the NCAA, try dealing with the IRS.

Furthermore, the NLRB decision only covers private schools because public universities are regulated separately. So if this decision stands, the NCAA could just say all of the student-athletes at private universities who unionize will be ruled ineligible, since they are no longer amateurs and now are professionals. Congratulations, kids, the prize for proving your point is now you have nothing.

Historically, collective bargaining has provided a necessary check and balance on corporatism despite the corruption within unions from the very beginning. However, nowadays most unions — especially government sector unions — are little more than mascots for the Democratic Party.

Despite Democratic policies that hurt their members like Obamacare and the failure to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, you can rest assured the union bosses will be shilling for Team Democrat this fall. College athletes already belong to a hypocritical collective that uses them for their own agenda. The last thing they need to do is join another one.

Simply compensating the athletes directly out of the NCAA’s deep pockets seems like a solution to many, but it’s not that simple.

What do you pay them and who do you pay? Since you’re not going to be bidding for players on the open market, what sets the market for a wage? Because of Title IX gender equity requirements, how do you get around not paying the women’s rowing team that generates no revenue the same amount as the football squad that generates almost all of it?

There aren’t any easy solutions here to save one of America’s favorite pastimes. Instead collegiate sports finds itself imperiled because it has fully implemented the Left’s economic vision. Collegiate sports have shown that Leftist policies can’t work in the real world no matter who’s calling the shots. Ironically, the liberals overseeing collegiate sports have exposed the liberal emperor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has no clothes.

Now we have elites who insulate themselves from the same regulations they want imposed on everyone else, widespread cheating, the people taking the least amount of risk making the most money, and the very people they claim to care about the most are the most taken advantage of.

In other words, collegiate sports have become Obamacare.

(Steve Deace is the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)