Statistics maven Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 presidental election, much to the dismay of certain partisan pundits, is predicting a Seattle Seahawks-New England Patriots matchup for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on February 3. News outlets throughout the Seattle area jumped on the bandwagon Thursday, noting how Silver's accuracy in political prognostication is unparalleled. However, none seemed to mention that, earlier in the NFL season (and right after his election success), Silver was asked by RotoExperts, a Fantasy Football website, to predict the games of November 11/12. Silver got eight outcomes correct and six incorrect, including the Seahawks' victory over the New York Jets. Seems politics might be easier to predict than football.
The UW’s annual stipend for athletes is $3,085, or roughly $11.40 a day during a nine-month academic year. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for a couple of cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake when the dining halls are closed.
Alaska’s naming-rights money goes into the pot that helps provide those stipends, which the NCAA instituted as a means of closing the gap between what an athletic scholarship provides — tuition, room, board, books and fees — and the “real” cost of attending college.
The problem is that this “cost of attendance” stipend has made a playing field that’s not level even less fair. Some schools pay stipends of more than $5,000, which is totally permissible under the NCAA guidelines. So if you’re a poor kid being recruited by several universities, which school would you choose — the one offering no stipend, the one offering $3,000 or the one offering $5,000?
This is where a corporate CEO has the opportunity to say to the NCAA, “We are a major employer who believes in treating its workers equitably. As a huge supporter of our local university’s athletics program, we think it’s time you paid your athletes a little bit more than cheeseburger money — and paid them fairly acros the board.”
It doesn’t have to be a quid-pro-quo situation, as in “pay these athletes or we’ll take our sponsorship money elsewhere.” But airlines have become adept at squeezing travelers for every last dime via baggage fees, boarding fees, legroom fees, beverage fees and the like. I imagine an airline executive could be pretty persuasive suggesting the NCAA assess itself a “fairness fee” and pay student-athletes a decent wage from its enormous piggy bank.
The NCAA can still call it a stipend if it wants. Regardless, it should finally admit that scholarships are meant to provide an education but don’t begin to acknowledge that an athlete’s contribution to an institution’s bottom line — not to mention its reputation in the media and its perception by the public — deserves considerably more than free tuition.
JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.