Even before the results were in for Monday's championship game between the UConn Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats, Wildcats coach John Calipari had already emerged victorious this year in terms of compensation. The same cannot be said, however, for the players.
For the 2014 season alone, the state of Kentucky paid Calipari a salary of $5.2 million, according to USA TODAY. Huskies coach Kevin Ollie received $1.25 million this year, putting him near the less generous end of the Division I pay scale for coaches. And sure, some college basketball coaches earn as little as $171,244, but the best-paid coaches in the field, such as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, can take in more than $9 million in a single year. The athletes, on the other hand, are unlikely to see so much as one cent in direct compensation.
And as for their scholarships and health insurance (which many do receive), those come with some substantial strings attached.
That point was driven home on the eve of this year's championship game, when UConn point guard Shabazz Napier told The Connecticut Mirror that he sometimes goes to bed "starving." An athletic scholarship, he said, "doesn't cover everything."
"We do have hungry nights that we don't have enough money to get food and sometimes money is needed," said Napier.
When asked about the compensation gap between coaches and players, NCAA spokesperson Meghan Durham pointed out that decisions about pay are "made by the university and not governed by the NCAA." A spokesperson for the Kentucky Wildcats declined to comment.
A group of student athletes led by the National College Players Association (NCPA) has been campaigning for better student-athlete benefits and labor rights, although the group's list of demands does not say anything about a salary. Northwestern University football players, with backing from the NCPA, recently started a legal battle to prove that they are employees of the school, and therefore entitled to basic labor rights. The NCAA's position is that student-athletes are not employees, and they are not entitled to compensation or the right to form a union.
"Over the last three years, our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules," said NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy in a statement. "While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college."