Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

That's exceptional, America!

That's exceptional, America!

Louisville´s Wayne Blackshear reacts to Kevin Ware´s injury during the first half. (Darron Cummings/AP)
Louisville's Wayne Blackshear reacts to Kevin Ware's injury during the first half. (Darron Cummings/AP)

The top-ranked men's basketballl program at the University of Louisville generates a lot of money. By a lot of money, I mean $42 million a year. But apparently that's not enough money to guarantee that one of their "employees" -- excuse me, student athletes -- will get to finish school and have his medical bills paid if he's severely injured on the "job."

Louisville men's basketball player Kevin Ware's gruesome injury Sunday evening did not just mean the end of his season and, potentially, his basketball career. It also puts at risk his college education and could leave Ware and his family responsible for medical bills related to an injury that Ware sustained while helping make his university millions of dollars. 

Though the National Collegiate Athletic Association recently began allowing multiyear scholarships for top athletes - over the objections of more than 200 schools - most collegiate scholarships last for just one year. If a player gets injured, as Ware did on Sunday, the coach can simply decline to renew his scholarship. 

We don't know what sort of scholarship Ware has, though it's worth noting that Louisville is among the schools that opposed lifting the ban on multiyear scholarships. If Ware has a single year scholarship, he still may be, relatively speaking, one of the lucky ones, in part because dropping a player after a high-profile injury would generate negative publicity. Asked if Louisville could guarantee that Ware will not lose his scholarship, a spokesman for the university said he is not sure the question is relevant because "doctors are expecting a full recovery."

Ware would not necessarily need a scholarship to continue his education if he and his fellow players had access to the massive sums generated by their performance on the court, partly through broadcast rights. In 2010, the NCAA announced that it had reached a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting to broadcast "March Madness," which works out to more than $770 million per year. (CBS Corporation is the parent company of both CBS Sports and CBSNews.com.) In the 2011-2012 academic year, Louisville reported to the Department of Education that it earned $42.4 million in revenue from men's basketball alone.

David Sirota has more on this -- I have to confess that I couldn't believe what I was reading the first time that I saw this.

I'd always been pretty ambivalent on the question of whether college athletes should be paid for their efforts (beyond athletic scholarship) but I'm starting to change my mind...and players should definitely be covered for any and all medical bills that arise from something like this.

So add this to the list of many, many things we wouldn't even be talking about if America has a single-payer health care system, like so many civilized, with a capital "C," nations around the world, just like the insanity of these Southern governors in poverty- and obesity-stricken states saying 'no,' to the expansion of Medicaid, or the insanity of going to so much trouble and expense to create this vast, expensive and confusing network of charter schools instead of just improving the public schools we already have.

Instead, we have these patchwork, jury-rigged systems where our once-great nation can cheer a wonderful young athlete like Kevin Ware, shed a tear when he suffered a devastating injury...and then stick his family with the bill. Is this a great country or what?

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