Advancing a Free Society

The NCAA as a Powerful Cartel

Monday, April 4, 2011

“March Madness” involves a tournament of now 68 top college basketball teams. It culminates tomorrow night in the championship game between upstart Butler and perennial basketball power, the University of Connecticut. The National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) sanctioned basketball playoffs start in middle of March and attract a large audience in attendance, and additional millions who watch the games on television all over the world. Every year prior to this final tournament, and sometimes even during the tournament, different violations become public of NCAA rules on behavior of players and coaches. Violations of these rules by colleges are to be expected because the rules are basically an attempt by the NCAA to suppress competition among schools for college basketball and football players, the two most lucrative and most watched college sports, and thereby increase the profits to schools from these sports.

The toughest competition for basketball and football players occurs at the Division I level. These sports have both large attendances at games-sometimes, more than 100,000 persons attend college football games- and widespread television coverage. As a result, many Division I schools with big time sports programs get many millions of dollars from their basketball and football programs. Absent the rules enforced by the NCAA, the competition for players would stiffen, especially for the big stars, as they would receive large scholarships and various gifts of cars, housing, and cash to themselves and their families. Payment to players, if competition for players were allowed to operate freely, would severely eat into the profits made by colleges from the big time sports.

Continue reading Gary Becker at The Becker-Posner Blog