March Madness is here. And as John Oliver pointed out on his show on Sunday, it's truly big business: the NCAA sells TV rights to the tournament for roughly $831 million per year, and CBS sells more than a billion dollars' worth of ads while televising it.
The big problem? The athletes themselves don't get paid any of it.
In order to play in the NCAA, all players are prohibited from making any money, apart from their scholarships, room, and board. They also have to abide by extremely tight restrictions on what sorts of work they can do during the offseason and what non-monetary benefits they can receive.
In August, some players might start getting $2,000 to $5,000 per year to pay for incidentals, but this sum is negligible compared with the amount made by schools, the NCAA, and the many coaches who make millions annually.
"They're not employees," NCAA president Mark Emmert routinely points out. "They're student athletes."
Oliver's response: "The only other people who say 'They're not employees' that much are people who run illegal sweatshops out of their basements."
Read more: March Madness 2015: a guide for non-fans