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Competitive balance in college basketball is a myth

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Who is the national champion in your bracket?

Maybe North Carolina? Michigan State? Louisville? Duke? Georgetown? If you have any of those teams, you’ve chosen a program that falls within the 3.5% of the NCAA Division I population that accounts for 54.5% of the Final Four appearances in the last 32 years, according to a recent piece by Dave Berri of Freakonomics.

It has that Occupy Wall Street ring to it, that the 1% of the population control a certain portion of the wealth, and there’s just now starting to be a pushback. The odd part it, that push is going in the wrong direction.

An argument central to the case against paying college players is that it would “destroy competitive balance,” making the wealth of talent flow upward, toward the SEC, Big East, Big 12, and Big Ten.

But when faced with statistics, the myth of true competitive balance shows itself. And, if the lynchpin of the amateurism argument cannot hold, where does that leave us?

The wave of support for paying college athletes has picked up momentum and will soon crash ashore. NCAA critics have come from the New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Atlantic (multiple times).

The argument truly boils down to fairness. Why doesn’t a college athlete, while being subjected to a book of other rules about how they can handle their career, who they can associate with, and team rules determining when and how they can communicate, deserve to be paid for his or her work?

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader has even laid out a play that would eliminate athletic scholarships, in favor of need-based scholarships, which he believes would break the cycle and force the now tax-exempt athletic departments of colleges and universities to pay their share.

As the NCAA inks multi-billion dollar television deals and brings in millions more in advertising and merchandise sales while players remain unpaid, the chatter about fairness will not cease.

Enjoy March. It’s the best time of the year. But now that the veil has been lifted, consider the impact of the business model behind the game we love.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_