Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware’s injury today in the Midwest Regional finals of the NCAA tournament will likely be remembered alongside Joe Theismann’s career-ender as one of the most tragically gruesome in sports history. But that’s not the only tragic and gruesome part of this episode, because unlike Theismann, who was working under a guaranteed contract, Ware was an NCAA athlete helping to generate millions of dollars for the NCAA, but not automatically guaranteed a four-year education scholarship. As in so many other similar cases, that means his injury in service to the NCAA’s multimillion-dollar machine could spell the end of his financial aid and massive healthcare bills to boot.
Yes, that’s right — NCAA basketball is a $780 million-a year business that makes 1 percenters out of NCAA executives, coaches, athletic directors and college administrators. Yet that same business offers relative scraps to the players who actually generate that money.
It is certainly true that Division I NCAA basketball players get athletic scholarships. However, those scholarships often do not cover the entire cost of attending college. Additionally, many are not guaranteed four-year scholarships — on the contrary, many schools refuse to offer guaranteed multi-year scholarships, and the NCAA’s big “reform” of the last few years wasn’t to mandate such a guarantee, but to merely allow it if particular schools want it.
That means that if a player like Ware gets injured while on the job at a school that doesn’t offer a multi-year scholarship, the scholarship can be — and often is — revoked.
If that isn’t bad enough, the New York Times reports that when it comes to major on-the-court injuries like the one Ware sustained, medical bills can end up being the responsibility of the student and the student’s family, rather than the NCAA or the school. Indeed, the NCAA has a Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program, but the Birmingham News reports that there is a $90,000 deductible. Worse, the Daily Caller reports that while “the NCAA has its own catastrophic injury insurance, which insures individual athletes up to $20 million … the majority (of athletes) don’t qualify.”
“If you don’t lose a limb, or motion in one of your limbs, you wouldn’t be considered catastrophically injured,” Ramogi Huma, head of the National Collegiate Players Association, told the Daily Caller. “Then it’s completely up to the school, or yourself.””