Former Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Joel Klatt has never shied away being from honest about the NCAA. After being injured with a concussion during the final game of his college career, he was outspoken by saying, "If they want to exploit us as athletes and sell our jerseys and put us on video games, then perhaps they should protect us on the field better, so that we can, in the future, get that compensation and possibly go to the NFL." The bold statement that caused a firestorm around the NCAA has gone unrecognized after 10 years.
A 60 million dollar lawsuit against the NCAA and video game maker Electronic Arts was recently awarded to former college athletes last month, but the result of the judgement still doesn't serve to correct the underlying issues.
Klatt went on the record again about the current state of exploitation regarding student athletes.
"Unfortunately, the NCAA as it relates to their mission statement is the worst organization I can think of. Their mission statement is to be there for the well being of the student-athlete, to protect the student-athlete and what it's morphed into is a governing body that has rules and regulations that are specifically to contain the student athlete."
He went on to say, "There's no question, that college athletes in the sport of football and men's basketball are exploited. Their market value, many of them, is much greater than the value of their education. I know that's a difficult pill for many people to swallow because they graduate with student loan debt and they've worked their way through college. I understand that, but the basis of that argument is a scholarship is not given, it's actually earned. I can't think of another industry in our country where you are prevented from entering into some sort of an agreement for your name and likeness like you are in collegiate athletics."
That strong statement was backed by Sports Economist Dan Rascher from the University of San Francisco. His expertise was used during the trial against the NCAA and he testified with some very shocking analysis. He concluded that Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Notre Dame and LSU had more revenue with football and basketball programs in 2012-13 than an average NHL team. The revenue alone is quoted to be about 2.7 billion, according to the US department of Education.
It's a staggering amount when you consider the amateur status enforced by the NCAA. As an economics major, Klatt's knowledge about money and finances goes beyond the football field.
"We don't pay those schools because of the emblem on the helmet. We pay those schools because they put competitive football teams on the football field and that's what we want to televise. Those kids are the product and it's not the emblem on the helmet. The NCAA doesn't think so and unfortunately the players are never going to organize against administrators or presidents. So, those people are going to protect their own well being."
The NCAA has been in denial for many years about the regulations against student-athletes. Klatt is optimistic for future changes regarding healthcare.
"There's enough money in a pot to create escrow accounts for ever player under a scholarship. This would include title IX, so, the female athletes that earned a scholarship as well. This would be used for the purpose of healthcare and health insurance for the future."
Klatt could have benefited from an enhanced structure with health coverage after suffering a career-ending concussion. Ultimately, he was passed by in the NFL due to the jarring hits and it's something that still bothers him today.
"The concussions and head injuries affected the stability of my neck and that's what i'm dealing with now."
Even deeper is the fear of what could happen in the future.
"More than anything, I deal with the uncertainty of what my neurological future holds. It's scary to think about, but at the same time I know I can't think about that now. I just try to stay as healthy as I can and be optimistic that everything will work out in the future."
The future appears to be brighter for Klatt after becoming one of the best analysts in college football. In his downtime, he follows the Buffs football program and thinks coach Mike MacIntyre is leading the team in the right direction.
"I think the progress is coming along. It might not be as fast as everyone wants, but the fact of the matter is that Colorado has been down for quite a while. It doesn't just turn around in the matter of a year or two. It takes years of recruiting and building in order to get back to where they want to be."
Given the current set of circumstances, MacIntyre has done a great job trying to restructure a lost program. Klatt still has fond recollections about his time at Colorado and the rough times for the university, as it began to crumble under former coach Gary Barnett. When he left CU, the emotions were very raw towards his Alma Mater.
"It was an interesting time. Obviously, the issues that we went through as a program in the spring of 2004-- really that's the downfall of the program. The thing that's so frustrating about that is everything that we went through-- not only the NCAA investigations, but the DA with a witch hunt out for our players. Through all of that Coach Barnett kept his job and our program continued to win. We ran a clean program and I know that down deep in my heart."
In retrospect, Klatt's journey from CU has been remarkable. After starting to work at an investment firm right out of college, he coincidentally made a slow move to broadcasting. Now just ten short years later, Klatt will be starting the season with his partner Gus Johnson as Fox Sports' number one broadcast crew. A well deserved honor for both.
What ever the future holds for Klatt, a couple of his goals are to call a national championship and Super Bowl. Both are a very strong possibility and will keep everyone interested to see what's next for the CU alum.