Gruesome Injury Resurfaces NCAA Pay Debate

There are few bigger draws in all of sports than the NCAA March Madness tournament. Every year thousands of fans, students, parents and alumni pack into gymnasium seats to watch their teams play in a hostile atmosphere. These arenas and teams generate millions upon millions of dollars every year, none of which goes to the student athletes. That may change following the disturbing injury to Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware.

Ware broke his leg on the court in an awkward jump, fracturing the bottom half of the leg in two places. The injury was gruesome, eventually leading CBS to stop showing the replay. Sports fans and athletes can sympathize with Ware, but as the games continue a daunting question faces the young student-athlete: Who pays for the medical bills? Ware's injury required surgery that included placing rods in his tibia for stability and will be recovering for close to a year.

Ware's hospital bills will not be cheap. With a trip to the emergency room, a serious surgery to repair broken bones and physical therapy being the bare minimum, his bills could run in the thousands. Now what many onlookers are wondering is who should pay for these bills. Is that the sacrifice athletes must make to play at such a high level, or is it the bare minimum the NCAA can do for its unpaid workers?

The NCAA now offers a $90,000 deductible, which they classify as a "catastrophic injury insurance program" that covers athletes from unexpected injuries to avoid any lawsuits against schools. The NCAA, however, demands that athletes have some type of insurance-whether their own or from the school-that must cover up to that hefty NCAA insurance program, according to a report from There have been cases where athletes find out years later that they must pay bills from injuries sustained during their amateur days.

Prior to Ware's gut-wrenching injury, questions were raised yet again on whether Division I college athletes should receive compensation for their work. There is a good chance that Ware's injury helped reinforce the issue. Universities make a significant amount of money from their sports, especially from prominent tournaments like March Madness.

Take Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, for example. Pitino makes roughly $4 million yearly with bonus incentives worth thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, the NCAA generates billions from the postseason tournament. The NCAA makes heaps of money, but the true moneymakers are not making a dime.

It is a controversial topic that has its pros and cons. Yes, these athletes help generate billions of dollars in a four-year period, but that is not the case for every sport. Yet it would be unfair to pay just those who draw the crowds in, which could lead to claims of discrimination. It is a fragile balance that seems to be tipping in favor of the players.

"I think they deserve the money they earned. They make just as much for their clubs as the professionals do, so why not?" said junior Cassidy Straniero.

Public opinion is shifting, but the NCAA has yet to budge. As the public watched and re-watched with their hands covering their eyes as Ware's leg snapped under him, many questioned his future. Ware may be the martyr college athletes have been looking for to finally get the NCAA to cave in to their demands.