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New App Lets College Hoops Fans Pay Their Favorite Players

The NCAA brings in $1 billion a year in total revenue. The schools and coaches make millions. The players? $0.

Image of Rob Jones, former forward for the University of San Diego Toreros college basketball team, via Wikimedia Commons user Djh57

What do you call a mode of production in which laborers toil without pay for the financial betterment of their superiors? March Madness, baby.

Student-athletes make millions in licensing and ticket sales for top universities and don’t receive a penny. That sucks, but Fanstreme, a mobile gaming company focusing on sports, thinks it has a solution: Let fans pay the players.

Using the ubiquitous brackets of office pool betting, Fanstreme’s new Player’s Bracket allows the basketball faithful to vote for and donate money to their favorite players during the tournament. Funds are held in trust until players are eligible to earn that “scrilla” (i.e., after they leave college). Alternatively, players can have the money donated to a charitable cause in their name.

It’s a novel idea, even if it’s nowhere near a real fix to a problem that’s endemic in college sports. The NCAA Tournament generated $770 million in licensing fees last year, which accounts for 90 percent of its revenue. Coaches and athletic directors at schools with top-performing football and basketball teams personally make millions off students, whose lives and schedules they control. The plantation metaphor holds up uncomfortably well.

For those hoping for a more practical solution than this kooky attempt at crowdfunding fairness, the news isn’t great. Some pretty persuasive voices—President Obama and the New York Times, to name two—have gone on record about the hypocrisy of the college system, but real progress is tough to point to.

So if Fanstreme’s Player’s Bracket isn’t a proper solution, at least it’s a way for fans to take some action and maybe put a little coin in the pockets of their favorite players.

I’ve got five on Buddy Hield. Dude’s a beast.

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