John Oliver's 'Last Week Tonight' NCAA March Madness Takedown: Top 5 Takeaways


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is about to launch one of the most lucrative sporting events in the world and HBO's John Oliver is not happy.

Oliver hosts HBO's "Last Week Tonight," a weekly satirical news program like "The Daily Show," where he was once a correspondent for Jon Stewart. For nearly 21 minutes Sunday night, Oliver ripped into the NCAA over a topic that has gotten its fair share of airtime: paying college athletes.

Oliver's takedown was categorical, he covered everything from the myriad sponsors the NCAA's "March Madness" basketball tournament brings in, to the salaries of Division I men's basketball and football coaches, to the extravagant spending of the nation's elite schools.

Here are five of the biggest takeaways from Oliver's show, which focused solely on men's basketball and football, also known as the "revenue-generating" sports.

1. The NCAA Tournament generates more than $1 billion in television advertising revenue. Oliver could well have followed that statement by saying, "on its own." As he noted later in the show, regular students can at least make money selling a player's jersey at their school's bookstore, but the player whose jersey it is never sees a penny. Additionally, the highest paid state employee in most U.S. states is a university football coach.

2. It really is "insane," as Oliver put it, that a basketball player cannot accept a free meal or snack not covered by his scholarship's meal plan without risking a suspension or loss of said scholarship.

3. Less than two percent of men's basketball and football players play professionally in their respective sports. So just to have a shot at playing on such a huge stage to maybe catch the attention of a potential employer - the NCAA Tournament - players must agree to a 400-page manual that in part outlines the many benefits they are not allowed to accept.

4. A surprisingly small amount of schools report profits from their athletic department, though one look at some of the more lavish stadiums and facilities could tell you why. Of the 30 largest sports stadiums in the world, in terms of capacity, 16 are American football stadiums and only one belongs to an NFL organization.

5. At the end of the day, student-athletes are getting a free education from some of the best schools in the nation and, in return, they must not consider themselves employees who can receive compensation of any sort. But to stay eligible, they must balance hours of team activities every day with a full-time course load and (maybe) a personal life.

Probably the most compelling argument Oliver made was in regards to the term "student-athlete." Walter Byers, the NCAA's first executive director admittedly thought up the term to deny a student worker's compensation should he get injured and be unable to play.

Said Oliver, "60 years later, that term is still working."

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