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Jim Harbaugh wants to be a voice for student-athletes in fight for NCAA revenue sharing

Harbaugh called the current status quo unacceptable.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has always been willing to challenge the status quo in the name of evolving the game of college football. Another example of this came on Monday afternoon when Harbaugh spoke in depth about an expansion of revenue sharing between the NCAA, college universities and student-athletes. Harbaugh doesn’t think the current NIL (name, image, likeness) model is enough.

Harbaugh’s advocating for “a system of revenue sharing with the student-athletes”.

“What I don’t understand is how the NCAA, television networks, conferences, universities and coaches can continue to pull in millions and in some cases billions of dollars in revenue off the efforts of college student-athletes across the country without providing enough opportunity to share in the ever-increasing revenues,” Harbaugh said.

The television contracts are getting bigger and bigger. For example, the Big Ten inked a seven-year, seven-billion dollar contract with Fox, NBC, and CBS last season. The players have yet to see a cent from that deal while executives reap the rewards of the deal. While most coaches toe the company line when it comes to issues such as this, Harbaugh isn’t afraid to speak out to defend student-athletes.

“I’m aware and understand that when someone speaks out in defense of those without a voice, attempts are made to diminish the individual’s character and credibility,” Harbaugh explained. “As a former player and current coach, mentoring many of these student-athletes, what I want to do is be a voice for the student-athletes. I want them to be treated with the respect and the dignity that they deserve.”

When student-athletes call it a game, the corporate types call it a business. When the student-athletes call it a business, the corporate types call it a game,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh’s bottom line is if there’s capitalization on the talent, the talent should be paid for their contributions. Harbaugh made it clear he doesn’t have the answers and his opinions are his own, but he hopes his thoughts will spark constructive conversation and timely action “with and between the NCAA, conferences, coaches, universities, certainly a group representing the student-athletes, as well as experts and legal minds who specialize in revenue sharing.”

Harbaugh named companies such as Amazon, U.S. Steel, UPS, and the NFL as companies who have forms of profit sharing, and wants the NCAA to follow suit if they are truly for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Harbaugh’s “calling for a system that is fair, equitable and benefits all involved.”

“You can’t say you’re about diversity, equity and inclusion if you aren’t willing to include the student-athletes in revenue sharing,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a shortsighted view of history to presume a system of revenue sharing would topple the current structure.”

The NCAA seems to be about diversity, equity, and inclusion as long as it doesn’t eat into their profit margin, and this type of construct must change in a hurry. Student-athletes are more aware than ever that they receive breadcrumbs compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars that collegiate conferences such as the Big Ten and SEC rake in each year. To see television deals that are in the billions and not receive any profit from that deal has to be a hard pill to swallow.

Harbaugh’s comments represent the most in-depth thoughts on revenue sharing from a high-profile college football coach. While Harbaugh’s comments are a big deal, other big-name coaches will have to get on board to turn the tide. Harbaugh’s thoughts should be the norm and not the other way around. The NCAA would be wise to heed Harbaugh’s advice before it’s too late.

Although Harbaugh’s facing a self-imposed suspension (from Michigan) for the first three games of the season and said it’s like a baseball bat to the kneecaps, Michigan is a big favorite Week 1 against East Carolina. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Michigan’s a 36-point favorite against ECU.

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