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The NCAA Basketball Tournament is back, and the nation is once again awash in bracket-picking bliss. But lurking beneath all of the twine-snipping, shining moments lies something far less appealing: the blatant exploitation of student-athletes by the NCAA.

They’re walking billboards for shoe companies and sports drinks. Their likenesses are used to market everything from jerseys to video games. And they draw tens of millions in revenues for the institutions for which they play. Meanwhile, their coaches earn multi-million-dollar salaries and endorsement deals while the NCAA scores billions in licensing and broadcast rights.

Many argue that a free college education is compensation enough for athletic talent, but consider the extraordinary demands placed on student-athletes: Their schedules are consumed by both required and “voluntary” workouts, draining travel schedules and all of the stresses that come with a full-time course load.

Division 1-A college athletics is a multi-billion dollar industry. Isn’t it time the NCAA did right by the players who’ve made it so? Isn’t it time to pay the student-athlete?

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