Jim Harbaugh opened his Monday news conference with a nearly 6-minute statement advocating for revenue sharing with student-athletes.
This isn’t the first time the Michigan coach has shared the thought that student-athletes should also benefit from new television deals, but it was his most direct. He told reporters that it’s time for a change and that the athletes themselves should benefit from the billions of dollars generated by the sport.
“We all should be about diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m calling for a system that is fair, equitable and benefits all involved,” Harbaugh said. “Don’t exclude the student-athletes from the profits. My opinion, 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 he has brought up the idea of revenue sharing in 2020 and again in 2022 at Big Ten media days, and said he wants to be a voice for the student-athletes in speaking up about what he believes is a big change necessary for the NCAA to move forward and continue to evolve.
“We have to try to make it work, we have to try to make it better and right now,” Harbaugh said. “The current status quo is unacceptable and won’t survive. In my opinion, we capitalize on the talent, we should pay the talent for their contributions to the bottom line.”
His comments come as conferences are adding new schools in realignment and bringing in larger-than-ever contracts with TV networks. Harbaugh is also facing a three-game suspension to begin the season. The punishment was self-imposed by Michigan in relation to an NCAA investigation regarding potential recruiting violations during the COVID-19 dead period and not cooperating with the NCAA.
Harbaugh said he believes that it’s time for change and the NCAA can’t continue to move forward without treating the student-athletes fairly. He noted that when the players call it a game, corporate types call it a business. When athletes call it a business, corporate types call it a game and never come to a solution that benefits the student-athletes.
“I want them to be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” Harbaugh said. “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 it’s shortsighted to think that paying players off of the growing TV contracts would topple the whole system and points out that major corporations, including Amazon and UPS, have adapted certain revenue-sharing models.
He knows he won’t change the NCAA through this speech, but said he is hoping to continue to move the ball down the field to when players benefit from and share in the billions of dollars they help generate every season.
“What I hope to accomplish today is sparking 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 said.