TIME health

NCAA Proposes $70M Concussion Fund To Settle Lawsuit

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a press conference at AT&T Stadium on April 6, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

The settlement includes funding for testing current and former college athletes

The National Collegiate Athletic Association will pay $70 million for concussion testing as part of a proposed settlement over an ongoing head-injury lawsuit, the organization announced Tuesday. The money would pay for symptom identification for current and former college athletes.

If accepted, the proposed deal, which would also offer $5 million for concussion research, would put an end to an ongoing class-action lawsuit facing the NCAA in federal court. According to the plaintiffs in that case, a 2010 NCAA internal study showed that almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of concussions back on the field. The suit has been riding a wave of accusations that the NCAA and college teams across the country have put players at risk of brain injuries.

“Student-athletes — not just football players — have dropped out of school and suffered huge long-term symptoms because of brain injuries,” the lead plaintiff’s lawyer, Steve Berman, told The New York Times. “Anything we can do to enhance concussion management is a very important day for student-athletes.”

The settlement would affect men and women across all NCAA divisions. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer squads, the settlement also affects basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse teams. All current and former athletes in the NCAA would be eligible for concussion screening and possible damage claims under the proposal.

As part of the deal, college athletes will be required to take a baseline neurological test at the beginning of each year, which will help doctors monitor the effects of potential concussions during the season. Concussion education will also be required for coaches and athletes.

“We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline in a statement. “Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.”

TIME College Sports

NCAA To Pay Athletes $20 Million in Dispute Over Video Game Images

Sam Keller in Nebraska v Missouri
Sam Keller, then #9 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, plays in a game against Missouri in 2007 in Columbia, Missouri. G. Newman Lowrance—Getty Images

A victory for players seeking a share of the profits from lucrative college sports

The NCAA said it reached a settlement Monday to pay $20 million to former and current student-athletes who claim the organization used the their names, images and likenesses in video games without permission or compensation.

This settlement adds to the $40 million settlement recently reached with Electronic Arts, which distributed the video games in question, and ends the case, which was originally filed by former Arizona State and University of Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller.

The case has drawn national attention for the potential precedent it could set. If approved by the judge, the settlement would mark the first time the NCAA is paying student-athletes for rights related to their play.

“We’ve long held through our various cases against the NCAA that the student-athlete is treated poorly in everything from scholarships to safety. This settlement is a step toward equity and fairness for them,” said Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The NCAA has had rules in place that prevent athletes from receiving compensation other than their scholarships. The NCAA says it does not consider the settlement “pay for performance” and does not plan to change its rules. But debate over whether athletes should share in the returns of lucrative college sports has been pitched in recent years.

In this case, Keller and other student-athletes were included in EA’s NCAA Football, Basketball and March Madness video game series. The players claimed the NCAA and EA conspired to permit the use of NCAA players for their own monetary gain without compensating the players. In contrast, EA paid professional NFL players almost $35 million each year for the use of names and likenesses in NFL games.

“Anyone—even a student-athlete playing under scholarship—should not be exploited for profit, especially by the organization that vowed to prevent the athlete from exploitation,” Berman said.

The student-athletes who will now receive compensation include certain Division I men’s basketball and football players from the years the games were sold, according to the NCAA. The NCAA will issue a “blanket eligibility waiver” for any student-athletes currently enrolled who receive funds from the settlement so the players will not be in violation of NCAA rules prohibiting further compensation.

“The collegiate model of sports provides hundreds of thousands of student-athletes with unmatched opportunities for education, growth, mentoring, and future success,” said Donald Remy, an NCAA lawyer.

This settlement comes as another high-profile case—known as the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit—is beginning its trial. That class-action suit seeks to stop the NCAA from having rules preventing student-athletes from being compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses in video games or broadcasts. While the NCAA continues to fight the O’Bannon lawsuit, it expects the Keller settlements to be approved by the court before March 2015, when the case was originally scheduled for trial.

TIME College Sports

NCAA Hypocrisy Strikes Again: Michigan Star Forced To Go Pro

A "student-athlete" who wanted to stay in school now doesn't have that option

If you can stand 30 seconds of soft torture, please watch this advertisement from the NCAA:

The NCAA has been running such propaganda since last year, during big events like the March Madness basketball games. They’ve always bothered me, since they’re nonsensical. How exactly is bureaucratic sports organization headquartered in Indianapolis a “spirit-squad” for college athletes going on job interviews? I was an NCAA athlete back in the late 1990s. Where were my cheerleaders when I bombed several inquisitions? Well, that was a long time ago. So maybe this pom-pom thing is a new development.

Or is this some kind of metaphorical message? Since you played college sports, and learned teamwork and confidence and other qualities, you’ll be more prepared for real-life events like a job interview? Yeah, OK, whatever. A good ad should require no decoding.

But the key, really, is the end of the ad, when the narrator says that the NCAA is “always there for student-athletes.” We’ve got your back, the NCAA is saying. That’s a bold, strong proclamation.

Too bad it’s not true.

Consider the case of Michigan basketball star Mitch McGary. During the Wolverines’ run to the title game in 2013, the then-freshman emerged as a force, averaging 16 points and 11.6 rebounds in the NCAA tournament before Michigan fell to Louisville in the final. He had shed twenty pounds during the season, and had a kind of goofy, lovable-lug way about him. One of his teammates told a story: While heading to a shootaround in New York City before a game, everyone noticed that McGary wasn’t on the team bus. Turns out he got stuck in a hotel elevator, which gave the team more reason to razzle the rookie: His weight caused it to stop.

But McGary was able to laugh at himself, too. He was just a college kid. And despite his NBA potential, McGary seriously considered remaining in college next year. NCAA, dispatch the spirit squad. The whole point is for these “student-athletes” to stay in school, right?. Instead, McGary is off to the NBA, against his will, thanks to the draconian policies of the NCAA itself.

A back injury limited McGary to just eight games this season. He missed the NCAA tournament. After Kentucky knocked Michigan out of the tournament in the Elite 8, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports: “McGary was contemplating whether to enter the NBA draft or return for his junior season. Coming back would allow him to prove his back was fine and continue enjoying life in Ann Arbor. His play could bolster his NBA draft stock. It was an attractive option.”

But then he got some news: McGary had failed a marijuana drug test during the tournament. And even though he did not play during any of the games, under NCAA rules, he would have to miss all of next season. As Wetzel explains, if Michigan had administered the test during the regular season, and McGary tested positive, he probably would have missed three games under Michigan’s punishment. But since the NCAA takes over the testing during the tournament, McGary is subject to the NCAA penalty: a full-year ban for a first-time offender. For using a recreational drug growing more legal and accepted by the day.

The NCAA denied Michigan’s appeal. But then, right after reaffirming McGary’s one-year ban, the NCAA itself changed the punishment for future first-time offenders, reducing it from a one-year ban to a half-season ban. “Street drugs are not performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation,” the NCAA said in a statement. But the new policy goes into effect on Aug. 1. And the NCAA declined to apply the new standard to McGary.

The NCAA: “We’re always there for student-athletes.”

Sure.

In his interview with Wetzel, McGary took responsibility for his mistake. He smoked marijuana while hanging out with friends in March—usually, he says, he turns it down. He had passed every other drug test Michigan gave him over two years. McGary may have gone to the NBA regardless of this incident. But what should have been a minor, embarrassing suspension for next season turned into a ridiculous one-year ban, and left him no choice.

The NCAA: “We’re always there for student-athletes.”

So if the NCAA refuses to apply common sense to its enforcement system, the least it can do is stop running those ads. Because they’re blatantly hypocritical. And I’d rather not throw a shoe at my television.

TIME Basketball

Jabari Parker Leaving Duke to Enter the NBA Draft

ACC Basketball Tournament - Duke v Virginia
Jabari Parker during the finals of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka—Getty Images

Jabari Parker, one of the best freshman in college basketball, has decided to begin his professional basketball career this year. He explains his decision to go pro, after his team's disappointing upset in the NCAA tournament

All-star Duke freshman Jabari Parker has declared for the 2014 NBA draft, he announced Thursday.

Parker wrote about his decision to leave Duke for Sports Illustrated, laying out the reasons he was tempted to remain at Duke University for another year before beginning his professional career.

“After losing in the NCAA tournament, I needed to clear my mind. I was incredibly disappointed and blamed myself,” Parker writes. “I didn’t watch basketball or go to the gym for several days.”

Parker’s college legacy was a letdown: No. 3 seed Duke was upset early in the NCAA tournament, losing to Mercer. If he instead chose to stay with Duke, he could have a chance to redeem his team in next year’s tournament.

But ultimately, after meeting with Coach K and his parents to discuss his options, Parker settled on the NBA:

Which environment — college or the NBA — offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player?

Which environment — college or the NBA — offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court?

The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA.

Parker will likely be a top pick in this year’s NBA draft on June 26. He was the highest-scoring freshman in Duke history, averaging 19.1 points per game and becoming the first freshman to lead Duke in both scoring and rebounding.

The beginning of Parker’s professional career does not mean the end of his education: Parker said that he plans to graduate from Duke while he’s in the NBA. Parker’s decision to enter the draft also means he’ll forgo his two-year mission common among 19-year-olds at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. He says, however, that he’ll remain religious.

“I don’t consider myself an exception to the rule. At this point in my life I know this is the right decision,” Parker wrote.

[SI]

TIME Business of Sports

Sports TV Broadcasting Hits New Highs … in Annoying Fans

171174350
Jetta Productions—Getty Images

Lately, many sports fans who have tried to watch the Winter Olympics, or NCAA Final Four basketball, or the Atlanta Braves, or the Los Angeles Dodgers have been frustrated for a very basic reason.

They can’t find the !?#&*!? sporting event on TV.

On Saturday night, countless college basketball fans tuned in to CBS, hoping to watch the men’s Final Four March Madness tournament matchups of Wisconsin-vs.-Kentucky and Florida-vs.-Connecticut. Instead of basketball, viewers were treated to reruns of CBS dramas “Person of Interest” and “Criminal Minds.”

After some confusion, and perhaps some cursing and throwing of remotes, shoes, and cheese dip, previously unaware viewers discovered that for the first time since March Madness has been televised, the national semifinals weren’t shown on network TV. The back-to-back games, played on what’s often thought of the best night of the year for college basketball, were only broadcast on cable. On several cable channels, in fact, thanks to a curious arrangement with Turner Sports, in which TBS hosted the main broadcast, and sister channels TNT and TruTV showed the same game but with different local play-by-play announcers to cater to each team’s fan base.

In any event, the games weren’t on network TV. That was enough to ruin the night for cord cutters, i.e., folks who don’t have pay TV, who have also missed out on the tournament’s many other games shown only on TBS, TNT, or TruTV rather than CBS.

(MORE: Why Las Vegas Loves March Madness Way More Than the Super Bowl)

The arrangement did more than alienate the fairly sizeable portion of fans too cheap to have a pay TV package. Despite an onslaught of coverage telling folks that they games were on cable for the first time ever— according to Adweek, the campaign included digital billboards in subways, ads shown before films in theaters, promos on radio and TV, and a takeover of USAToday.com’s home page—the move to cable did some serious damage to TV ratings as well. Yes, when combined the trio of Turner Sports channels achieved a record high number of viewers for a non-football sporting event on cable, but the shift away from network broadcast also resulted in a multi-year low in ratings overall. The Associated Press reported that an average of 14 million viewers watched the games on Saturday night, down 11% from a year ago when they were shown on CBS. (TBS is in 14% fewer American homes than CBS.)

There’s no mystery as to why any of the parties involved would risk aggravating fans by showing the games on cable rather than CBS: Like so many things, it’s all about money.

CBS and Turner Sports are a few years into a 14-year, $10.8 billion partnership with the NCAA to air the March Madness tournament. One reason that TBS and its siblings agreed to the deal—thereby helping CBS from losing the tournament to ESPN and ABC—is that they were guaranteed the right to air some of the tournament’s premier high-ratings games, rather than just the earlier rounds.

More importantly, these networks, and the powers than be in general in sports and TV, are well aware that live sports is the largest reason many Americans continue to cut a check for a monthly pay TV bill. Time Warner, which owns TBS, TNT, TruTV, CNN, and many other cable networks (and, for a little while longer, Time Inc. and Time.com), obviously has great interest in keeping levels of cable-paying households high. They want cord cutting to hurt, or at least be difficult and impractical for sports fans to circumvent, and moving the Final Four to cable does just that.

(MORE: YouTube Is Going to Use TV to Destroy TV)

The Final Four broadcast is hardly the only example of how larger battles over money and TV rights are frustrating the lives and viewing habits of sports fans—perhaps turning some into former fans in the process. Four years ago, NBC Universal angered hockey fans and the hockey world in general by its decision to air some premier Olympic hockey games on cable rather than the main network. Likewise, fans were only able to view many events from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi by watching them on cable (or streaming them online, only possible with a pay TV account). Of course, Comcast, the biggest player in pay TV, owns NBC Universal, so it makes a lot of sense to strategically broadcast in-demand sporting events in ways that push people to feel the monthly cable bill is still unavoidable, if not exactly well worth the money.

At 162 regular season games plus playoffs, Major League Baseball plays the most games of any pro sport, and therefore it has the most games aired on TV. But thanks to a trend kicked off largely by the advent of the Yankees-focused YES Network more than ten years ago, fans are increasingly likely to be forced to jump through hoops, or at least cough up extra cash, in order to tune in. For instance, an ongoing dispute between Fox Sports and Dish TV in Atlanta will result in some Braves fans being unable to watch nearly one-third of the team’s games this season.

Over in southern California, a huge brawl over Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts pits the Dodgers-owed SportsNET LA network and its distributor, Time Warner Cable, on one side, and on the other, a range of pay TV providers such as Cox, Charter, and DirecTV, which so far are refusing to pay the high fees being demanded to include the channel in customer packages. Caught in the middle, of course, are the many fans who use other TV providers, and who often don’t live in areas where they could get SportsNET LA even if they wanted to pay for it.

(MORE: Hank Aaron Would Have Faced More Racism Today)

The result is an absurd scenario epitomized by a recent column from the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, who on Dodgers opening day hit a handful of bars, as well as a taco shop, bowling alley, and a Burger King, trying—and failing—to find the game on TV. The deal the Dodgers cut for the rights to broadcast games is incredibly lucrative for the club. But as Plaschke warned the Dodgers, the money may come at the cost of quite a few fans. “Dodgers, ask your fans if they are willing to sacrifice watching the games on television for the sake of having the league’s richest team,” he wrote. “They would say no.”

Plaschke ran into one sports bar patron, who noted the irony of seeing Dodgers jerseys posted to the tavern’s wall and yet “they can’t even get the games,” he said. “At least everyone can still watch the Angels.”

For the time being anyway.

TIME psychology

NCAA Championship: How Evenly Matched Teams Make Us More Defensive

Florida v UConn
Shabazz Napier of the Connecticut Huskies reacts during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal against the Florida Gators at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

There's no underdog between eighth-seeded Kentucky and seventh-seeded UConn, which makes players and fans feel more entitled to a win. To fans of whichever team loses: Brace yourselves for some serious mental gymnastics

Going by their track records, tonight’s NCAA playoff, a pretty close match, could be a nail-biter. Connecticut is seeded seventh, while Kentucky is eighth. Connecticut has won each of the three previous times it reached the championship game, while Kentucky has the winningest record in NCAA basketball. On any given day, either team could take the championship.

PHOTOS: Moments of Madness: Weird Photos From the NCAA Tournament

In an evenly matched game like tonight, luck likely won’t be part of the winning narrative. In such compatible games, fans and players alike tend to focus more on skills and ability when it comes to explaining the final score, says Ed Hirt, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University — and not the lucky three-pointers, impossible cross-court shots, or questionable calls by a referee that can shift the momentum of a game from one team to another. That’s because both teams in tonight’s championship have a strong sense of entitlement and confidence in their ability to prevail. So they’ll talk mostly about what they brought to the victory: determination, dedication, and, in the case of Kentucky, perseverance after a shaky start to the season.

MORE: 11 Players You Need to Watch in the NCAA Tournament

For fans of tonight’s losing team, there will still be some mental gymnastics to perform in order to accept the defeat. Psychologists call it “social creativity,” the process by which the vanquished try to make sense of the loss in light of the fact that they had the skills and ability to win. So they focus on the positive: we came further than we thought we would in the tournament, we came in second to all the teams in the NCAA, and we pulled through some tough games to make it this far.

That’s not the case when it comes to less balanced contests — when an underdog challenges an established powerhouse — and wins. In such Cinderella stories, the downside can be that a lower-ranked team doesn’t get as much credit for the victory. “In those situations, it’s more easy to be dismissive of the underdog victor playing well and attribute the cause to the favorite choking or playing poorly,” says Hirt. Take the run that University of Dayton had into the Sweet 16. Having polished off higher-ranked Ohio State, Dayton survived elimination when a last-minute three-pointer by Syracuse failed to find the basket. Post-game conclusion, even by Dayton coach Archie Miller? “Fortunately tonight, [Syracuse] didn’t hit some shots that they probably normally hit,” he told to USA Today. “The defense was great, but you also could play them 10 times, and I don’t think that some of those shots would be missed. So a little bit of luck is on your head.”

“It really is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s why people will have totally different perceptions of the same game,” says Hirt. If Connecticut loses, those fans will have their relatively new coach, and their lower expectations coming into the season, as fodder for creative interpretations of a loss. If Kentucky loses, there was the challenge of quickly melding a group of strangers into a winning athletic unit.

And if the outcome is close? That’s when all that rational focus on skills and effort and heart gets distracted by the drama of the moment and you might start to hear something about luck – if only the referee hadn’t made the charging call; if only the rimmed throw had gone in. Fans can be so fickle.

TIME

What The Northwestern Football Union Means For College Sports

Kain Colter, Ramogi Huma
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, right, speaks while College Athletes Players Association President Ramogi Huma listens during a news conference in Chicago, Jan. 28, 2014. Paul Beaty—AP

On the surface, a union for football players at Northwestern seems like a limited development. But thanks to new precedent, and some union-friendly state laws, college athletes could start banding nationwide.

A collection of college football players at Nothwestern University and other high-profile schools, fed up with a system that enriches people involved with the game but not the actual talent on the field, started a solidarity movement last September. They wrote the initials APU — All Players United — on their wristbands during that week’s games. Just six months later, that seemingly quaint gesture could go down as a milestone in the escalating fight over how to define and compensate big-time college athletes.

On March 26, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern are employees of the university and thus have a right to unionize and fight for better health care coverage, larger scholarship funds and other benefits (Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback leading the school’s union charge, says ”pay-for-play” salaries are not on the agenda). “The players now have moral high ground, and momentum,” says Harley Shaiken, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “This was a landmark decision for the future of college athletics.”

And it was an easy one. NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr reached a logical conclusion: a prior ruling disallowed Brown University graduate teaching assistants from forming a union due to the academic nature of their work. Thus, football players — who don’t read books in front of 80,000 delirious fans on Saturday afternoons — have full-time jobs, Ohr decided. Coaches aren’t professors. You get no course credit for sweating through practice.

The ruling, that scholarship football players recruited to Northwestern are employees under the National Labor Relations Act, is limited in scope as it stands. The NLRB only regulates private institutions, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I teams are dominated by big state schools. In this year’s Sweet 16, for example, only two schools – the University of Dayton and Baylor University — are private. Of the 128 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), just 17 — or 13.2% — are private. And since the NLRB is treating scholarship aid as player compensation, should a cut of player scholarships go to the government?

Northwestern will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB board in Washington, but experts say the ruling is likely to stand. “I think the regional director’s decision is a sound one,” says William Gould, a Stanford law professor who chaired the NLRB from 1994 to 1998. “I expect the board in Washington to uphold it.”

Expect the union movement to expand. Athletes at public schools are subject to state labor law, and Gould points to California as a union-friendly state for athletes. California’s student-employee test, for example, asks: are the services rendered related to the student’s educational objectives? As the NLRB ruling — and common sense — point outs, scholarship football players aren’t tackling opponents in a classroom. The services rendered are related to a school’s economic objectives. So players may be called employees.

Players at, say, UCLA, could make a strong case. “There’s definitely an opening in California,” says Gould. “I think athletes at public schools there would have an easier case than the Northwestern students.” The bigger question, says Gould, is whether more players want to unionzie. Northwestern’s players have yet to officially vote to form their union.

Players in Michigan and Florida can also make strong claims for employee status and the right to unionize, according to a 2012 paper published in the Buffalo Law Review, “A Union of Amateurs: A Legal Blueprint to Reshape College Athletics.” Historically, Michigan has been favorable to student-worker unionism. Paper co-authors Nicholas Fram and T. Ward Frampton write about Florida:

As a “right-to-work” state with only a 3.1% unionization rate in the private sector, Florida might seem an unlikely candidate to pioneer collective bargaining in college sports. But the Florida Constitution enshrines collective bargaining for public employees as a fundamental right under Florida law, and in the public sector, a full 27.8% of Florida workers are covered by union contracts. The robust constitutional and statutory protections afforded public workers under state law, coupled with the dramatic profits earned from Division I football in Florida, create a favorable playing field for college athletes seeking to unionize. But perhaps most importantly, the idiosyncratic history of disputes over the “employee” status of students on Florida campuses has established legal precedent extraordinarily favorable to student-workers. As a result, “the rights of graduate assistants to bargain collectively — and perhaps, by analogy, the rights of college athletes to do the same—“are now more secure in Florida than in any other state.

And if athletes at Florida negotiated more favorable benefits, officials in Alabama, which currently gives college athletes no constitutional or statutory right to collectively bargain, could face pressure to tweak state law in order to compete for recruits. The potential ripple effect, state by state, is real.

For college athletes, finally, that’s a pretty sweet deal on the table.

TIME Business of Sports

These March Madness Tickets Are Going for a Tiny Fraction of What They Should

College students can buy tickets for this weekend’s NCAA March Madness Final Four in Arlington, Texas, for just $40 apiece, a tiny fraction of the average seat price.

Will students turn around and flip their seats for profits of four, five, perhaps even ten or twenty times what they paid? Well, surely some will be tempted to do just that. After all, these are kids who will soon join the throngs that collectively owe $1 trillion in student loans. But it looks like the entrepreneurial students out there eager to make some cash on the secondary ticket market won’t be able to cash in.

The ticket sales operation for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, one of the four teams remaining in the NCAA tournament, spell out a long list of rules and requirements for those seeking to purchase Final Four seats at the student rate. “Students may only purchase one Final Four ticket,” is the first policy listed. And this one is the rule that makes it all but impossible for students hoping to sell their seats:

The credit card used to purchase tickets must be presented by the purchasing student to gain admission to AT&T Stadium, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. A credit card can only be used to purchase one student ticket, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. Students will also be required to present their WISCARD to gain admission into AT&T Stadium

The rules are the same for students at the three other schools in the Final Four, the University of Florida, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Kentucky. Students who are eligible to purchase seats at the $40 rate should have already received emails explaining how to proceed, and there’s a good chance all of the $40 tickets will be snatched up by Monday afternoon, if not sooner. For everyone else, the NCAA’s sales partner offers a host of pricey options, as do the universities, including travel packages running over $1,000 per person (sometimes not including tickets) and ticket packages for the upcoming semifinal and final game starting at $300, plus a fee of $10 or $15 per ticket. (Also available, curiously: foldable chairs used by UConn during the tournament for $150 apiece.)

Still, the $300 price for tickets is cheap compared to the going rate on the secondary market. The resale and ticket information site TiqIQ.com released data on Sunday indicating that the average price for “all sessions” tickets (entrance for both semifinal games on Saturday) was $1,367.55.

Tickets for the championship game on Monday night are cheaper, averaging $614 of late, with the cheapest “get-in” price going for $118, though of course at this point it’s impossible to know which teams will be playing in the game. As with most sporting events, it appears wise to wait to buy, as it’s expected prices will go down as game day nears. For the last three NCAA championship games, the average ticket price wound up under $500, and the cheap seats sold for under $100, according to TiqIQ.

TIME Education

Snapchat Grows Up: How College Officials Are Using the App

SnapChat College Acceptance Letter
Illustration by Jon Han for TIME

Those paper brochures seem so...old school

When thousands of anxious high school seniors finally find out whether they’ve been accepted at the colleges of their choice over the next few weeks, one of the first things many of them will do is share those admissions letters and emails with friends using Snapchat, the mobile app for sending photos and videos that disappear in 1 to 10 seconds. But wouldn’t it be great if universities would just send applicants that all-important yes or no directly via Snapchat? That’s not as far fetched as it sounds. Those bulky promotional brochures and emails are starting to look kinda old school, and university and college officials are looking for new ways to reach out to a generation raised on smartphones and instant image-based apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

Eastern Washington UniversityColleges have been texting students for a while, but with Snapchat, which is image-based, they’re taking another step in communicating with generation Y in their own language–albeit one that was originally known as a way to exchange sexy photos. And because users have to press the image with their fingertips to see it, there’s a tangible measure of engagement.

Colleges have been Instagramming and texting students for a while, but with Snapchat, which is image-based, they’re taking another step in communicating with Generation Y in their own language–albeit one that was originally known as a way to exchange sexy photos. And because users have to press and hold a Snapchat image with their fingertips to see it, the engagement is demonstrable.

TIME spoke to six colleges and universities that have started Snapchat accounts within the past six months to woo prospective students, publicize campus events, cheer on athletes in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and — at least in the case of an unofficial account run by a student — build a sense of community at a large, sprawling school. Sports fans enthusiastically scribble over photos in school colors using their fingertips and reply with Snaps of themselves everywhere from dorms to libraries to classrooms.

The University of Michigan started the uofmichigan Snapchat account on Feb. 26 after reading that 77% of college students use Snapchat daily, according to a survey of 1,650 responses conducted by Sumpto, a network of college students who promote brands on social media. (Snapchat itself doesn’t release demographic data.) And Tennessee Wesleyan College (TWC), a private, small liberal arts college in Athens, Tenn., which publicly debuted its Snapchat account on Oct. 8, 2013, is running a Snapchat scavenger hunt for prospective students during an April 12 orientation day. Participants who follow the account TWC_Snaps will be Snapped five hints about where to find “Wesley”, TWC’s bulldog mascot, on campus.

“Of course you want the prestigious acceptance letter, but I think students also enjoy having the wall brought down and being able to communicate with the institution that they have chosen,” says Brittany Shope, the Web Coordinator at TWC who started TWC_Snaps. Sending Snaps to prospective students could be more effective than sending promotional brochures and mailers to a generation raised on instant mobile communication. “They may see something in the mail and throw it away, but they are always looking at their phone.” To view a Snap, you have to keep your fingertip on the image until it disappears, which indicates real engagement.

Athletic recruiters are getting into the act too. In fact, beginning August 1, 2014, coaches for all Division I sports — with the exception of football, track and field, and swimming and diving — will be allowed to send Snapchats to prospective student-athletes during the recruiting process, prior to a prospective student-athlete signing an offer, a NCAA spokesperson told TIME in an email. Email and similar modes of communication — such as direct messaging on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram — are permitted in recruiting for all sports.

“Snapchat has a very personal feel because when you get a Snap, it’s sent to you, as opposed to just showing up on your Facebook or Twitter feed, and if you stumble across it, you stumble across it, but if you miss it, so be it,” says Kyle Bruce, Assistant Sports Information Director & Social Media Coordinator who manages the ewuathletics Snapchat account at Eastern Washington University, a Division I school. “A Snap from a coach sent right to that [prospective] student-athlete is a whole different level of a connection, so maybe you send something to a recruit that you’re really interested in, and it becomes kind of a prestige thing. Maybe the athletes would think, ‘Hey, they sent me a personal Snapchat, and nobody else got this!'”

University of Kansas Brannen Greene, freshman guard for the men’s basketball team at the University of Kansas, snaps “Rock Chalk”, a school chant.

Kyle Babson, Strategic Communications Manager at the University of Kansas who oversees the athletics department’s social media platforms, says while recruiting via Instagram has been a “huge deal” for the University of Kansas in the past six months, the jayhawks Snapchat account is primarily being used to give current students and longtime fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a student-athlete — from the locker room during the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City to the Wagnon-Parrott Athletic Center, where student-athletes hang out and can usually be persuaded to record mock sideline interviews for Snaps, winking at the camera as they tell fans to come to the next game. “On the court, they’re very professional, but off the court, they’re a hilarious group of guys, and Snapchat allows them to show that side,” says Erin Brogan, a junior journalism major at the University of Kansas, who runs the jayhawks Snapchat account.

And in the walk-up to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, KU sent Snaps on Mar. 17, the day after “Selection Sunday,” encouraging students to fill out their brackets and root for the jayhawks. While the athletics department did not end up using the account during the games, Wichita State Athletics — goshockers on Snapchat — sent Snaps showing the Shockers team getting off of the bus in St. Louis last week and studying videos of plays with coaches in the locker room of the Scottrade Center before the Mar. 21 game against Cal Poly.

And beyond the sports arena, these colleges and universities are finding Snapchat useful for advertising all campus happenings. When classes at the University of Houston were canceled on Jan. 24 and Jan. 28 because of icy road conditions, the University of Houston’s Snapchat account, uhouston, sent Snaps notifying its followers. Knowing that college students are more likely to show up when there is free stuff, the account is used to Snap locations where pizza and t-shirts are being given away on campus. The University of Michigan recently used it to share a celebrity sighting earlier this month, sending a Snap of Jeff Daniels, actor and local resident, taking a selfie with administrators at a reception honoring outgoing president Mary Sue Coleman.

(L-R) Regent Andrea Fischer Newman, Actor Jeff Daniels, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan medical student Mohammad Dar and University of Michigan Vice President for Global Communications and Strategic Initiatives Lisa Rudgers. Michigan

In contrast to the Snapchat accounts run by schools’ public relations offices, a junior at New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences has started an unofficial NYU Snapchat account called NYUsnaps, taking screenshots of the most clever Snaps and then posting them on a Facebook page to show what campus life is really like. Boasting more than 6,000 followers since launching Feb. 4, the page is a visual version of the viral “Compliments” and “Secrets” pages at NYU and other colleges and universities worldwide in which students anonymously submit candid, often brutally honest thoughts about other members of the community. So far the most popular Snaps have been scenes on campus, from celebrity sightings like the Glee cast filming in Washington Square Park, to witty ones like men in yellow rain suits shoveling snow with text that says “Why r Walt and Jesse shoveling snow” (the meth dealers on Breaking Bad), to a trash can covered with white stickers of the Apple logo with the caption “NYU so rich even our trash cans are apple.”

The NYU Snaps founder, who asked to remain anonymous because the project may violate university policies, says the account does get bombarded with drug-related Snaps of “cocaine, methamphetamines, and pills” — and perhaps people shamelessly send them because they know that the messages will disappear. The page does not have a problem publishing Snaps of “alcohol and marijuana,” but will take any down if the students who appear in them are afraid that they will be recognized. And some nights, users send Snaps asking all sorts of questions about the creator’s life because they “just want to have someone to talk to.” NYU Snaps is supposed to help make a sprawling city school more intimate. “When people first arrive at this school, they come to the realization that being a student at NYU can be incredibly exciting, but also really daunting, and at times, pretty lonely because we don’t have a campus,” the creator says. “I wanted to strip away a lot of that anxiety that affects students and say, ‘Listen, you go to school with over 40,000 amazing people, and you can get to know them through self-deprecating humor and guilty pleasures.” Similar Snaps pages have been started for the University of California schools, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of British Columbia.

So what’s next? Will more and more college admissions offices join Snapchat and Snap application deadlines and reminders? Will student organizations join to advertise campus activities, or dining services Snap the meals of the day? Perhaps professors who take weeks to grade assignments will finally put their antsy students at ease and just Snap grades individually to students, writing out exam and essay grades in the color red with their finger tips? It’s all possible.

But what about sexting? Will university officials be bombarded with inappropriate pictures? The Sumpto survey also says only 2% of respondents use Snapchat to send sexts and inappropriate messages, something users might dispute, but it does give administrators some comfort. And in October 2013, the Pew Research Internet Project, which measured Snapchat use for the first time, reported “it is especially popular among cell owners ages 18-29, 26% of whom use the app.” Plus the numbers of image chats, whether it’s Snapchat or some successor, is likely to rise as another generation raised on smartphones starts the college application process.

As Erin Brogan, manager of KU’s jayhawks Snapchat, put it, “Selfie Sunday is not just on Sunday anymore. It’s everyday.” So the real risk might be that Snapchat becomes so popular as an official method of communication, Snaps start to seem more like spam. But by then, there will probably be another app leaving universities to play catch up again.

TIME College Sports

College Athletes Win Right To Unionize

The labor board ruling that Northwestern football players can join a union is a victory for the National College Players Association but a blow for the NCAA

Football players at Northwestern University were awarded the right Wednesday to be considered legal employees and to join a labor union, in a ruling that could have wide-reaching implications for college athletes around the nation.

The announcement by the National Labor Relations Board is a victory for the National College Players Association, which petitioned the NLRB in January for the right to unionize. The player’s association has argued that colleges and the NCAA profit handsomely from student athletics, while imposing rules that prevent student athletes from benefiting financially from their own success, or receiving benefits like workers compensation or the promise that they’ll keep scholarships if they’re injured on the field. Being part of a labor union, they argue, will give student athletes a way to represent their own interests and negotiate for a more equitable share in their successes.

The NCAA has fought efforts to label student athletes employees for decades. “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” the NCAA said in a statement released after players filed a petition with the NLRB in January. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”

The NLRB ruling applies only to Northwestern. The NCAA has appealed the decision.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser