Ramogi Huma wants to change lives with the NCPA

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When Ramogi Huma started his college football career with the UCLA Bruins, he lost 10 to 15 pounds in his first six weeks on campus. The intensity of workouts had an impact, but the lack of food resonated most.

At the time, Huma backed up future NFL linebacker Donnie Edwards. He remembers Edwards going on a radio show and talking about the difficulty of making ends meet, highlighting the lack of food in his refrigerator. Huma recalls a listener hearing about Edwards’ struggle and leaving groceries on the starter’s doorstep. 

Edwards ate the groceries. After the NCAA found out, they suspended him for one game and ordered $150 restitution for the food from two instances according to a 1995 story by Steve Springer of the Los Angeles Times.

“I remember right before I walked into the meeting and learned that Donnie had been suspended over groceries,” Huma said. “I walked right by the student store, which was selling his jersey, number 23. It just seemed unfair, we had no voice or way to push back.”  

Huma started the National College Players Association (NCPA) during his sophomore year at UCLA. He made the company official in 1997 and converted it to a not-for-profit organization in 2001. His intentions focused on influencing NCAA rules, giving players the voice he saw they lacked, and implementing strategies to better protect college athletes. In the 17 years since the NCPA became a nonprofit, Huma has co-authored studies raising awareness for the struggles college athletes face and made progress correcting the problems for future generations.

“It's hard to find the players that are willing to actually stand up,” Huma said. “I think most players are scared. Most players are intimidated you know, by the thought of rocking the boat.”

Huma’s desire to become the voice of the players unwilling to take action drives him. He’s never talked to a player that is against the various protections the NCPA is seeking, making the natural fight in Huma stronger because of the support behind him. 

Under the NCPA’s “missions & goals” on its website is a list of 10 objectives of the organization. Grievances range from coverage of scholarship shortfalls (the out-of-pocket costs that remain after full scholarships at some schools) to eliminating permanent injury as a reason for rescinding scholarships and coverage of sports-related medical expenses. When the opportunity arose to add context to the NCPA’s missions, Huma did not hesitate.

He co-authored a study with Drexel University professor Ellen Staurowsky to quantify the market value of players and uncover other valuations. Titled “The $6 Billion Heist: Robbing College Athletes Under the Guise of Amateurism,” the study’s central finding revolved around the $6 billion FBS football and men’s basketball players were “forced to forfeit” from 2011 to 2015. 

The study cited $114,153 and $265,827 per year as the amount of fair market value FBS football and basketball players are denied respectively after accounting for a $23,204 full athletic scholarship. It also found the average annual scholarship shortfall to be $3,285 for the 2011-2012 academic year for each FBS “full scholarship athlete.” Huma and Staurowsky even refuted the idea equitable funding for revenue-generating teams would force the elimination of non-revenue sports. The study found the average FBS schools spent almost $2 million more in 2011-2012 than the average FCS school on non-revenue generating sports.

“This is America, we’re a capitalist society where one of our values is, ‘Hey, you know what, you work hard and you get what you’re valued at.’” Huma said. “That’s the premise of our economic system. Yet college athletes are excluded from that. You have to look far and wide to find any other American citizen who is denied an equal opportunity to make a dollar.”

Huma cites time and resources as the reasons for the lack of an updated study with numbers from recent years, but believes the abundance of television deals exceeding prior ones since 2015 have only increased the market value of players. While a study provides evidence and raises awareness, it doesn’t create tangible change.

At the head of the NCPA, Huma has amassed progress to compliment the study’s findings. The organization helped arrange a lawsuit to secure $10 million of funding for players who desired to finish their undergraduate degrees or pursue a graduate program. It also helped eliminate the $2,000 salary cap on money earned from part-time jobs and limit the use of “multi-year scholarships” that often given schools the ability to fund only half of a typical four-year program for college athletes. 

Huma’s recent focus has been on the state of North Carolina legislature creating a commission to study the fair treatment of college athletes, as reported by The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, in June of 2018. The commission will focus on health insurance, sports injuries, and profit-sharing for student athletes.

The NCPA recently finished drafting and submitting a proposal titled “Reasonable Compensation for North Carolina College Athletes” to the commission. It urges North Carolina to pass legislation to prohibit entities and individuals from enacting any form of punishment against North Carolina college athletes for “exercising college athlete compensation options.”

The proposal lays out specific matters, pushing for a degree completion fund--similar to the one the NCPA previously helped secure in court--and a percentage of revenues related to the use of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness upon expiration of eligibility. The NCPA provides justifications for the proposed fixes, with language and grievances derived from Huma and Staurowsky’s study.

“We are not against, by any means, any other kind of compensation, whether it be a salary or whatever,” Huma said. “We’re not advocating for a direct salary because it’s politically difficult, it’s less attainable than the proposal we’re putting forward.”

Huma is encouraged by the state of North Carolina’s willingness to investigate the issues the NCPA has been raising awareness for. He finds little progress with Congress and knows the states are the place to start, hoping for initiatives to spread if one is successful.

If the NCPA’s proposal aides the North Carolina legislature commission in any way, it’ll have even more tangible progress to hang their hat on under Huma’s leadership. In the meantime, focus on a fundamental statement vital to the protection of college athletes will be pushed in hopes of solidifying change.

“Understand the idea of fair markets and getting what you’re worth,” Huma said. “If people can support if for themselves, then they should be able to support it for college athletes.”

Lance BrozdowskiComment