“I shattered my leg at the NCAA tournament and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”

I Shattered My Leg at the NCAA Tournament and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
Dave Zirin on April 3, 2013 – 6:08 PM ET

There’s been a river of ink already spilled over Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s horrific leg injury during the Cardinals’ Elite Eight victory over the Duke Blue Devils. Most, with some notable exceptions, have tested the bounds of hokey sentimentality: the classic story of an injured player inspiring his shaken team to victory. Now, however, we’ve reached the point where tragedy becomes farce. On Wednesday we learned that Adidas, in conjunction with the University of Louisville athletic department, will be selling a $24.99 t-shirt with Kevin Ware’s number 5 and the slogan “Rise to the Occasion” emblazoned across the back. His team will also be wearing warm-ups with Ware’s name, number and the slogan “All In.” (This tragically is not a tribute to Chris Hayes.)

You almost have to tip your cap: no non-profit does buccaneer profiteering quite like the NCAA. What other institution would see a tibia snap through a 20-year-old’s skin on national television and see dollar signs? In accordance with their rules aimed at preserving the sanctity of amateurism, not one dime from these shirts will go to Kevin Ware or his family. Not one dime will go toward Kevin Ware’s medical bills if his rehab ends up beneath the $90,000 deductible necessary to access the NCAA’s catastrophic injury medical coverage. Not one dime will go towards rehab he may need later in life. “Going forward, we don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of medical expenses,” said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, a group trying to organize NCAA athletes. “If Kevin has lifelong medical bills associated with his injury, he could be squarely responsible for this…These are things that are not guaranteed to players that are injured, and no matter how hard it might be for people to understand, that’s the truth. And that should change.”

Where will the t-shirt money go? Well, Coach Rick Pitino makes more than $4 million a year and will likely see his current five-year deal torn up and renegotiated following the season. The assistant coaches, trainers and support staff will also surely get a taste.*** The Final Four ratings boost spurred from the buzz surrounding Kevin Ware’s story will also translate into quite the windfall for the NCAA. The multi-billion-dollar slop bucket of March Madness money, which makes up 96 percent of the NCAA’s operating budget, will pay organization president Mark Emmert’s two million dollar salary as well as the paychecks for their 14 vice presidents, each of whom make at least $400,000 a year. They will also to be able to continue to pay off the mortgage on their new $50 million, 116,000-square-foot headquarters in Indianapolis.

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