The annual March Madness heist is under way. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain: while the cameras show supremely gifted college athletes delivering drama and thrills on the court, the NCAA has licensed every television broadcast to hoard a bonanza for people who never touch the ball.

Well-meaning voices call for the NCAA to pay players, but this demand is misguided. No college should be required to pay athletes, and no pay structure needs to be planned. The central question is whether college athletes should have the bargaining rights that other Americans take for granted. On this point, the NCAA is deaf to persuasion. It will hang on to its windfall tenaciously.

The NCAA system is not a creation of law. It’s a private compact of colleges and their athletic conferences, designed to impose a compensation ceiling on athletes by fiat and to demonize anyone who pays or receives a nickel above essentially the cost of college attendance.

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