As millions of Americans stayed up late studying their college basketball brackets Sunday, John Oliver spent more than 20 minutes of "Last Week Tonight" dissecting the NCAA tournament — and the billion-dollar business it's become.
"Everything about this tournament is branded, even the famous moment when players cut down the net," Oliver said, before playing a clip from UConn's 2014 net-cutting ceremony sponsored by "Werner, the official ladder of the NCAA basketball championships."
"Are you kidding me?" Oliver said. "Look, as a ladder enthusiast, I can tell you right now, Werners are pure s---."
The former "Daily Show" correspondent then turned his attention to the NCAA's controversial policy of not paying its student athletes.
"There is nothing inherently wrong with a sporting tournament making huge amounts of money," Oliver said. "But there is something slightly troubling about a billion-dollar sports enterprise where the athletes are not paid a penny."
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Oliver took particular issue with NCAA President Mark Emmert's repeated insistence that college athletes should not be paid because "they're not employees — they're students."
"The only other people who say 'they're not employees' that much are people who run illegal sweatshops out of their basements," Oliver said. "Oh, they're not employees! It's a summer camp where they make the same T-shirt over and over again thousands of times. It's summer fun, year-round."
He also took the NCAA to task over its 440-page manual governing student athlete conduct.
"The only other thing that has that many finicky little rules would be a sex party at Wes Anderson's house," Oliver said. "Guests are required to wear lingerie of only a prewar Andalusian vintage; fellatio may only be accompanied by music from the Kinks and early Cat Stevens; and condoms shall be found nestled inside a small diorama of the sinking of the Lusitania."
Oliver did concede one point to those who argue that scholarship athletes get the benefit of free tuition.
"Yes, athletes are paid in 'an education,' the only currency more difficult to spend than bitcoin," Oliver said.