The NCAA is currently in the midst of a possible monumental civil lawsuit regarding player likeness. They are also under increased pressure from smart, talented and (most importantly) famous people who use their platforms to push for major reform to the governing body of college sports. With those two things coupled together — as well as many other situations — the NCAA is like a prizefighter who just got hit with a haymaker and is only on their feet out of instinct. Really, the blood is in the water for the NCAA.
Now, my position is the easiest stance to take. The NCAA is broken to the point of being unfixable. That big-time, money driven football programs will eventually decide to band together, succeed from the NCAA and pay players. There is that other side of the argument. You know, the whole “if they pay players….ARMAGEDDON will come down on college sports.”
That is, unfortunately, the opinion of those against paying players. That — because no real evidence, really — paying players will result in some form of endgame for college sports as we know it. That amateurism will be broken and folks will no longer care about college football because student-athletes might make enough to get some lunch someplace other than a fast-food joint with a dollar menu.
The fact that very little evidence actually backs up their apocalypse situations is not surprising. These people will say that student-athletes are not being exploited because they are receiving a free education. Two important things are wrong with that type of thinking. One, it isn’t free. The players are giving the university a service and in return they get a scholarship. A scholarship, mind you, that might not equal the value that a particular player might bring to the school due to the market place. Two, there are instances where the scholarships will not cover the student-athlete’s full tuition. Scholarships are also given on a year-to-year basis. Meaning, a university can pull a scholarship from a student-athlete after each year if they so chose — much in the same way an employer might have a contractor under a contract and not renew it when the deal is up — like a business.
But debunking the arguments of those against paying players is pretty pointless since the foundation of their argument is logicless. When one of the smart folks on the pro pay players side is making sound, logical points a person will invoke the sanctity of amateurism. Which is kind of like a four-year-old citing Doc McStuffins as a reason why they should be allowed to knife you open.
Amateurism is — and pretty much has always been — a crock. Not that some of the ideals pushed by it are as horrible as it sometimes feels, but the model of how it is supposed to work it is not actually functionable in big business. Which, agree with paying players or not, college football is. In no other market place or work force on Earth will a Fortune 500 company not pay the people driving the industry. The student-athletes are not frontline workers at a sales company. They are the sales company. Take away the salesmen at the sales company and you have no business. Take away the student-athletes at school and you have no football or basketball or anything else that drives large sums of money to universities.
The NCAA holds amateurism closer to them than we did our Teddy Ruxpin dolls as children. This is the governing body of college sports, who are so anti progression, that it wasn’t until the 1980s that they incorporated women’s sports under their incompetent umbrella.
Mark Emmert, who is the head of ineptness at the NCAA, also falls back on amateurism while making sure universities profit as much as possible. He, a man who is certainly of intelligence, has no reasonable explanations or foresight as to how the NCAA needs to exist in this day and age of big-time college sports other than protecting the ideals of amateurism. Without having any true evidence to back why amateurism is so important other than “amateurism is the pillar of college sports”, Emmert pushes forth the notion that the NCAA has not only the schools’ best interests at heart, but also the student-athletes’ that are prevented from capitalizing in the market place for their own values as players.
At the end of the day, however, it probably won’t matter if I think amateurism is a fictional word used to keep people without power from having any and allowing people in it to keep making money, or if you think it is the foundation to the realm of college sports. The same thing that drives that NCAA as the governing body, that — for so long — has made universities bow to the NCAA because of the institution’s ability to make them money, is going to make a building in Indianapolis useless. Greed.
You see, the NCAA has done a great job of providing universities with outlets to financially win. Now, with network deals, the Internet and many other outlets, the NCAA’s use to major football schools is becoming less and less needed. If anything, really, the NCAA is now preventing schools like the Alabama Crimson Tide, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Texas Longhorns and the like from making even more money.
Under conference and NCAA rules, programs might have to share money they earned, not money the entire conference earned. A program such as Alabama is clearly a major player in college football. Why should they have to share their TV revenue with another program in their own conference who regularly stinks? If college sports were a business, they wouldn’t have to — or if they did, the split would be much difference than of equal payouts to each university.
People would now like to yell about competitive balance. As if that is even a thing or a thing worth mattering. Some universities have more money now, preventing other schools from competing with them. Paying players or allowing schools to further profit would certainly change the way we look at competitive balance, but there isn’t any to begin with. An example being the Oregon Ducks having Nike money, uniforms and whatnot and their disposal while almost nearly every other Division I program does not. That is not competitive balance, so enough hiding behind the myth of something that isn’t even protected under the NCAA now.
It also doesn’t help the NCAA that not even the universities who have backed them don’t completely understand their rules, bylaws and outlines for compliance. There is no reason for the Penn State Nittany Lions to honor the NCAA’s rulings other than the fact that they player under their rules — but why? That doesn’t only go for a school like Penn State (who did something illegal, but outside of the NCAA’s jurisdiction). Programs no longer need to bow down to the NCAA when they say a clerical error will cost one of their players some games during the season because of some iffy, strangely worded bylaw in the rule book.
While I advocate paying players, letting them get their value in the market and, you know, treating them like people, even I am not naive enough to think change will happen because people in power want to share it with those who don’t or that they will be more than happy to give up some of the money they currently make. It will be the greed of universities that currently keeps them from acknowledging a student-athlete’s worth that will ultimately result in them bolting from the NCAA, paying players and getting out of the business of not acting like college football is not a business.
The NCAA is as transparent as ever. Well, let me rephrase that. The NCAA isn’t showing us how or why they do what they do. What I do mean, though, is the gig is up. People know the blood is in the water. Players are finally — even if it is minimally — banding together by wearing “APU” on parts of their bodies during games. Major sports personalities are constantly advocating for some form of change. Really, the perfect storm of events, timing and, yes, greed are all coming together to make the NCAA finally worth something….
A non-profit, tax exempt organization whose run will finally be over and will be looked back on in history as one of the last major insinuations to exploit people for the profit of others. Honestly, the NCAA might be about to lose a civil lawsuit, but a few years from now people will look back at universities succeeding from it and call it a major win for civil rights.
And it will be funny because it won’t actually be in the name of protecting the kids. It will be in the name of greed because money for universities.
Joseph is the editor of Storm The Paint. Him, Twitter @JosephNardone