Those schools think the NCAA serves some purpose or they wouldn't belong. As far as I can tell, that service consists precisely in making sure schools are abiding by the prohibitions on granting scholarships or excessive admission preferences to athletes.
You'll Figure It Out, I'm Sure
I missed a lawsuit. This is how it's going for the NCAA these days: I managed to overlook a new lawsuit they're facing. Drumroll:
Former University of Minnesota football player Kendall Gregory-McGhee is suing the NCAA, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 over capping scholarships below the actual cost of attendance listed by universities. The suit was filed in federal court in Northern California, the same location where a similar case was brought in March by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston against the same parties.
I in fact missed the Alston lawsuit, as well. This is not the Jeffery Kessler lawsuit, but the court is deciding whether to roll all these things into one. Blood in the water, man.
The Alston and Gregory-McGhee suits are alleging that the NCAA is bad because it's capping scholarships below the full cost of attendance while Kessler wants to blow the whole thing up, so there is a case the cases will remain separate.
One thing that we'll know for sure in the near future: whether or not the NCAA has lawyer-cloning capabilities. Change is coming.
When it comes, certain people are going to become smarter overnight. One of the most common rhetorical gambits deployed in the service of the status quo is The Avalanche Of Supposedly Unanswerable Questions that will suffocate college sports once Pandora's Box is opened. They are hilarious when they come from a newspaper columnist, since the answers to most of them are "duh":
To understand just how erroneous and ill-serving Ohr’s ruling is, ask yourself some simple questions. If Kain Colter is an exploited laborer, then is a female tennis player at Stanford an exploited laborer, too? Is a lacrosse player at Virginia an exploited laborer? Is a rower at Harvard?
The NCAA is made up of 15,000 institutions and 20-odd sports. What’s the bargaining unit? Is it just football and basketball players who can unionize? Or all scholarship athletes? Can a freshman demand as much pay as a senior? Is there seniority? Can women demand equal pay — and if not, why not?
That's Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post, and those questions go on for another five paragraphs, all of them seemingly asked by a person who has been hiding in an East German bunker since 1989. Attn Ms. Jenkins: the green stuff can be exchanged for goods and services, and is acquired by participating in the economy.
It is yet another level of hilarity when the people directly involved with the enterprise throw up their hands when it is suggested that any other system is even possible. When Mark Emmert is proposing a Supposedly Unanswerable Question…
"If I can hire someone to play football for me why would I hire an 18 year old? Why not someone who plays in the CFL?" Emmert on unions
— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) April 18, 2014
…you don't just ruthlessly fisk someone who has a job at a newspaper for no discernible reason. You get to scream "THIS IS YOUR JOB." It is Mark Emmert's job to figure out how the NCAA is run, or at least to organize the fractious community under him that does so. He more than anyone else is in a position to say, "you know, certain aspects of the college sports experience are required to maintain its popularity and certain other aspects are not." Instead he sits and… well, "plays" dumb is the idiom that usually goes here. Recent statements suggest it is no act. Plays dumber, I guess.
Emmert is far from alone in this department. Poke an athletic director and he'll give you a question equal parts enraging and hilarious. Here's SMU's Guy Just In Charge Of Things For No Reason:
"Are you going to fire student-athletes? Is that really what we want?" Hart said. "I think we want the same things but I'm not sure this is the correct avenue."
Athletes get fired all the time already, but of course you know that, and SMU knows that, and the main thing holding even more athletes back from getting canned is not the existence of a union—one of the problems with unions is that in certain cases it becomes almost impossible to fire anyone—but the fact that anyone other than Alabama that turns their roster over that rampantly is going to be untenably young and get recruited against extensively.
But the answers to these easily answerable questions aren't really the point. The point is the sighted men asking them, pretending to be blind. There is a recent precedent for this.
hashed out faster than you can pass out at a Lars Von Trier movie
All this is reminiscent of when BCS flacks would attempt to grapple with the idea of a playoff. They would posit themselves as orangutans trying to jam a playoff banana into a college football square and grunt/holler about how it was ENTIRELY IMPOSSIBLE. When observers pointed out that literally every other level of college football featured a playoff, the orangutans would grunt/mutter that lower levels of football didn't involve as much effort, then point and exclaim "BUT WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL?!" before dropping a smoke bomb.
When they were still present after the smoke bomb dissipated, it turned out a playoff was something that could be hashed out in 45 minutes at lunch. How many teams? Uh, four. What locations? Uh, rotating bowl sites. Done. Now what? Let's try to make our logo as titillating to 13-year-old boys as possible. Sounds good, everybody, let's all congratulate ourselves with million-dollar bonuses! And bananas, because while we're not literally orangutans, bananas are terrific!
They did this almost the instant their system spat out an LSU-Alabama rematch that the nation rejected in the television rankings. As soon as it became clear that they could make more money, all problems and issues magically evaporated. Expect the same in the weeks following a judge's gavel sometime in the next few years.
The orangutans would grunt/mutter that lower levels of football didn't involve as much effort, then point and exclaim "BUT WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL?!" before dropping a smoke bomb.
Bo adamantly opposed a playoff until the day he died, and one of his main arguments was the effect it would have on school. So be careful who you're calling an orangutan.
We only worship traditions and program icons when it suits our arguments, buddy!
It is possible for a guy from a different era to have an opinion about modern-day athletics that might not be relevant anymore.
I'm not arguing against a playoff just because Bo was against it (and in fact I'm in the pro-playoff camp). I do, however, have a problem with Brian's broad generalizations and the way he presents his arguments.
Bo didn't want a playoff... but to my knowledge he never said "HOLY SHIT THIS IS WAY TOO COMPLICATED TO FIGURE OUT." The former is legit (some people still wish we were in the pre-BCS days). The latter is, as we have seen, laughable.
I wouldn't use the term orangutan but the argument that a playoff would impact school is just wrong. I played I-AA football for two seasons and went to the playoffs both years. As I recall (this was over 30 years ago) only the first round was during exams with the remainder during winter break. I don't think there's much difference between a playoff and going to a New Years day bowl game.
college sports make money is because the kids represent schools as "students" at least nominally. Minor league baseball, D League basketball and Junior level hockey are not $multi-billiion businesses. Therefore it follows that a straight-up supply and demand negotiation is inappropriate between colleges (employers) and ball players (employees) because we know they are, at best, second tier talents (many of whom have great potential). I just don't see how to make markets work in this case. Allow a kid to sell his autograph? How about Jerry Jones pays an exclusive group of 10 Okie State freshman to visit every year for $250K per pic? give kids additional stipends? Sounds like one more way to have the general student populations at most (those programs that lose money) colleges to continue to subsidize sports. I'd certainly be all for additonal opportunities for injury insurance, an ability to hire/consult and agent, guaranteed 4-yr scholies, or additional rules limiting time commitments for these kids, but I see most pay-for-play scenarios damaging the game and therefore shrinking the pot. I know I'm in a minority here but there it is.
I agree and I don't know if you're in the minority it's just that the "anti-NCAA" and "college athletes are victims" zealots are extremely vocal.
Exactly which minor league has major TV revenue contracts and can charge $95+ a seat per game?
Do TV contract dollars rise and fall as specific athletes come and go?
Name the top 100 minor league baseball players quickly .... the top CFL or Arena League players ...
It sure seems to me that the brand value of Michigan Football (though very tarnished lately) and Big Ten football drive a lot of the revenue that the athletes believe they drive. If there was a minor league football option, do we think the BTN contract would be measurably smaller? Crowd sizes at Michigan Stadium, etc.?
I am thinking most of the student athletes are getting more value from college football (TV exposure, name recognition, etc.) than we are accounting for.
I agree with doing the right sorts of things; Olympic model, non-revenue agreements with agents, endorsement revenue, ltd/workmans comp, 4 year guaranteed scholarships, better living expenses, summer jobs, etc.
I don't agree with direct employment.
The reporters questions aren't as inane as they appear. She makes a valid point. The various athletes obviously have differing interests and differing bargaining strengths such that different bargaining units will have to be created. Each of those bargaining units will have to negotiate individual cba's which will result in different provisions over all sorts of different terms and conditions of "employment" for all these different groups. For example, the tennis players whose facilities are located off campus will be highly interested in transportation to their facilities while the football players won't care as much about certain issues. If you lump all the players together under a single cba, the only athletes whose concerns will be addressed are the football and basketball players due to their greater relevance.
Agreed. I think it's a bit asinine to completely dismiss that entire section as being out of hand right off the bat. They are real questions. Yes, there are answers to some, if not all, of them. But at the same time, they illustrate the reality that everyone is basically flying blind in this process. No disrespect whatsoever to Brian, but I think that it actually does the anti-NCAA/pro-CAPA team a disservice to approach the problem so dismissively. The only way this will actually work is if the proponents of the union actually find a way to sit down and hash out answers to these questions. They're important.
Actually I think it's precisely the opposite. If you separate the different athletes into different unions with different CBAs, the schools will just impose a CBA on the wrestlers and swimmers and such. "What are you gonna do, not swim? Oooo, real scary. We'll be over here giving your money to the football players; let us know when you come to your senses." The only schools that would ever give into any demands from swimmers that they didn't already want to, would be schools like Stanford that had some shred of reputation to protect in the sport.
On the other hand, if all athletes were lumped into the same union and the same CBA, the swimmers would be able to tap into the leverage that the football players have. Plus they would be able to balance out the demands. If they were separate, football players could theoretically say, "Give us $100K a year or we walk" and the school would have to find ways to accommodate, potentially by cutting the swim program. If negotiating together, the union's position of "Give the football players $100K a year or they walk" would have to be run through the swimmers and wrestlers first, and they wouldn't be easily sold on it.
In short, in order for the school to have any incentive to address the concerns of swimmers and wrestlers (and so on) the swimmers have to have some kind of power first, and they can really only get it by teaming up with the football and basketball players. Whether the football and basketball players will let them is another story.
I think your example demonstrates exactly why separate bargaining units would be necessary. Generally, the appropriateness of a bargaining unit is determined on the basis of a community of interest of the employees involved. Those who have the same or substantially similar interests concerning wages, hours, and working conditions are grouped together in a bargaining unit. The disparity of the interests between the different groups would likely require different units. The football players would object to being lumped in with "employees" with such less bargaining strength. The whole idea behind unit determination is grouping people into groups that have as much in common as possible.
Most academic scholarships do not cover all the costs either - are the students going to file a lawsuit over that too?
bad analogies here. Academic scholarship recipients don't (typically) make money for the schools or their departments. If the potential scholarship recipient is good enough to go get a job with Apple or Goldman or Tesla then he or she can go ahead and do it. The reason the athletic scholyany is different is because the school is clearly profiting from the kid without the kid having any bargaining power over his talent.
What about grad/phd students that get the university multi-million dollar grants for their work while getting paid below the poverty level?
and I think those kids should get paid better than they do. But what on earth does a grad student getting paid to teach an Econ 201 section have to do with whether and how and if Jake Ryan is compensated for playing out of position at Michigan?
This is a weak analogy because grad students (and undergrads, for that matter) typically ARE able to negotiate better opportunities for themselves via available unions. That might not be true at all schools, but we are arguing about all of these third- and fourth-stage issues here when it hasn't even been decided whether or not student-athletes are going to unionize. Bring everyone to the table and then let's see how it plays out.
...those grad students are highly unlikely to suffer a career-ending injury while working for their schools.
I guess that brings up the question - if the career of these employees who play football is football, should they have to go to class and maintain a certain academic standing?
Also, I'm assuming the employees who play football could take out disability insurance.
I think most do take out some type insurance, but it would free up who could pay for it. If I am aware now, the only people who can take out that insurance are immediate family and the athlete himself/herself; this would open it up to outside parties/group funds that a whole team could buy into and pay out appropriately.
It's true that most academic scholarships don't cover full cost of attendance. However, NCAA rules place restrictions on athletes ability to earn money that don't apply to those on academic scholarships. The most obvious limitation is not being allowed to receive "remuneration for the value or utility that the student-athlete may have for the employer because of the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following he or she has obtained because of athletics ability;
" . To my knowledge, someone on an academic scholarship for music who develops a "reputation, fame, or personal following" is not prohibited from earning money as a musician.
Brian == Boromir, but more hairier.
...does a good job of reporting information.
The editorial content, however, is another matter. It's not smart as smart as it thinks it is. Mix in a tone with a heavy dose of judgemental arrogance and it's a wonder many us still tolerate it by visiting.
You can leave. No one will care...especially given your recent posting history.
I'm not a huge fan of him either, but he's entitled to his opinion on this, even if you disagree.
Did I say he should be banned? I just don't understand people who prefer to constantly throw down destructive criticism when no one's forcing them to stick around.
His comment is dickish and over the top. The editorial content here is still undoubtedly much better than what you find on the vast majority of sports blogs. Brian's a good writer, too, with a good sense of humor.
That said, I agree that the tone of front page posts has been off-putting lately. Everyone who disagrees with Brian is an idiot, there's no nuance or complexity to anything or anyone, straw men are made of opposing arguments, and there's no apparent interest in inviting or engaging in debate. More and more, I find myself coming to MGoBlog for the board - which I think has gotten much better lately (probably because of the point moderation) - and not the front page. Still, that's enough to bring me here 25 times each day.
Is there an award for most lucid post of the day?
Oh, I dunno. I've been disagreeing with Brian on this issue fairly frequently and have never been called an idiot (for that, anyway.) I suppose that's the difference between stating one's grounds for disagreement in an argument of sorts, and just saying "what an arrogant opinion.
That's not a very nice thing to say. Didn't your mom teach you the Golden Rule?
Whoever has the gold makes the rules.
that's why they call it MONEY.
...it's a wonder many us still tolerate it by visiting.
I just stare at that sentence and stare at this sentence.
significant piece of art that. Reminds me of those two dimensional representations of impossible three dimensional geometric figures.
You know...there's a thing you can do if you find "tolerating" these editorials just too much to deal with.
There is much (strained) effort here to maintain the status quo. Simply raising issues or potential problems shouldn't mean that changes are not warranted. Which changes and how they are effectuated should really be the focus. Just because something is hard is no reason for not doing it--nor a reason to ignore the merits of the argument.
I used to be firmly in the "a college scholarship should be enough" camp. Not only has that ship sailed--just as the Bo world without a playoff system (which I also dislike)--but the NCAA brought this on itself when they decided money was the only object, and that everyone should be millionaires (okay, a slight exaggeration)---except the product itself--the athletes.
The NCAA needs to spend a little more time figuring out how to fix the system than hunkering down in its foxhole.
I'm getting the sense that Brian doesn't care for the NCAA.
Does anyone have a high regard for the NCAA? I thing that the NCAA is one of the most corrupt bureaucracies on the planet; but I don't think that a unionizing is the way to solve the problem since most unions are nothing more than corrupt PAC's.
Is the outside of that a pizza?
For someone who racked up a cool $60k in student loans, and would have given my left nut to play college ball, I say fuck em. But, that's just me. I can't buy anything with my points anyways, so I might as well be honest. I do think they should be able to profit from their likeness though.
I'm just a dimwitted old engineer, and have the same thoughts regarding the NCAA as most people. But why should the NCAA have to answer to this?
The revenue sports (which by the way pay for all the other varsity sports) are the ones causing this mess and if we were to be totally honest, football is the prime driver. And that IMO is Sally Jenkins' point.
Does it make sense for the NCAA to upset the apple cart because of one sport when the professional league associated with that sport has consiously decided to use FBS Universities as it's triple A affiliates and not created/sponsored a developmental league? You solve this by having viable professional paths for pro-caliber athletes which don't involve college, not by turning college athletics on its head.
This one is squarely in the NFL's court IMO.
I follow and support Michign football because I have an emotional connection to my alma mater and the teams that played in Michigan stadium before during and after my time as a student there.
I've followed Michigan football as long as I can remember, which started in the early 60s. There are many athletes for whom I have a deep and lasting fondness stretch from Rob Lytle to Molk, Denard, and Ryan. I watched Woodson intercept the pass in the end zone of the 1998 Rose Bowl. I follow the Patriots because Brady plays there. Had these great players played for ANY other team I would not care less about them or their careers. I follow them ONLY because they played football for the University of Michigan. Whatever value their likeness or jersey has in the market is because they were/are football stars at UofM. Period.
Every scholarship football player has a great deal. Their education is paid for and if they have the talent drive and discipline they can have a pro career, but either way they get a degree from one of the worlds best universities. A degree that would cost them as much as $50k a year, plus expenses.
If a player can't play football and cover their class work at the University of Michigan, then they should play for someone else. I'm all for tutors and other support to help athletes deal with the additional time commitments required by their participation in sports, but they should be students first.
The day that this becomes pay for play and Michigan hires players as employees, it will become semi-pro football and that emotional connection will be lost. Maybe it's not rational, but I have no interest in watching a bunch of semi-pros playing for a contract even if they wear the winged helmet and maize and blue.
You know I love ya but when you point to a fisking article that the first fisk point says that Che Guevara was a doctor who railied against the unfairness of his environment then ALL intellectual honesty is lost. Che was a murdering and torturing wannabe dictator who died on his knees begging for mercy because he was "more valuable to his captors alive". He helped Castro torture and murder his opponents. He was evil incarnate. Nothing less.
"you know, a well-to-do Argentine named Che who went to medical school before becoming outraged at the unfair system around him"
and then he went on to murder thousands.
Yup, but it's sooo cool to wear a shirt with his face on it becasue he was a "rebel".
I'm a huge fan of Mgoblog, and believe that Brian knows more than I do about college sports. That said, I'm not sure I understand what Brian favors. It seems to me that there are two possibilities. A small stipend spread over basketball/football (plus possibly non-revenue sports), or unrestricted market-based payments to stars like Johnny Manzeil, RGIII and Denard. My concern about the latter is that I think that it would further reduce whatever competitive balance exists. If Alabama, Ohio State, USC or Michigan can pay what they want for a player will Indiana, Vandy etc. be able to compete (okay, compete less than they can now)? And if they can't compete will anyone come to watch increasingly uncompetitive games.
On a scale from 1 to The Human Centipede 2, how good is Nymphomaniac?