The NCAA’s unique business model

Dennis Dodd conducts a Q&A with the NCAA’s incoming president in which the primary topic is one A. J. Green.  Most of what’s there I don’t have a problem with, but this exchange raised my eyebrows:

CBSSports.com: I hear all this blowback about, “Why shouldn’t the players make money off a $1,000 jersey?” What is your response to that?

Emmert: “That’s fueled by two fundamental misperceptions. The first is that the universities and NCAA are, quote, making all this money off these things. As NCAA studies have shown in the past and shown again this past year, there are only a handful — literally, you can count them on your fingers and toes — universities in America that so much as break even on intercollegiate athletics.

“The high profile sports of football and men’s basketball generate a good amount of revenue all of which gets redeployed out to support the rest of intercollegiate athletics. The same is true of the NCAA. We get big stories [done about] doing a media rights deal with CBS/Turner and it’s [at least] $8.8 billion and everybody sees those huge numbers and thinks, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing with all that cash?’ As you know, it gets distributed back out to the member institutions. Somewhere around 95-96 percent of all the revenue goes back to the institutions directly or indirectly to support student-athletes.

“The component that is spent on the administration of the NCAA is something like four percent. The first misperception is this notion that somehow universities are making buckets of money. Quite the contrary.”

Maybe I’m missing something, but that sure comes off sounding like the universities don’t want any competition from the players peeling off any of the revenue being earned from sports because they believe they need every penny of that money more than the Greens of the world do.

By the way, four percent of $8.8 billion is $352,000,000.00 – not exactly the chump change Emmert tries to make it sound like.  I imagine the NCAA can run itself just fine on that, with room to spare.

He continues on with his concept of the school-player relationship.

“The second misnomer is student-athletes are student-athletes. They’re not employees. They came to the universities to get an education and participate in their sport. They are not in a position where they should be paid as employees or where they should be benefitting beyond what they get which is an extraordinary set of benefits. I don’t know how you went to school but getting a full-time as students is terrific. They earn every penny of it in their efforts. I get that, of course.

“They are provided with extraordinary opportunities to excel in athletics and should they — for the very small portion that want to move into professional athletics — get an opportunity to do that … we’re preparing them to be successful at it.”

All of that is well and good – except that it’s not completely relevant to the set of facts he’s been presented with.  Green wasn’t asking Damon Evans to stroke him a check.  Right or wrong, he was caught trying to make a buck off of something that in almost any other field would be done without a second thought:  his own name.

Now my point here isn’t to defend Green’s stupidity.  He made a mistake and deserved to pay for it.  I also laud the NCAA for manning the walls to defend the concept of amateurism.  All of that doesn’t hide the strong whiff of hypocrisy that permeates Emmert’s high-minded talk.  Schools and their representatives giving players lectures about the purity of their mission in one breath and in the next participating in the same conduct which they’ve just strongly condemned (and punished!) engage themselves in the kind of “do as I say, not as I do” discipline that inevitably results in the erosion of respect for the very principles they hold out as important.

In other words, if you’re going to solemnly tell an A.J. Green every year when he signs that “Student-Athlete Statement” Dodd pontificates about that the deal a player makes means that he can’t exploit his own worth for personal gain because that undercuts the value the NCAA places on amateurism, you should hold yourself to the same standard as well.

Too bad Dodd didn’t hand Emmert a mirror to look at when he conducted the interview.

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12 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

12 responses to “The NCAA’s unique business model

  1. The Realist

    Just out of curiosity… if AJ had a baseball jersey screen-printed (not officially licensed, of course), and wore it in a fundraising softball game… could he then sell that jersey for $1,000?

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      No.

      • DawgnAub

        But if he played exceptionally well in that game, he could earn a contract from a team in a professional softball league, yet maintain his amateur status for football.

      • Ausdawg85

        I had the same question… You sure? Isn’t the issue that a player can not profit off of the university’s name/stature? Now, if AJ sells a softball jersey with his name to an agent, or for an amount well above market value, I can see the NCAA would want to control what is essentially an illegal benefit. But if he puts some old clothing (non-UGA branded) up on Ebay for $100, surely that’s within his rights?

  2. Scorpio Jones, III

    There is no suitable argument this morning to insert this nugget of inspiration, so I’m just gonna throw this out there.

    For what ever reason, this Georgia team may be the unluckiest bunch I have ever seen.

    And Ole Lady Luck has peed in our bonnets for at least the last couple of years.

    There is an element of just plain old bad luck in almost every unpleasant thing that has happened to us in the last two seasons.

    To wit: AJ’s Jersey, AJ’s celebration penalty, Sturdivant’s knees, at least one of Washaun’s fumbles, and on and on and on….they fumble, the ball bounces out of bounds.

    Normally when a dog is bit by a snake, the dog either recovers in a couple of months, or dies.

    It is almost as if, in the three years from 1980-83, Vince used up all the luck to be allotted to Georgia for the next century.

    More than quarterbacks and running backs and five star defenders and uber coordinators, Mark Richt needs to make an appointment with whoever runs the Luck Bank and work out some sort of an extension or rollover. Now, today.

    For God’s sake everbody, hunker down and change your hats or shirts or something.

    We just can not buy, steal or inherit a break.

    • The Realist

      Can get Larry Munson up in the radio booth to beseech Old Lady Luck on our behalf? Seriously.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        That sounds like a plan, but one of the things that drove Larry from the booth (other than the obvious) was Damon’s “branding plan” that involved interminable road trips.

        God, I sure miss the artful gravitas….somewhere out there, somewhere, surely, there is someone…..well, I think we all know where I am going.

    • 69Dawg

      Nail meet hammer. I thought Ray Goff set the mark in bad luck. His teams could not catch a break to save his life. The game that convinced me that Dooley had Karmaed us forever For me it was the UF/UGA game where we actually scored a touchdown but UF had called timeout. That was the nail in the coffin. Donnan seemed to have some luck and Richt when he first came did too. We have been getting the shaft from Ole Lady Luck for the last 3 years. I think she misses Larry as much as we do.

  3. Macallanlover

    Ah, amateurism. Worthy concept that, shame it has become so muddled by both the NCAA and the Olympic Committee in recent years.

    Clem’s Son has a QB that signs a $1MM+ bonus and doesn’t live a life even close to other CFB players, but he is regarded as an “amateur” because it is a different sport. Does it not matter that he also has access to professional trainers, advisors, etc. that other CFB players do not have?

    Even worse, I saw some college team on TV earlier this season that has a kicker who was a professional soccer player in Europe. Guess there is no bleed-over on skill sets in that case Mr. Emmert?

  4. Dante

    “They came to the universities to get an education and participate in their sport. They are not in a position where they should be paid as employees or where they should be benefitting beyond what they get which is an extraordinary set of benefits.”

    This may be the most ignorant comment I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Not only is the logic flaky at best but this exact thing happens at EVERY UNIVERSITY WITH A GRADUATE PROGRAM. Grad students aren’t technically employees but many of them have research or teaching assistantships and GET PAID FOR THAT. Sorry for the all-caps but it really chaps my hide that someone as high up as the president of the NCAA is apparently completely unaware of how universities work.

  5. Kevin

    Just out of curiosity, how much of the $352,000,000.00 goes toward the salary of the men who are surfing TMZ.com?

  6. Why should SEC be part of NCAA? It may be more advantageous for UGA or even SEC to get out of NCAA. It will likely be more profitable. I think TV or cable/satellite networks will still pay big bucks to the SEC since anyway the audience will mainly the southern folks.