Charlie Pierce, in this piece about recent developments in the O’Bannon case, nails the slippery slope the NCAA is on when it comes to player pay.
First, Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, announced new rules for the recruitment of college athletes. One of the new guidelines stipulates that athletes can receive $300 per year beyond their normal expenses to attend non-scholastic events. This is a modified version of the “stipend” that long has been the compromise position between the egregious status quo and a more equitable sharing of revenues between the various universities and the uncompensated labor force that does all the real work. It is also nonsense. Once you let athletes have money simply because they are athletes, no matter how little it is and no matter what you call it, you’re into pay-for-play and that’s the ballgame. Not even the NCAA, which has a gift for obfuscation that rivals Richard Nixon’s on a good day, can argue seriously that paying an athlete $300 is ethical, but that paying him or her $500 or $1,000 — or $10,000, for all that — is not.
Well, “seriously” is one of those words we can all endlessly debate, but I do think the NCAA firmly believes there’s a logic to what it’s doing, even if we outsiders can’t figure out what that is. The problem is that I also think that Emmert and his constituents are about as smart as baseball owners were confronting the possibility that the infamous reserve clause would inevitably crumble, an analogy that Pierce cites in his article. And it’s likely to work out about as well for them.