Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

“That’s why I’m on this case.”

You’ve read about O’Bannon.  You know about the NLRB ruling.  Now meet Jeffrey Kessler, whose antitrust suit may be the biggest threat of all to college football as we know it.

Kessler is essentially asking the courts to decide that players are employees whose compensation is being illegally constrained (to the amount of an athletic scholarship), and to lift those restrictions to open the market. Under such a scenario, the “total competitive landscape will change,” he says. “Maybe Ohio State will say, we’re going to pay X amount a year, which we’ll put in trust for when they leave school. The more years they stay, the more they’ll get. Another school might not offer more than the scholarship.

“That’s what happens in a market. It doesn’t force the schools to do anything except what they decide.”

And even here, again, comes an invitation to stop the bleeding:

Kessler acknowledges the possibility that a settlement could occur that “puts some system in place” to provide meaningful compensation for all future football and men’s basketball players.

What exactly that would look like is unclear, but he hinted that the sorts of changes that some people within the NCAA are talking about now — in which the wealthier sports programs might offer provide scholarships valued up to the full cost of attendance, or give some sort of small stipend — would not cut it.

While another lawyer without Kessler’s resources and resume might be willing to get a nice payday for his clients, “if I get my class certified, there won’t be any settlement without real change in the system,” he says.

I doubt anyone’s listening now, but it will be worth watching to see if attitudes change should O’Bannon not go in the NCAA’s favor.  My bet is it’ll take Congress not riding to the NCAA’s rescue to shake things up.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“We didn’t get to this problem overnight.”

I know my focus on the threats facing the NCAA’s amateurism standard is a sore spot with some of you.  I do it because, like it or not, those threats have the potential to change college football as much as, say, conference realignment has.  Both are driven by the same engine of commercialism that is engulfing college athletics.

Don’t take my word for that.  Take it from the former commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.

Beebe agreed.

He said realignment increased students’ desires to get their share of the money generated by football and men’s basketball. He noted programs like women’s volleyball and softball in the Big 12 now fly to games and stay in first-class hotels with the bills paid by the revenue generated from football and men’s basketball.

In a capitalistic world, kids aren’t any less motivated by financial considerations than adults are.  And that’s not simply meant in the purest sense of “I want some of what you’re getting”.  It’s also meant in the sense that it becomes harder and harder to swallow amateurism as a defense to practical demands for changes.

That’s why the NCAA suddenly announced it’s getting the hell out of the food service business.  That may sound like a minor tactical retreat, but this is the NCAA we’re talking about, the same organization that until recently prohibited schools from letting players schmear a little cream cheese on their bagels.  No retreats are minor.

That’s why Mike Slive is bleating.

“We also have to accept the fact that college sports are evolving,” Slive said. “We are in an evolutionary mode.”

Translation:  the players are winning.

The thing Conley needs to realize is that the players got what they wanted and Napier got the attention he did for the same reason – the heat that’s coming down on the NCAA and the schools from the NLRB ruling and the antitrust suits.  The public may not be thrilled with a college players’ union or Johnny Football getting paid, but it’s not so blind to miss some of the obvious indefensible positions being taken in the name of amateurism.  And that’s having an effect.  Tell me where you would have heard talk like this from college administrators ten years ago:

Barnhart pointed to the Olympic model.

He said the organization changed from purely amateur athletes to today’s system where many, but not all, Olympians earn money without turning off fans.

The thing is, we’re in the low-hanging fruit part of the contest.  There are plenty of easy decisions to make about things other than how a school can feed its student-athletes.  That the NCAA membership is struggling even with those isn’t a good sign.  Change is coming and if the suits don’t come up with a satisfactory course of action soon, a quote like this a couple of years from now is going to sound much more dire:

“We’d be in a better place,” Beebe said, “and if it happened a couple years ago it could’ve held off some of these outside pressures.”

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

One man’s potential for corruption is another man’s hypocrisy.

Those of you who are firmly convinced that student-athletes who take part in revenue generating sports at major universities are fairly compensated for their efforts with a scholarship, tell me something.  If the NCAA’s amateurism protocols expired today, do you think those kids would receive greater compensation tomorrow in a free market setting?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

One and done

In response to Stacey Osburn’s tender question – But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? – has she noticed how much money Jordan Spieth’s made since he left Texas in the middle of his second year there to turn pro?  Too bad college football players don’t have the same choice available to them.

The NCAA’s problem isn’t that it’s a choice of love or money for the kids.  It’s that the NFL has a staggering love for money.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Stacey Osburn’s talking points are cheap.

If you’ve been disappointed by the NCAA’s consistent unwillingness to recognize the reality behind the recent NLRB ruling and the many antitrust complaints it’s in the process of defending, this isn’t likely to improve your spirits.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said it’s the association’s responsibility to “provide accurate and timely information on matters impacting college sports. Our members requested facts and data on pay-for-play because there was so much misinformation in the media, based in part on public statements from those who are advancing the union movement and those who have brought suit against the NCAA.”

So what kind of spin… oops, “facts and data” does Stacey have for us?

Well, there’s repetition of the irrelevant:

“We know we have work to do. But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? That’s not the message I want to send.”

“Do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? That’s not the message I want to send.”

I thought one of the main reasons you went to college was to enhance your earnings ability.  I wasn’t aware there was supposed to be a restriction on when you were allowed to start reaping the rewards of that enhancing – at least there isn’t for anyone in college who isn’t subject to the NCAA.

There’s love or money and nothing in between.

“The overwhelming majority of student-athletes play college sports as part of their educational experience and because they love their sport, not to be paid a salary.”

If only Stacey’s bosses, conference commissioners and coaches felt the same way.

A little mea culpa -

“Student-athletes should not have to worry about their scholarships being pulled if they are injured or ill.”

I’m sure you’ll get right on that.

And of course, a supporting cast providing a steady dose of denial of reality.  Dabo Swinney says, “We’ve got enough entitlement in this country as it is”, but proceeds to advocate giving kids a stipend.  (And since when is doing more to prevent concussion problems an entitlement?)  Mike Slive doesn’t appreciate anyone threatening to screw with the revenue stream he’s spent so much effort on generating.  Baylor’s athletic director – his school is private, by the way – commands the tide to roll back:  “In my view, student-athletes are not employees. They attend a university to earn a degree and participate in the sport they love.”  Larry Scott and Jim Delany believe in ongoing dialogue with student-athletes, not unionization, because meaningful dialogue with parties who have less power has always been a hallmark of Jim Delany’s management style.

I could go on, but, jeez, this is depressing.  There’s a historical precedent to what college athletics is facing in what MLB went through when Marvin Miller engineered the rise of the players’ union, and, along with a little help from Andy Messersmith’s agent, the end of the reserve clause, and it seems like the NCAA and the commissioners couldn’t care less about learning any lessons from that.  I can’t help but continue to feel that Emmert, Slive, Delany and all their cohorts think they’re a lot shrewder business people than they are.  And certainly the presidents and chancellors they work for aren’t nearly as shrewd as the lawyers who are fighting over the right to pick their bones.

This isn’t going to end well for some folks.  But, talking points!  Hey, that worked well for Baghdad Bob, right?

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Filed under Blowing Smoke, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

The sin of wages

So here’s part of a Brian Cook rant about player compensation:

Everywhere else in society, an 18 year old who works really hard at something is financially compensated for it and most of them do not… I mean… why am I even arguing about this? If you’re the kind of person who thinks that young people doing dumb things with money is a threat instead of, you know, life, you probably start arguments with “Speaking as a parent.” Anyone who starts arguments with “Speaking as a parent” wants you to turn off your brain so they can feelingsball you. They are my mortal enemies, speaking as a person who can formulate an argument.

The aura of paternalism that hangs over objections to letting players get theirs is suffocating. “But if they get money they’ll…” They’ll what? They’ll still be under the thumb of a drill sergeant of a football coach desperate to remain in his good graces lest the faucet turn off. They will be the same, just with fewer things to stress about.

They might waste it. They might not. I just don’t care anymore. Let them have their five hundred dollars.

He’s got a point.  What is it about college players getting paid that turns so many of us off?  Hell, we’ve already seen what happens when colleges and conferences get paid.  Can players receiving payment make things worse than what the suits are putting us through as a consequence?

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Friday morning buffet

Pre-G-Day snack time…

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Filed under College Football, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

The NBA’s “three-way conversation”

How badly does professional basketball want to keep early entries out?  Badly enough to consider bribing subsidizing student-athlete compensation.

I do believe people are starting to freak out a little over unionization and the NCAA’s perceived incompetence.  Maybe that was Emmert’s plan all along.  Crazy like a fox!

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

$37,910,104.00

I’m sure Johnny Football had absolutely nothing to do with the astounding profit Texas A&M turned in 2012.  (To put that number in perspective, it’s over half of what the rest of the conference put together made.)

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

Amateurism and the romance of the status quo

Yesterday’s post about amateurism drew a lot of impassioned commentary in support of Bob Bowlsby’s argument that equal effort by student-athletes requires equal treatment by the schools and the NCAA.  The best example of that:

FYI, I asked multiple womens golfers from 16 of the top 25 teams @ a tournament in Hilton Head, SC last month how much time they practice & spend competing. Every one said 4-5 hours a day 7 days a week except when playing in a tournament. Last week, I ran into the U of Illinois womens golf team @ my neighborhood course practicing after competing in a tournament the prior 3 days. This was during spring break. Most of these girls were business, psychology, public relations, biology, spanish, early child development, etc majors and were earning good grades. These girls bust their asses for UGA just like the football & basketball players but don’t get the same “star” treatment & bennies. Heck yes the $ from football & basketball should be spread around to support the other sports. I don’t care how much $ the school/AD earns off of any sport. If you are not there for the education via a free scholarship, go earn your keep on your athletic talent in some minor league. Unhappy with the NFL rules, go sue them for the right to earn a job

I don’t doubt the sincerity of that statement.  Nor do I doubt the effort that every one of those golfers gives.  But even starting with the assumption that each NCAA student-athlete busts as much ass as the next one, ultimately I don’t find the argument convincing.  The problem with the argument is that it romanticizes college athletics to an unrealistic extent.  The reality is that the playing field for student-athletes isn’t level right now.

First of all, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, equal effort isn’t rewarded equally.  I’m guessing that those lady golfers have scholarships from Georgia as a result of Title IX requirements, but their male counterparts (along with other male student-athletes participating in non-revenue sports) don’t fare as well in that department.  Again, if it’s all about equal effort, why should that be the case?  And taking Bowlsby’s line of reasoning out to its full extent, how can you justify a failure to treat every kid playing Division III sports to the same scholarship opportunities?  They work just as hard, right?

The answer is that they don’t make any money for their schools.  Hard work only goes so far when it comes to getting a piece of the pie.

Second, it’s a fool’s errand to pretend Emmert and Bowlsby aren’t aware of that.  Emmert and the power conference commissioners are pushing a stipend – hell, call that for what it is, player payment – for football and basketball student-athletes.  Why are they advocating different treatment for those student-athletes than for the rest of the 400,000+ they claim to represent?  Again, it’s not about the effort.  It’s about the revenue stream.

Third, the irony of the last two sentences of that comment doesn’t escape me.  Those women golfers have an avenue available to them that is denied to the players bringing in the money.  They can turn pro any time they want.  Indeed, they don’t even have to go to college to pursue a professional golf career if they’re talented enough.

College athletics is hyper-monetized now.  Nobody on the management side advocates going back to a simpler time; they can’t afford to.  So instead they pitch a bifurcated vision in which they claim the players in revenue producing sports must be insulated from the rewards of their efforts, even as they are forced to make greater sacrifices in the name of revenue generation (you think any of those women golfers have ever had to miss as much school as the kids who played for the national title last night did?) and in which any dollar delivered to those players has to come out of the pockets of the rest of the 400,000 student-athletes in some sort of zero-sum game.  Except for that stipend, of course.

Don’t insult my intelligence.

It’s not your father’s status quo anymore.  That didn’t just happen overnight, either, in case you haven’t noticed what an absolute cock-up SEC scheduling has become since Mike Slive decided he needed to revisit the conference’s broadcast deals.  And here’s the last thing to consider: what you’ve got now is nothing compared to what’s going to happen if and when the NCAA starts losing some of those antitrust suits.

Now, what we think doesn’t matter in the vast scheme of things.  But Bob Bowlsby?  Different story there.  Either the suits need to start smelling what they’re trying to sell to us and adapt to the times, or wait to get run over and lose the opportunity to direct where college athletics goes.  In any event, the rest of us had better get used to accepting the limited value of equal effort.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness