Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

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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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

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

Pity the poor, hard working amateur

You know the schools’ argument for amateurism is running on fumes when you get to this level of hairsplitting:

“The fact is we have student-athletes in all sorts of sports that, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay football players and not pay gymnasts just because the football player has the blessing of an adoring public,” Bowlsby continued. “That’s the only difference. There are a lot of student athletes that are worthy.”  [Emphasis added.]

Right.  Bowlsby’s conference members can’t reward football players for participating in an economically attractive enterprise because they don’t work any harder than other student-athletes.  However, that’s not stopping schools from demanding ESPN and Fox pay them more for their football players’ participation in an economically attractive enterprise because they don’t work any harder than other student-athletes.  The only difference in those two cases is the NCAA’s artificial amateurism construct.

Put it this way.

“Revenues derived from college athletics is greater than the aggregate revenues of the NBA and the NHL,” said Marc Edelman, an associate professor at City University of New York who specializes in sports and antitrust law. He also noted that Alabama’s athletic revenues last year, which totaled $143 million, exceeded those of all 30 NHL teams and 25 of the 30 NBA teams.

Now let’s play a little with that quote from Bowlsby.

“The fact is we have organizations in all sorts of sports that, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay Alabama and not pay an NHL team just because the football school has the blessing of an adoring public,” Bowlsby continued. “That’s the only difference. There are a lot of sports leagues that are worthy.”

As a former wrestler, how does that sound to you, Bob?  If the management of a pro basketball team or pro hockey team works as hard as the Alabama athletic department, do you think Bowlsby would suggest that their revenues should be equalized, even though their economic popularity isn’t?  Not on your life.  So why should a football player be expected to relinquish his value in a way that Bowlsby would never consider doing?

You know, if the assholes running college athletics had to live by the same amateurism standard to which they seek to hold players, this whole charade would have been amicably settled a long time ago.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Is college athletics about to begin eating its own?

Haves vs. have-nots, the story of college sports.  More than anything, it’s the essence of what the NCAA is struggling with right now.

And here that is, boiled down to one short paragraph:

“Our world is not the same in a small program. We don’t have the resources,” said Rita Cheng, chancellor at Southern Illinois. “As long as we know that we can be competitive in the tournament and that our athletes can have opportunities, it is appropriate for us to say, `Your world is different than our world.’”

But what happens when the power conferences no longer care what you think is appropriate, Chancellor?

That’s why those top 65 BCS schools know they could get along just fine without their smaller buddies. They could form their own division, or their own NCAA. Those 286 give the NCAA Tournament some of its Cinderella charm. They also drag down those top 65 schools — the Big 12 among them — who are about to run the NCAA.

“There are a number of points of differentiation between the 65 of and the rest of Division I …” Bowlsby said. “There’s stuff we’ve tried to get done for years. It’s an accumulation of frustration.”

Frustration from the guy, mind you, who proclaimed the pros were “irresponsible” for not taking kids out of high school.  And who also had this to say about possibly shortening the basketball season to a one-semester sport:  “Some of our TV partners would be apoplectic to actually think about such things,” he said.  Not ’til you actually try to do something about it, bub.

The bravado may be false, but the NCAA’s dilemma is anything but.  How do you hold things together enough to keep your goose laying those golden eggs, while giving the big boys more freedom to spend the revenue they generate as they see fit?

Another quick story: One BCS conference official proposed a $55 per day per diem for players at bowl games. During the legislative process, the lower-resource schools balked. So that BCS administrator compromised, going backwards in increments of $5, sort of like an auction in reverse. Finally, he was bargaining dollar by dollar.

I don’t think that’s gonna cut it, quite frankly.

Making matters worse, they’ve finally woken up to the realization that their precious student-athletes aren’t operating in a vacuum.  Those kids may not understand where every penny goes, but they’re aware that there’s a bunch of cash being haggled over.

Emmert’s organization would certainly appear to have the money to make those changes. The NCAA is expected to report revenue of $912,804,046 for 2013 — more than 80 percent of that derived from the Final Four. Yet student-athletes are currently denied so much as a single penny from that golden pot, or from any other revenue stream, including jerseys which bear their numbers or video games where the real-life players strongly resemble the video images.

The riches are so vast that Donovan’s talk of free hamburgers makes one realize that the NCAA could theoretically buy a McDonald’s franchise for every player from all 68 men’s teams that began March Madness this spring, since a franchise runs between $1 and $2 million and the NCAA will report close to $1 billion in revenue for 2014.

“Of course you see it,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie of the contradictions present in the current NCAA model. “We weren’t getting paid (when Ollie was a Connecticut player), but you’d see our jerseys getting sold. Hopefully we can keep the integrity of the NCAA and the student-athletes, but I’d really like to see us provide health care, for instance, until they’re able to get a secure a job after college. Or maybe a 401K, something they can fall back on when their playing days are over.”

That sound you just heard was Rita Cheng choking.

I’ve said before that the real challenge behind postseason expansion was whether Delany, Scott, Slive and Company were up to the task of calibrating more playoffs without losing a penny of regular season revenue.  It looks like we may discover how good these guys are at keeping all the balls in the air sooner than I expected.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA