Category Archives: Political Wankery

Help the NCAA, Obi-Wan Congress; you’re its only hope.

So how dire are things with collegiate athletics?  So dire somebody actually said this with a straight face:

The NCAA has reached the point on unfavorable legal rulings that retiring University System of Maryland chancellor William Kirwan, co-chair of the reform-minded Knight Commission, said he now views Congress as “our last, best hope for getting anything right with intercollegiate athletics.”

Oy, vey.

Tom McMillan, former member of Congress and now a board member at the University of Maryland, isn’t willing to see his former mates go that far, but does think a joint Congressional-Presidential Commission wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  Eh.  In any event, he’s spot on with this observation:

McMillen said the O’Bannon ruling shows public sentiment will continue to move against the NCAA regarding the rights of players.

“You can only put so many fingers in the dikes,” McMillen said. “I think it’s clear that the old model is unraveling, it’s just a matter of time. It reminds me of the Soviet Union trying to keep the old USSR together, and all of a sudden it just broke apart one day. The model is built out of a very flimsy facade that’s falling down.

“The whole idea that players have no rights and they’re student-athletes and they’re not supposed to get anything is just so antiquated. When you go down the commercial road so far, you better be prepared for the commercial consequences. We have swung so far down the commercial road that it may be difficult to turn it back.”

So, is Mark Emmert more like Brezhnev or Gorbachev?

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Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

Saturday morning buffet

It’s time to eat.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, Recruiting, SEC Football, Whoa, oh, Alabama

Wednesday morning buffet

Another day, another buffet line.

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, ACC Football, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Gators, Georgia Football, Political Wankery, SEC Football, Stats Geek!

I guess Mark Emmert really cares.

Money is the language of concern.

Over the first half of 2014, the NCAA already broke its record of yearly lobbying expenditures. During 2013, the NCAA spent $160,000 on lobbying. This year, as of June 30, it has already spent $240,000. That includes $180,000 just in the second quarter, which covers April to June.

Gee, I wonder what’s been going on lately.  Maybe this is an indication.

A new topic appears on every lobbying disclosure filed after March 2014: the “welfare” or “well-being” of student athletes.

Isn’t that just the sweetest?  Why, I bet those folks in Congress are ever so impressed.

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Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

Tuesday morning buffet

Grab a plate and dig in.

  • What do you get if you marry college athletics revenue to player win shares?  A lot of underpaid basketball players.
  • Brice Ramsey feels more comfortable this year.
  • Georgia Tech’s assistant athletic director for communications and public relations thinks Twitter could be great for driving revenue and donations.  Any port in a storm, brother.
  • Speaking of Twitter, in hindsight, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
  • The receivers are too good for this, but there are times when I can’t help but wonder if Georgia should just load up blockers on the line and pound the crap out of other teams this season with the running game.
  • Andy Staples has a good piece on how coaches who don’t land five-stars after five-stars have to project futures for the recruits they do get.
  • And while I think the recruiting services do a decent job evaluating talent overall, it always amuses me when they don’t see kids like Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper coming.
  • And here’s the latest “we’re from the government and we’re here to help” department.  Hey, it’s bipartisan!

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, Recruiting, Science Marches Onward, The NCAA

Autonomy, if you can keep it.

Welp, they’ve up and done it.

The NCAA Division I board of directors on Thursday voted to allow the 65 schools in the top five conferences to write many of their own rules. The autonomy measures — which the power conferences had all but demanded — will permit those leagues to decide on things such as cost-of-attendance stipends and insurance benefits for players, staff sizes, recruiting rules and mandatory hours spent on individual sports.

The Power Five (the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) could begin submitting their own legislation by Oct. 1 and have it enacted at the January 2015 NCAA convention in Washington, D.C.

In a remarkably pessimistic piece, John Infante says it’s the beginning of the end of Division I.

Sooner rather than later, Division I will be gone. NCAA governance reforms have a short-shelf life and it would be shocking if this one sees the next decade before we hear agitation for the next logical step (a fourth NCAA division) or the next realistic one (separation of the power conferences from the NCAA). That day will be lamented as this end of Division I, but that will be like putting down an undead zombie. Today is the day that Division I as an idea, its soul, is well and truly dead.

I get his point.  When you think about it, what’s the only thing holding D-I together right now?  That’s right, March Madness revenue.  That’s a pretty weak glue in an era when chasing down every last dollar counts.  The big boys already don’t want to share football revenues with the little kids.  What do you think will happen when they come to the same realization about basketball?

That is, if they’re allowed to.  Infante makes another good point when he writes,

But that leaves Division I as simply a grouping of teams that play against each other. For some, that is enough. But college athletics is not simply a sports league, and it’s not a private business. It is a massive taxpayer-backed (when not explicitly taxpayer-funded) government program. The members of the NCAA are all either public universities, tax-exempt private universities, or for-profit universities heavily dependent on federal student-aid. A portion of every dollar that is guaranteed in a coaching contract or issued as debt by an athletic department might potentially be paid off by money that came from taxpayers. For that investment, we should demand more of our public institutions than simply playing games against each other.

Cue an old friend.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued a statement Thursday saying the NCAA’s new model may warrant Congressional review from the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member.

“The NCAA should be responsible for promoting fair competition among its participating institutions and their student athletes,” Hatch said. “I am concerned that today’s actions could create an uneven playing field that may prevent some institutions from being able to compete fairly with other schools that have superior resources to pay for student athletes. I also worry about how this decision will affect a school’s Title IX requirements and whether this consolidation of power will restrict competition and warrant antitrust scrutiny.”

Hatch and other Congresscritters like Joe Barton were easy to mock during the Great BCS/Playoff debate because it was a foolish, mockable quest in which they were engaged.  This go ’round is likely to be a very different animal, mainly because I’m convinced that sooner or later the NCAA is going to make a hard go at Congress to get an antitrust exemption.  Not sharing involves a lot of heavy lifting.  These guys have no idea what asking for help from the likes of Orrin Hatch involves.

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Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

If Mark Emmert didn’t exist, Claire McCaskill wouldn’t want to invent him.

As far as problem solving goes, yesterday’s appearance by the NCAA president in front of a Senate committee hearing was expectedly short on specifics, but as far as political theater goes, it was boffo.

McCaskill offered some of the sharpest criticism of Emmert, questioning why his role exists if he can’t shape reform or prevent athletic departments from investigating sexual assaults.

“I can’t tell if you’re in charge or a minion” to the schools, McCaskill said. “If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you exist?”

As best I can tell, the bulk of Emmert’s day was spent listening to harsh criticism of the NCAA’s role in college athletics and quite often commiserating with his critics.

But it was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who played football at Stanford, who got off the shot of the day.

Booker questioned why the NCAA can move quickly when schools’ money and reputation are at stake, but not on basic issues for athletes. Booker noted that Cam Newton’s eligibility problems at Auburn were adjudicated quickly in 2010 so he could continue playing, yet Ramsay’s academic issues at North Carolina took far longer.

Sounds like the man’s been reading a few comment threads at a football blog somewhere.

I’m not being totally fair to McCaskill, as she did manage to drop a major substantive matter into the discussion.

More than 20 percent of universities give their athletic departments oversight of sexual violence cases involving college athletes, according to a report released Wednesday by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

I may be appalled by that statistic, but I am not surprised.  Unlike Emmert and his constituents.  Supposedly.

Emmert said he only read McCaskill’s sexual assault data on Wednesday and wants to better understand the results. He agreed the survey results contain an “enormous” amount of conflicts of interest that don’t help sexual assault victims.

Emmert said most NCAA members “are going to be very surprised” by the sexual assault data. Several senators called on Emmert and university presidents to change their procedures immediately.

If Emmert is right there, that’s just further proof of how detached school presidents are from the reality of how college athletics operate.  Not to mention that it’s more fuel for a certain kind of fire.

Rockefeller, who has said he isn’t seeking re-election in 2014, said that if the Democrats control Congress “we want to make this a continuing subject of this oversight committee. We have oversight of sports. All sports. We have the ability to subpoena. We have a special investigative unit. We are very into this subject. This is part of a process here.”

Remember, these are the people Jim Delany hopes to engage for protection after the NCAA gets its clock cleaned in antitrust litigation.

In the end, though, it always comes back to Emmert’s leadership, or lack thereof.

Emmert said the hearing was a “useful cattle prod. It makes sure we know that the world is watching, that the Senate is watching. I believe we will wind up in the right place in a couple of months (after NCAA governance changes). If we don’t, I’m sure we’ll have these conversations again.”

As long as Mark Emmert’s talking, you know he cares.

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Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

In for a penny…

The NCAA decides it would be a good idea to repeat everything it argued during the O’Bannon trial in an amicus brief supporting Northwestern’s appeal of the ruling by a regional director of the NLRB.  It’s joined by six Republican members of Congress – gosh, who would have ever expected that development?

The truly amusing part’s gonna come down the road when the schools, having gotten their asses kicked in antitrust litigation, realize they need a players’ union to negotiate with and find Republicans fighting them on it. Because, you know, unions and freedom.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, Political Wankery, The NCAA

Don’t get John McCain started on college sports.

I’ve mentioned before that the NCAA’s long-term strategy of seeking redress in Congress if the courts don’t go its way on amateurism may not be that easy a path, because there may not be the groundswell of support the schools and conferences expect there (except for Republican knee-jerk opposition to unions, of course).

John McCain is an example of what I’m referring to.

“I worry a little bit about some of the professionalism that is in college football particularly,” McCain said.

He mentioned the effort to form a union among collegiate athletes, while mistakenly referring to the Northwestern case by saying it involved the University of Illinois.

“Obviously some legal experts told them they had something they might be able to succeed in court and yet I worry about the competitiveness of some of the smaller schools and their ability to attract athletes the caliber that we now see at the highest level,” McCain said. “I also worry when you and I can probably predict the top four college football teams in the country before the season starts. There is a certain, shall I say, advantage, that some schools have over the rest of them.”

A former wrestler at the Naval Academy, McCain said he’s nostalgic for the days of the service academies’ dominance.

“And the role that you play, in my view, is to blow the whistle on the egregious aspects of it. Is it really an amateur sport when the coach makes about $10 million when you count everything? Let’s just call it what it is.”

It’s a rambling response, but it seems to take note of the fiction of competitive balance that the NCAA is hanging its amateurism hat on.  Of course, I can see the NCAA agreeing with his last point and noting that with the right kind of antitrust exemption, schools could restrict Nick Saban’s salary as well.  Something for everybody!

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

Playing the long game

As yesterday’s statement from the Big Ten indicates, I think it’s slowly dawning on college presidents that O’Bannon is turning into a losing proposition for them.  Now even if they lose the trial, the walls don’t start falling down around their ears immediately.  There’s an appeal process that they’ll likely milk for all it’s worth if for no other reason than that every day the inevitable is postponed is another day they don’t have to share the loot with anyone else.  But that won’t last forever.  Plus, there’s the concerns raised by the unionization effort at Northwestern and other litigation threats.  All it takes is losing once.

At some point, then, it’ll be time to turn to the last refuge – politics.  And don’t think that’s not already on their minds.

Did the reform movement arrive too late? Delany doesn’t think so. “Are you kidding me? This will be with us for a decade,” he said. “Between the reform, the restructuring, the litigation, congressional activity. This is the beginning. Not the end.”

A sentiment echoed by one of his bosses:

“A lot of water has got to go under the bridge before we’d have serious conversations about doing that,” Kaler said. “There’s a whole long list of possibilities that are out there. … A lot of people think this will go to the Supreme Court and maybe even Congress. There’s a lot of water to move.”

These guys, as much as they may protest to the contrary, ain’t going the Division III route.  There’s simply too much money involved for them to walk away from it.  They will run to the feds instead, to try to hold on to what they’ve got.  And, yes, the irony of Jim Delany asking people like Joe Barton and Orrin Hatch for assistance isn’t lost on me.  (And probably won’t be lost on them, either.)

Here’s the thing, though – who’s to say they’re any good at lobbying?  Delany can be Delany when it comes to bullying mid-major conferences who want him to throw them a bone, but how does that work when he’s the one who comes asking for a favor?  Will the presidents he speaks for be willing to do any serious horse trading for an antitrust exemption, or will they continue to operate with the same combination of arrogance and myopia that’s gotten them into the mess they’re trying to extricate themselves from?

And, maybe more importantly, should they even assume Congress is of a mind to help?

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery