Category Archives: The NCAA

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

Larry Scott isn’t happy.

Here’s an observation of mine from my post about the O’Bannon ruling:

Her ruling in this area may have bigger ramifications than its impact on the NCAA.

Michael Hausfeld, a lead attorney for the O’Bannon plaintiffs, said his team will now consider whether to take any legal action against networks for use of players’ NILs.

“It’s an open field right now because of the antitrust violation,” Hausfeld said. “We’re going to have to take a look at what our next letter might be to ESPN or CBS or Turner. We’ve been looking at it. For example, maybe we don’t go to the larger networks, but go right to the Big Ten Network or Pac-12 Network. Here you have a conference with a most direct relationship to an athlete. They’re clearly use the name, image and likeness.”

Larry Scott’s decision to go it alone on the Pac-12 Network looks more and more expensive every day.

So guess which conference commissioner has the most strident reaction to Wilken’s decision.

Mike Slive takes it in stride.

“We are pleased that the judge recognized the educational component of college athletics, and the importance of integrating academics and athletics in this decision. There are a number of legal questions of some significance that must be answered to fully understand the ultimate consequence of this decision, and how to comply with it.

Together with the change in NCAA governance that was approved just a day earlier, this decision reemphasizes the fact that we are going through a historic evolution of the landscape of college sports and it is incumbent upon all of us to be thoughtful and deliberate in building a better future for our institutions and our student-athletes.”

In other words, as long as nobody screws with autonomy, he can live with it.

Bob Bowlsby?  Copacetic.

Bowlsby said the ruling did not move to anything that would be perceived as professional sports and that the “collegiate model” remains largely intact.

“This operates inside the higher education environment, and the fact that the payments for name, image and likeness can’t be manipulated prior to departure from school, I think is a pretty significant distinction,” Bowlsby said. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s perfect solution, but I think it falls short of having an open marketplace where the individuals are differentially compensated.”

So how about the guy who owns a network?  He’s not too happy.

“We fundamentally disagree with the O’Bannon court’s ruling that the NCAA and our collegiate model violate anti-trust laws in any way. Our system provides untold opportunities and beneficial life experiences for the almost 7,000 Pac-12 student-athletes every year, and we are intent on improving the system to do even more to benefit young people for generations to come.  While we plan to support the NCAA on their appeal of this ruling, we will be working with our institutions to develop next steps in the event the appeal is not successful.”

Maybe Larry’s just more concerned about student-athletes than his peers.  But I bet his presidents are wondering if he’s as smart as they thought he was a year ago.

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Filed under Big 12 Football, It's Just Bidness, Pac-12 Football, SEC Football, The NCAA

Dear Judge Wilken,

Shorter NCAA:  Since you know our membership is dysfunctional, you need to give us more time to figure out how to deal with your ruling.

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Filed under The NCAA

Fight on!

Of course the NCAA will appeal the O’Bannon ruling, bless its heart.

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Filed under The NCAA

Judge Wilken splits the baby.

By now, I assume you’ve heard that the O’Bannon ruling has been handed down.  At its heart, as the New York Times says, it’s a smack down of the NCAA’s amateurism protocol:  “Judge Claudia Wilken’s 99-page decision issued a resounding rebuke to the foundation of the N.C.A.A., issuing an injunction against current rules that prohibit athletes from earning money from the use of their names and images in video games and television broadcasts.”  But the relief Judge Wilken has fashioned leaves college athletics with a way forward, if the people running the sport are willing to accept it.

Let’s start with the obvious.  All the eye-rolling we did as we took in the testimony of defense witnesses like Mark Emmert and Neal Pilson… well, the judge didn’t find what they had to say any more convincing than anyone else did.  And that meant the NCAA’s position got blown up in two significant ways.

1.  Bye-bye, amateurism.

Wilken rather famously stated before the trial that, “I don’t think amateurism is going to be a useful word here.”  She wasn’t kidding.  As Stewart Mandel summarized it,

The NCAA argued that preservation of amateurism is essential to its core identity, as evidenced by its century-plus commitment to the concept. Wilken wrote: “… the NCAA has revised its rules governing student-athlete compensation numerous times over the years, sometimes in significant and contradictory ways. Rather than evincing the association’s adherence to a set of core principles, this history documents how malleable the NCAA’s definition of amateurism has been since its founding.”

Making it up as you go along isn’t a defensible strategy?  Mark Emmert is crushed.

But the ruling is more crushing than that.  Wilken went out of her way to eviscerate every rationale the organization offered as a justification for its position (however shifting) on amateurism.  Again, from Mandel:

The NCAA argued that compensating athletes would negatively impact competitive balance in college athletics. Wilken wrote: “… the NCAA has not presented sufficient evidence to show that its restrictions on student-athlete compensation actually have any effect on competitive balance, let alone produce an optimal level of competitive balance.”

The NCAA argued that paying players would adversely affect the integration of academics and athletics on campuses. Wilken wrote: “Student-athletes would receive many of the same educational benefits … regardless of whether or not the NCAA permitted them to receive compensation for the use of their names, images, and likenesses.”

And the NCAA argued that restricting compensation increases output of its product and if lifted, schools might bolt Division I. Wilken was particularly incredulous about this one. “There is no evidence to suggest that any schools joined Division I originally because of its amateurism rules. While there may be tangible differences between Division I schools and other schools that participate in intercollegiate sports, these differences are financial, not philosophical. For this reason, the NCAA’s assertion that schools would leave FBS and Division I for financial reasons if the challenged restraints were removed is not credible.”

Take that, Jim Delany.

Oh, and the whole competitive balance thing?  Phhhht.

In disagreeing with the NCAA’s argument that competitive balance justifies not paying players, Wilken noted the average salary for a head football coach exceeds $1.5 million. She also cited testimony by NCAA president Mark Emmert in which he said it’s not the NCAA’s mission to take away advantages universities have made in building up their facilities.

“The fact that high-revenue schools are able to spend freely in these other areas cancels out whatever leveling effect the restrictions on student-athlete pay might otherwise have,” Wilken wrote. “The NCAA does not do anything to rein in spending by the high-revenue schools or minimize existing disparities in revenue and recruiting.”

“Rein in”?  Hell, with this week’s autonomy vote, the NCAA’s rolled out the red carpet.

Wilken didn’t just take a dagger and plunge it into the heart of amateurism.  She cut that sucker out, threw it on the ground and stomped the living shit out of it.  It’s gone.

2.  Of course, players’ names, images and likenesses have value.

This may seem ridiculously obvious, but let’s not forget that Neal Pilson testified that no such value was recognized in standard broadcasting agreements.  Wilken didn’t buy it.

“The court finds that a submarket exists in which television networks seek to acquire group licenses to use FBS football and Division I basketball players’ names, images and likenesses in live game telecasts,” Wilken wrote. “Television networks frequently enter into licensing agreements to use the intellectual property of schools, conferences and event organizers — such as the NCAA or a bowl committee — in live telecasts of football and basketball games. In these agreements, the network often seeks to acquire the rights to use the names, images and likenesses of the participating student-athletes during the telecast.”

In ruling that a group market exists for live TV broadcasts, Wilken cited television contracts produced by the plaintiffs, such as old NCAA tournament contracts with CBS and an old BCS deal with Fox. She said testimony by former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson that networks enter into agreements with event organizers for access to facilities is “not convincing.”

Wilken noted that Pilson, an expert witness for the NCAA, admitted that “broadcasters must acquire certain rights even from visiting teams who do not control access to the event facility. … He also acknowledged that broadcasting agreements … sometimes refer expressly to name, image and likeness ‘rights.'”

Her ruling in this area may have bigger ramifications than its impact on the NCAA.

Michael Hausfeld, a lead attorney for the O’Bannon plaintiffs, said his team will now consider whether to take any legal action against networks for use of players’ NILs.

“It’s an open field right now because of the antitrust violation,” Hausfeld said. “We’re going to have to take a look at what our next letter might be to ESPN or CBS or Turner. We’ve been looking at it. For example, maybe we don’t go to the larger networks, but go right to the Big Ten Network or Pac-12 Network. Here you have a conference with a most direct relationship to an athlete. They’re clearly use the name, image and likeness.”

Larry Scott’s decision to go it alone on the Pac-12 Network looks more and more expensive every day.

As bad as that looks – and when it comes to the underpinnings of the NCAA’s case as well as the credibility of those who testified on its behalf, it’s about as bad as it gets – Wilken doesn’t go all scorched earth on the NCAA. It’s almost like watching a sword fight where one fighter is beaten, lost his sword, driven to the ground with the blade against his neck, only to see his opponent pull away and reach out his hand to lift him off the ground.  Partly that’s due to the relief the plaintiffs sought.  I also suspect Wilken, like most cautious trial judges, sought to fashion a ruling that would be hard to challenge on appeal (although we shouldn’t underestimate Donald Remy on that front quite yet).  In any event, she’s given the schools something to work with, if they so choose, that won’t break the bank.

First of all, start with the core of her order.

… Wilken issued an injunction that will prevent the NCAA “from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their FBS football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid.” Wilken said the injunction will not prevent the NCAA from implementing rules capping the amount of money that may be paid to college athletes while they are enrolled in school, but the NCAA will not be allowed to set the cap below the cost of attendance.

No more cartel.  What does that leave for the schools?

First, the NCAA could permit FBS football and Division I basketball schools to award stipends to student-athletes up to the full cost of attendance, as that term is defined in the NCAA’s bylaws, to make up for any shortfall in its grants-in-aid. Second, the NCAA could permit its schools to hold in trust limited and equal shares of its licensing revenue to be distributed to its student-athletes after they leave college or their eligibility expires. The NCAA could also prohibit schools from funding the stipends or payments held in trust with anything other than revenue generated from the use of the student-athletes’ own names, images, and likenesses.

As much as Jim Delany might snarl otherwise, that’s an affordable solution for the schools.  As Mandel puts it,

And in fact, if Wilken’s ruling stands as the lone business change going forward (provided it’s not overturned on appeal), then most major athletic departments would barely feel the brunt. It’s basically a tax. Most SEC teams spend more per year on their defensive coordinator.

Is it sensible to fight that?  As one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys put it,

“What are they going to appeal?” Hausfeld said. “This is what at least the major conferences professed they want to do (pay players cost of attendance) and they can’t because of the cartel. The judge just said not only am I letting you five do it, I’m telling everybody it’s an open field. You’ve got no cover not to do this.”

And that gets us to the end game.  Let’s get the obligatory Remy quote out of the way first:

Donald Remy, the N.C.A.A.’s chief legal officer, issued a statement saying he disagreed with the ruling. The N.C.A.A. is expected to appeal the decision.

“We note that the court’s decision sets limits on compensation, but are reviewing the full decision and will provide further comment later,” Remy said. “The N.C.A.A. is committed to fully supporting student-athletes.”

Wilken’s ruling kicks in July 1, 2016, so the NCAA has plenty of time to fight in the courts, or to seek Congressional aid to overturn the ruling, if it so desires.  Given that it turned down opportunities to fashion a settlement, despite obvious hints that the litigation wasn’t likely to go its way, it seems likely that the fight will go on, at least for a while.  And no doubt there are peripheral issues, like Title IX, to be thrashed out.  But what the NCAA has to be most concerned about is the next case.

The real significance in Wilken’s ruling might be in where it could lead. Wilken is scheduled to hear another batch of antitrust cases against the NCAA. Where O’Bannon dealt with rights to names, images and likenesses, these deal with more direct compensation, seeking to prevent the NCAA from setting limits on the value of a scholarship. In each case, the plaintiffs will draw from Wilken’s ruling in O’Bannon to try to help make their arguments.

It’s possible Wilken ruled narrowly in this case while recognizing the pending cases strike more directly at the heart of the collegiate model. It’s not that Wilken will necessarily rule against the NCAA in those cases — though she certainly might — but that she’ll have the opportunity to more fully explore the issues in those cases.

The O’Bannon ruling’s significance might not be fully known for several years — and that has nothing to do with the inevitable appeals, and everything to do with those other cases. There’s no way to predict what happens from here.

O’Bannon is now a road map for antitrust lawyers.  Jeffrey Kessler knows where he has to go now; the NCAA’s lawyers know, too.  More importantly for the latter, they also know that they’re going to have to find more credible support for the position their client takes.  Mandel, once more:

But don’t kid yourself. Friday’s ruling only opened the door for years and years of more lawsuits and perhaps even Congressional rulings. Wilken’s strong words in deflating the amateurism model will become the template for thirsty lawyers smelling further NCAA blood –€“ like Jeffrey Kessler, the prominent labor lawyer who filed a claim last March against the NCAA and the Power 5 conferences seeking to lift college athlete compensation restriction entirely.

No one can possibly predict where this will all wind up. All we know is that on August 8, 2014, a federal judge in California sized up the testimony of NCAA President Mark Emmert, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and other prominent administrators called to defend college sports’ amateurism model and said — I’m not buying it.

How much is that likely to change?  I have my doubts that somebody like Steve Patterson is ready to embrace a new model, even if, ironically, he’s one of those in an easy position to afford to do so.  But I’m also skeptical that the schools are going to find the road to an antitrust exemption easy to navigate.  Which should mean the signs point one way.

“The NCAA will hopefully never be the same,” Hausfeld said. “It’s going to go through a metamorphosis and if it approaches it wisely, it should sit down and discuss with all the interested entities how best to form a new way going forward.”

I don’t think the NCAA is there yet.  More smack downs to come.

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Filed under The NCAA

So, Chris Conley has a question.

The problem is with the answer.

Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley’s question last January midway through a three-hour discussion about the new NCAA model seemed to catch the adults off guard. “Where do the student-athletes fit into this governance structure?” Conley asked at the NCAA convention before about 800 attendees.

Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, the chair of the Division I Board of Directors, responded awkwardly, “That’s not something we’ve wrestled with.”

The header to the link article implies there’s a possibility that the new governance structure gives student-athletes a meaningful opportunity to have impact into rules that affect their lives.  The math tells the real story, though.

The new model, assuming it’s not vetoed by the membership over the next two months, gives athletes 18.8 percent of the votes on all autonomy legislation proposed by the Power 5 conferences. For shared governance, athletes get 3.1 percent of the vote.

Wrestle with that, Chris.  At best, it might give student-athletes a chance to broker something tightly contested where their small interest is just big enough to swing a vote.  But there’s a problem with that, too.  Let Conley spell it out.

Given their time demands and other interests, many college athletes understandably don’t actively follow NCAA issues that can directly impact them. Conley, who has been a committee member on SAAC and passionately

“Not everybody knows who to ask the right questions to,” Conley said. “A lot of guys will ask their teammates in the locker room and their teammates don’t know. So it’s like the blind leading the blind. We need to break down some of the barriers that people have when it comes to going to speak to administrators or going to speak to coaches or people who have worked extensively with the NCAA.”

Add in the fact that the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is essentially gelded by the NCAA (a member of SAAC produced an NCAA document that she said requires any position of advocacy taken by SAAC must be approved first by the NCAA’s president or its executive committee) and I think it’s safe to hold off on any victory celebrations if you’re someone in favor of greater student-athlete say-so.  And why unionization still makes a lot of suits nervous.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA