Daily Archives: January 30, 2007

Let my people go.

I’m pissed. Somebody decided it’s “Crap on the NCAA” Week, and I didn’t get the memo.

First, there’s mgoblog‘s missive that I posted on previously.

There’s also this post from SMQ that in turn references this post at EDSBS. Both are must reads.

In essence these involve an exploration of the current system of college athletics and how it regulates the relationship between institutions and student athletes through the mechanism we’ve all grown to know and love as the NCAA. Given that the title to one post contains the words “ugly” and “terrible” and the other “necessary evil”, it stands to reason that neither is terribly complimentary about the current setup.

Both posts delve into the question of whether the current system is exploitative of college athletes. The post at EDSBS makes it pretty clear that the author believes it is, except perhaps at institutions with lowered athletic expectations:

… So football players are denied the courtesies extended to interns while simultaneously denied the opportunity to network effectively with wealthy alums by the NCAA.That’s a perfectly engineered power differential there: the labor gets a pittance in return for the eventual payoff. This power differential is not as drastic at universities with low athletic profiles; in fact, at a place like Vanderbilt, the athletes can claim a pretty legitimate exchange of goods. At places like our beloved University of Florida, however, the divergence between effort and eventual payoff swells to the wildly disproportionate.

Its shadow becomes all too evident during recruiting, when agents of the corporation called college football go out to pitch the logically impossible: an exclusive contract of a good (a university education) unwanted by many of the purchasers in exchange for a fleeting shot at an NFL career attained by a slim percentage of the applicants. In repayment, their truly unique talents get short shrift in the form of denied benefits proportional to their input. In plain terms: athletes on the whole don’t get back what they put into their time at a university. Not even close.

I buy some of that, but not all. It seems to me that last point is easier to make with regard to a Reggie Bush… er, maybe I should use a better example… to a Calvin Johnson than for, say, a Tra Battle.

SMQ asks the trickier question: assume for the sake of argument that the kids are being exploited. Given what we fans want from college football, is that necessarily a bad thing?

That in SMQ’s mind is the overarching point of view from the capitalist perspective, i.e., the NCAA’s. If in your view that is an attempt to justify an unjust exploitation of the “labor,” the athlete, ask what role the consumer plays and has played in perpetuating that exploitation – does our interest in college football, as consumers, viewers of advertising, buyers of tickets, boosters of funds, depend on it? Is the product’s viability as such dependent on the subjugation of its labor to the outdated system that continues to make it a marketable commodity? Given the popularity – hence, money – at stake if the NCAA were to fundamentally change that system, is it fair to say college football could not exist as a competitive commodity as we know it without that exploitation? SMQ isn’t going answer resoundingly “yes,” but there is a substantial argument in that line of thought.

One problem I have with this concession is that I think it leaves out an important actor in this – the National Football League. The primary reason that the colleges have so much leverage over high school kids who don’t have another option in many cases is that the NFL won’t sign anyone who hasn’t used up three years of college eligibility.

The NFL, as SMQ notes admiringly, has one helluva setup. One part of that is not having to bear any significant cost for the development of its incoming talent. That’s a sweet deal, both for management and also for the players in the league, who face less competition for contracts and jobs.

My question is why should that be? The NFL will give you some high minded BS that an eighteen year old isn’t physically or mentally ready for the rigors of pro football, but why is that my problem (asked from the perspective of a college football fan)?

The reality is that this lets the NFL escape what the NBA has struggled with for the past few years, namely, signing kids out of high school to big contracts and then watching them get paid as they develop skills so that they can contribute as professional players. Sure, that sucks from the league’s standpoint, but, again, as a fan of college sports that’s not my problem.

It seems to me that if you want to let the air out of the exploitation balloon you have two choices. One, you pay the players. That’s a bad idea and, given the realities of Title IX, an unworkable one. Two, you end the restriction on high schoolers  turning professional. That’s already the way things work for baseball and I think it’s eminently fair. If an eighteen year old wants to play pro ball and a team wants to hire him to do so, well, that’s the American way.

In some form or fashion, the NFL would adapt. It’s not as if it doesn’t have the money to support a system that would let kids who don’t want to go to college (or, perhaps more accurately, have no business going to college) play football; it just hasn’t had to devote any significant resources to them.

Will the quality of play in college decline as a result? Probably some, but in return for the chance to eliminate farces like the saga of Demetrice Morley, that’s a decent tradeoff to my way of thinking.

Giving high school kids another option wouldn’t make college football as pure as the driven snow, but it would make it easier to be sincere about defending the amateurism of college football. And it’s that amateurism, diluted though it may be, that helps give college football its special charm.


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Filed under College Football, The Blogosphere, The NCAA

Abe Vigoda, the 12 game schedule and the NCAA

Man, I thought I was cynical. Brian at mgoblog starts out with a major jab at Michigan’s use of the 12 game schedule to load up with nobodies at the expense of home ticket buyers, makes a neat turn with this:

And for what? For who? Where are all the skyrocketing television fees complete with extra commercials that used to be, you know, gameplay going? Where are the PSLs going? Where is my ticket to Eastern Michigan going?

This guy. Basically. One might be forgiven for thinking that the NCAA has ceased to be an actual regulatory organization and is instead a highly complex scheme for funneling money into Nick Saban’s Scrooge McDuck vault, where he puts on an old-fashioned unitard bathing suit and gleefully leaps into his piles of gold coins…

and then makes a quick right to take a shot at two of my favorite targets:

… The average player is not 66% better off. He still gets the same deal he did in 1950. The average fan is certainly much worse off, being milked for PSLs and Vandy-At-Best exhibitions. The only people benefiting are already excessively-compensated coaches and ESPN, because ESPN always benefits. [Emphasis added.]


And that’s not even what I wanted to post about here. What I really wanted to comment about is what he raises towards the end of his post.

First, he links to an article that contains Lloyd Carr’s thoughts on what’s wrong with college football. Carr is bitter about several things (some of which I definitely agree with), such as the never-ending focus on revenue, night games, twelve game schedules and the creeping growth of the bowl schedule into January that he feels have impacted college football to its detriment.

So far, so good. But Carr goes astray in a couple of ways. He argues that college football needs a sixteen team playoff to compensate for going to a twelve game schedule. Huh? He’s complaining about how the longer schedule has negatively impacted his players and his solution is to have some of them play as many as four more games? Coach, that does not compute.

The other wrong sounding note in Carr’s screed is his choice in assigning the blame for the above to the NCAA. Now, my lack of admiration for the NCAA is about on Carr’s level, but I don’t see how you can blame the NCAA for the proliferation of bowl games or the influence of ESPN on college football these days. The NCAA isn’t directly involved in either area, much to its chagrin.

That attitude is reflected in this rather huffy piece that Carr evidently inspired at the NCAA’s Double-A Zone blog. (I can almost hear the author’s sniff as he writes, “(i)f Carr truly has a gripe about when Michigan is playing its football games, he should get on the horn with athletics director Bill Martin and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. Those are the guys responsible for the school’s contracts and schedule, not the NCAA national office.”)

Once you get past the snideness directed at Carr, there are some valid points. For one:

… The NCAA makes most of its money from its contract with CBS, which pays for the broadcast rights to the Division I men’s basketball tournament, as well as other championship events, such as last weekend’s track and field championship. Conferences and institutions work out the contracts for regular season football games, not the NCAA. Revenue derived from Division I football is quite small for the NCAA.

And that revenue is important for things other than Nick Saban’s salary:

I often defend the NCAA’s need to maximize revenues. With more than 1,000 member institutions with broad-based athletics programs, money is needed to support non-revenue sports…

True. But what’s glossed over by both Carr and Josh Centor is that for many D-1 schools, it’s college football that generates most of the revenue for an athletic department’s budget. And if I’m a somewhat sane AD at a somewhat sane D-1 school (not Mal Moore, in other words), I’m going to have to look closely at what ESPN’s offering in terms of TV coverage for my football team, like it or not.

Of course, my favorite part of Centor’s post is this:

… Carr makes the point that a playoff structure would be more appropriate for Division I-A football. I agree with him. The bottom line is that presidents and chancellors like the bowl structure for a number of reasons – publicity and institutional revenue among the most popular.

Yep. And wouldn’t the NCAA like to get its hands on that? And wouldn’t a playoff be exactly what the doc ordered?  I understand what he means by “appropriate”.

Finally, I must admit that if the NCAA ever did agree to implement Brian’s five four point plan (without being sued by any of its member schools), I’d certainly cheer them on. I’m just not holding my breath.

I’m not sure how this helps college football, but, on the other hand, it can’t hurt. Just sayin’, Ryan.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, The Blogosphere, The NCAA

Do they make coaches run gassers?

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Spurrier met with this guy about his recruiting violations?

This about sums it up, though (albeit in more restrained language than was probably used in private):

… Spurrier said in November that Lawing either used poor judgment or was “lazy” in calling the parent rather than sending a text-message, which the NCAA does not regulate.

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Filed under General Idiocy, The Evil Genius