Dennis Dodd conducts a Q&A with the NCAA’s incoming president in which the primary topic is one A. J. Green. Most of what’s there I don’t have a problem with, but this exchange raised my eyebrows:
CBSSports.com: I hear all this blowback about, “Why shouldn’t the players make money off a $1,000 jersey?” What is your response to that?
Emmert: “That’s fueled by two fundamental misperceptions. The first is that the universities and NCAA are, quote, making all this money off these things. As NCAA studies have shown in the past and shown again this past year, there are only a handful — literally, you can count them on your fingers and toes — universities in America that so much as break even on intercollegiate athletics.
“The high profile sports of football and men’s basketball generate a good amount of revenue all of which gets redeployed out to support the rest of intercollegiate athletics. The same is true of the NCAA. We get big stories [done about] doing a media rights deal with CBS/Turner and it’s [at least] $8.8 billion and everybody sees those huge numbers and thinks, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing with all that cash?’ As you know, it gets distributed back out to the member institutions. Somewhere around 95-96 percent of all the revenue goes back to the institutions directly or indirectly to support student-athletes.
“The component that is spent on the administration of the NCAA is something like four percent. The first misperception is this notion that somehow universities are making buckets of money. Quite the contrary.”
Maybe I’m missing something, but that sure comes off sounding like the universities don’t want any competition from the players peeling off any of the revenue being earned from sports because they believe they need every penny of that money more than the Greens of the world do.
By the way, four percent of $8.8 billion is $352,000,000.00 – not exactly the chump change Emmert tries to make it sound like. I imagine the NCAA can run itself just fine on that, with room to spare.
He continues on with his concept of the school-player relationship.
“The second misnomer is student-athletes are student-athletes. They’re not employees. They came to the universities to get an education and participate in their sport. They are not in a position where they should be paid as employees or where they should be benefitting beyond what they get which is an extraordinary set of benefits. I don’t know how you went to school but getting a full-time as students is terrific. They earn every penny of it in their efforts. I get that, of course.
“They are provided with extraordinary opportunities to excel in athletics and should they — for the very small portion that want to move into professional athletics — get an opportunity to do that … we’re preparing them to be successful at it.”
All of that is well and good – except that it’s not completely relevant to the set of facts he’s been presented with. Green wasn’t asking Damon Evans to stroke him a check. Right or wrong, he was caught trying to make a buck off of something that in almost any other field would be done without a second thought: his own name.
Now my point here isn’t to defend Green’s stupidity. He made a mistake and deserved to pay for it. I also laud the NCAA for manning the walls to defend the concept of amateurism. All of that doesn’t hide the strong whiff of hypocrisy that permeates Emmert’s high-minded talk. Schools and their representatives giving players lectures about the purity of their mission in one breath and in the next participating in the same conduct which they’ve just strongly condemned (and punished!) engage themselves in the kind of “do as I say, not as I do” discipline that inevitably results in the erosion of respect for the very principles they hold out as important.
In other words, if you’re going to solemnly tell an A.J. Green every year when he signs that “Student-Athlete Statement” Dodd pontificates about that the deal a player makes means that he can’t exploit his own worth for personal gain because that undercuts the value the NCAA places on amateurism, you should hold yourself to the same standard as well.
Too bad Dodd didn’t hand Emmert a mirror to look at when he conducted the interview.