The NCAA, proudly protecting amateurism from amateurs

The day after, Mark Emmert’s poo-flinging response to those critical of the decision to allow the Ohio State players involved in rules violations to retain their eligibility for the upcoming Sugar Bowl remains no less perplexing.  The coda – “Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA” – sounds borderline delusional when juxtaposed against the admission of the Sugar Bowl’s CEO that he lobbied for that precise outcome.

But wait, it gets worse.  Exactly how do you square the line the NCAA draws here

… While efforts are being championed by NCAA President Mark Emmert to further clarify and strengthen recruiting and amateurism rules when benefits or money are solicited (but not received), current NCAA rules would be violated and students declared ineligible should a parent or third party receive benefits or money, regardless of the student’s knowledge.

Put simply, had Cam Newton’s father or a third party actually received money or benefits for his recruitment, Cam Newton would have been declared ineligible regardless of his lack of knowledge.

with Casey Martinez’ conveniently timed business opportunity (h/t Team Speed Kills)?

Casey Martinez had a deal with Nebraska nearly a year before his football-playing son, Taylor, did.

The father of Nebraska’s starting quarterback owns the sports apparel company Corn Fed, and he entered into a licensing agreement with the university’s athletic program about a year before his son committed to play football for the Cornhuskers.

Answer:  the NCAA basically doesn’t have a damned clue.

… Both Casey Martinez and Nebraska’s Stephens said the licensing deal had nothing to do with Taylor’s college choice.

In an e-mail, Casey said he was in discussions with universities about licensing deals “when Taylor was a 115-pound 9th grade student.” Stephens said the school made its decision “based on retail interest and fit of Corn Fed brand with our Cornhuskers brand.”

By terms of the agreement, Nebraska gets a 10% royalty on all Corn Fed products it sells. That, according to Stephens, has been less than $500 over a period of more than three years.

The NCAA said the business partnership does not violate college rules, but spokesman Erik Christianson acknowledged such deals “could raise concerns” about recruiting inducements.

No kidding.

All of which brings me to this fascinating debate between Aron White and Greg McGarity.

… Those incidents have led to a debate: Should players actually be allowed to do what they want with those gifts or their own game apparel? Many say yes, including some Georgia players.

“I think if they give it to us, I think it’s ours,” Georgia tight end Aron White said. “In my opinion, you should be able to do whatever you want with it. If yours is more valuable than somebody else’s, that’s because of what you’ve done in your life, in your career, that you’ve worked hard for.”

White said he has had this very debate, including the larger one over whether players should be paid, many times with administrators at Georgia. One of them may have been athletics director Greg McGarity, who presented the NCAA’s reason for having the rule: The chance that unsavory agents or boosters would exploit it.

“What would stop a booster from saying, ‘Hey, I’ll buy your jersey for 50 grand’?” McGarity said. “So that’s why I think it’s in place.”

Sorry, but I think White has the better argument here.  If the real concern is about unsavory agents or boosters overpaying for an item to gain influence, set an official market value for the item, or sell it through the school and split the revenue with the player.  There are ways to control the abuse, if the NCAA is of a mind to do so.

Then there’s this rather curious comment from McGarity.

… There’s also a principle involved, McGarity added.

“Those are keepsakes, kind of like championship rings. If you want to give them to fathers, brothers and family members, I think that’s fine,” he said. “But once you start putting them on E-bay, I think it just kind of cheapens the award, lessens it, and gets it in the hands of the wrong people.”

I understand how that may offend his personal sense of aesthetics, but what exactly does any of that have to do with the stated goal of preserving student-athletes’ amateurism?  And how is it any more offensive for a player to do that during his college career than afterward?  If McGarity doesn’t want to run the risk of the award being cheapened, there’s a simple way to prevent that from happening – don’t give it out in the first place.

I’m not convinced that paying a stipend to college players is a viable option for a number of reasons, but I do find my free market sensibilities offended by schools’ sanctimoniously telling their student-athletes that it’s wrong for them to trade on their names while they engage in the very same practice.  Sadly, what this all really comes off looking like is little more than the NCAA and its member institutions cutting off competition.

So, you tell me who comes off as the more sensible here, Mark Emmert or Aron White.

“I really think a lot of times that the benefits the university receives far outweigh what the college athlete receives,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s a best way to do it. I don’t know how to do it. But I do think a lot of times the student-athlete is put at a disadvantage because we don’t have the time to work, we have full schedules, we have a full academic load, a full athletic load. And beyond that, we still have to try to have time to have a life, to have a social life, to go out and meet people and mingle. …

“So it’s hard. I know they have to protect amateurism and all that. But at the same time it’s not really their property, it’s your property.”


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

25 responses to “The NCAA, proudly protecting amateurism from amateurs

  1. HVL Dawg

    It’s time to pay a modest stipend. It gives the schools a leg to stand on with all the other silly rules. Room, board, tuition and books doesn’t cut it anymore. Kids need cash to pay their traffic fines.

    And before you bother telling me the colleges can’t afford it, take a look at the (assistant) coaches salaries and facility spending. There are plenty of cost control opportunities in college athletics.

    Sure, it will put more space between the haves and the have nots, but that argument is easily countered by pointing at the on-field performance by Boise State and TCU.


    • You can’t pick and choose which schools pay and you can’t pick and choose which athletes get paid. Those are two enormously expensive obstacles to overcome, even if the stipend is modest.


      • HVL Dawg

        Why can’t the free market pick which schools, or which sports pay- as long as its capped? Syracuse can afford to pay its basketball players but not its football players. So what? Some schools have nice facilities and some schools have crappy facilities. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of football players willing to play for Georgia State.


        • The NCAA is restricted and its members are restricted because of things like Title IX and their tax-exempt status. Those are governmental restraints on the free market.

          The restraint on players selling jerseys isn’t. That’s the difference.


  2. Castleberry

    “Sadly, what this all really comes off looking like is little more than the NCAA and its member institutions cutting off competition.”

    Amen. I think that really sums up the whole situation. I’d maybe even go a little farther. More than what it looks like – I know that’s what is going in.


    • Castleberry

      Ahh crap – meant to say “going on.”

      I’m not sure I agree on the stipend HVL. I’m not sure where you draw the line between sports, schools, etc. I don’t have any better ideas either. The whole situation is really slimy. I do agree with the Senator that Aron White has a better point and players should be able to sell their property. Sell it through some third party if there is a concern about abuse.


      • Ray

        I got paid an $18k stipend to attend graduate school and that is pretty typical for my field compared with other schools. I am pretty sure the product we were developing did not pull in the same money as football. I guess I don’t see the difference btw stuff like ipods, watches, rings, etc for going to bowl games vs. stipend (in terms of amatuersim).


        • Castleberry

          I agree that there is little difference in terms of amatuerism between a stipend and a bowl gift. Title 9 won’t let you treat some athletes different than others. If we say we’re going to pay $18,000 per student athlete, we’d need to do that for softball, equestrian, track, swim team, etc.

          You’d wind up with a situation where schools are forced to cut athletic scholarships in any program that doesn’t earn a profit.


          • Ray

            I don’t disagree but chemistry got 18k while the biology grad students got like one thousand (many had to donate plasma for extra $$), physics got somewhere in between. Not all schools paid 18k to chemistry students, some paid 22k and others 15k. So in terms of academics…it wasn’t a level playing field. Seems like a big problem is title IX.


  3. Go Dawgs!

    Aron White is clearly right that it’s ridiculous for student athletes not to be able to sell their awards from schools if they so choose. He’s right that when someone gives you a gift, it becomes their property.

    It’s worse than that, though. What happens if Aron White decides he wants to sell his car? Let’s say he wants to get rid of a 2004 Honda Accord. Clearly, it wasn’t paid for by UGA, he had it in high school. He gets a bunch of offers in the range of X amount of d0llars, and then he gets an offer for 5 or 10 thousand dollars more than that. Like any American, he’s going to take the highest offer. But what if that highest bid comes in from someone who graduated from UGA and goes to football games? I’ll bet you money that the NCAA would consider that a rules violation. And it’s beyond ludicrous. If I’m not mistaken, the NCAA’s an organization that wouldn’t even let athletes have summer jobs because of the “risk” that boosters would give top athletes cushy “no-show” jobs like the one that brought down Oklahoma’s quarterback a couple of years ago. The organization clearly doesn’t put the concerns of student athletes first. Or second. Or third. It’s about the earning power of the NCAA, its member institutions and its corporate partners. As for the athletes, they’re supposed to live in this mythical, pollyanna land of amateurism where nobody has any wants or needs beyond a dorm room bed and a meal plan. Not only are university athletes not allowed to receive added benefits which aren’t available to their fellow students, but they’re also not afforded the same basic rights as their fellow students. If some moron overbids for a used car being sold by a UGA sophomore botany student, nobody gives a damn.


  4. Brian

    Could not agree more. As a fan of the school hit hardest this season by the NCAA, I have to say that the jersey selling issue needs to be revisited. I mean, seriously? OSU can defer suspensions and Mr. Cam sits out ZERO games? It is not an equal playing field. I agree that if something is a player’s personal property, let him sell it at fair market value. At the end of the day, the NCAA certainly has bigger fish to fry.


    • Go Dawgs!

      How awesome is that. Auburn’s got a quarterback whose father flat out admitted that he tried to get $180K out of Mississippi State for his son’s services. An investigation continues. Ohio State’s got five kids who admitted that they basically sold everything that wasn’t nailed down. They’ll serve suspensions next year (maybe!) and play in the Sugar Bowl. We’ve got a kid that sold a shirt for a grand, and we’re the school that got the hardest lick from the NCAA this year. Awesome. AWESOME.


  5. David

    “current NCAA rules would be violated and students declared ineligible should a parent or third party receive benefits or money, regardless of the student’s knowledge.”

    If I understand it correctly what would keep me from getting a jersey signed by a player from a team I do not like and selling it on ebay just so they player gets supended because a third party recieved money regardless of the student’s knowledge?


  6. gernblanski

    Until the NCAA changes its archaic policies around amateurism and its nebulous enforcement based on time of year, etc., I would not favor a any sort of Division 1-A football playoff.

    Sadly, I think that it would only be put in place to further enrich the coffers of the coaches and the Athletic Departments while further putting the athletes at risk to injury as they receive pennies on the dollar.


  7. I think it’s the “it’s our property” argument that hits home the most for me, since the NCAA really has no logical response whatsoever to it.

    When I was at UGA, for example, there was nothing whatsoever preventing me from profiting from my status as the editor of the R&B. I got paid (modestly) for working there; I could sell my stuff all day on eBay and accept as much as people were willing to pay for it; and if I’d been invited to speak at some conference by some desperate organization that couldn’t find anyone better, and they offered to pay me, I could’ve done it free and clear. Yet Aron White, A.J. Green and the rest of the athletes at UGA are prevented from doing those things simply because of an arbitrary, and vaguely explained, expectation that they remain “amateurs.”

    The knee-jerk response to this is that those athletes are already getting compensated in the form of a full scholarship that they should count themselves fortunate to get. Well, I was getting a full ride too, and nobody stood in the way of my earning some extra scratch on the side.

    A full scholarship is a blessing, no doubt, but it doesn’t really put any cash in your pocket for expenses like eating out or getting your car fixed or stuff like that. Thanks to the NCAA, we’re putting an arbitrary restriction on athletes from finding ways to earn cash like that — restrictions no other students have to follow. And the NCAA doesn’t seem to have any interest in addressing that discrepancy as long as the schools still make their paydays.


  8. Normaltown Mike

    Why not have the NCAA set up some clearinghouse for stuff that athletes want to sell? At least that way they monitor it.

    If Billy Bennet wants to sell his hair (remember that?) let em do it. I’m not bidding, but if DevilDawg88 wants it, go for it.

    McGarity’s comments remind me of a mother making her son thank Grandma for the nice church socks he received for Christmas. If its the athletes swag/jersey/ring, let them determine if its a “keepsake”. To do otherwise is to infantilize the athletes.


  9. Ausdawg85

    I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these posts, but McGarity is defending a point no one is really addressing…how do you prevent agents from clearly flooding star athletes with money under any of these proposed schemes? Even an eBay type clearing house (and who exactly runs this?) is open bidding. So you get a bunch of SMU like boosters to create a giant slush fund and buy stuff at outrageouse (but “market driven” prices) and then boast how players at State U. can earn more than at Tech U.

    The problem is not in paying players fairly…it’s how to enforce fairness. Here, the NCAA continues to prove beyond any doubt it is absolutely incapable of meeting the challenge.

    P.S. One solution…give up. Make standards of amateurism so tough that the NFL stops getting a “free” farm system and starts a farm/developmental system (like baseball). Star players with no interest in an education (i.e. rhymes with “Cam”….) could take the money and run. Corch and Satan would be a great coaches and Cuban/Trump could fund it along with the WWL. College teams go down in talent, but back to a day that may or may not have even ever existed.

    Question: Would you watch the Georgia farm team live on Saturday night in the ATL and miss an UGA vs. MSU game on PPV cable?


  10. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The NCAA Rule in question is illegal and would not stand up in court as I have said many times on this blog.


  11. 69Dawg

    Lets address the real elephant in the room. There is a big difference between a parent selling their child’s services to a school through a booster and an agent giving a good college football player money. The NCAA needs to learn the difference. There should be a huge difference. In the booster situation the college is gaining an unfair recruiting advantage to get players on their team. If a college player is good enough to attract attention of an agent willing to take a business risk and give the player money how does that give the college an unfair advantage???? It’s capitalism people. If I had a son who was good enough to play at the highest levels of college football and he got money from an agent I would defend him against the school or the NCAA. I do not see how the NCAA gets away with setting different rules of eligibility for different sports. There should be one rule. The NCAA and the NFL should be sued for restraint of trade for the 3 year rule while the NBA has a 1 year rule and MLB has no rule but draft them when they can hit. Am I the only person that sees this as illegal?


    • I do not see how the NCAA gets away with setting different rules of eligibility for different sports.

      I’m no fan of the NCAA, but they don’t deserve the blame here. The entry rules are those of the professional leagues, not the NCAA.

      By the way, that’s not true about MLB. Players can be drafted out of high school, but then not again until after their third year in college ball.

      As for your last question, no.


  12. Krautdawg

    Agree with the Senator, a stipend is unworkable for several reasons (e.g. anyone want to see 5-star high school kids rehash LeBron’s “The Choice” every January?). Still, how do you want to let the same kids sell their memorabilia before they’re out of school without letting the same abuses arise?

    I see several possibilities:

    (a) Let schools sell the merchandise, but regulate the exchange to avoid the sale becoming an indirect stipend on behalf of interested parties. Boosters can’t be bidding jersey prices up to $50,000; they also shouldn’t be purchasing jerseys, donating them to a kid’s parent, then letting the parent resell the jersey for $50,000. Also, schools would have to ensure that agents, boosters, or other persons with an interest in a student’s decisions (i) are barred from sales or (ii) are allowed to participate in sales only on terms the market would have dictated.

    At the same time, the school shouldn’t be allowed to set an immobile price for memorabilia. Doing so continues to deprive the student of value the student created on the field.

    In other words, if schools sell a student’s merchandise/memorabilia, we’re looking at some of the most tightly-regulated exchanges in the U.S. And I doubt anyone will be happy with the rules or the results.

    (b) Allow the students to sell their memorabilia, but ban agents or boosters (or their agents) from purchasing it. To ensure that students can’t claim ignorance, make the student strictly liable for an error in determining the buyer’s status. Alternatively, place the burden on the student for any sale exceeding $500. The enforcement here is easier: if I’m in compliance, I give my students a form that each purchaser must sign setting forth the rules and graduated liquidated damages payable to the school. Agents who trick the kids will have to pay for the student’s ineligibility.

    The downside: if liquidated damages aren’t high enough, Auburn boosters will pay banned parties to lie to kids to get them off the field for crucial games.

    (c) Let an independent agency set prices for student memorabilia. The downside: what if it sets Alabama’s 2009 SEC championship rings at $5,500 and UGA’s 2002 SEC championship rings at $2,000 (there are more on the market, after all)? Think Saban can’t use that in recruiting? And what agency wants to price AJ’s Liberty Bowl jersey alongside Murray’s and Houston’s?

    If you want a bunch of young kids to be reduced to a market value, this is your option. Don’t know how well that sits with amateurism preservation. Also, how do you ensure that the independent agency isn’t taking booster bids into its price formation evaluation?

    (d) Central memorabilia clearinghouse. Purchasers register with the clearinghouse and certify they’re not agents or boosters, or at least promise not to take action with regard to the price of any memorabilia in order to influence an athlete. If the clearinghouse is suspicious about bidding for any reason, it may investigate and readjust the price as necesssary.

    Downside: funding, anyone? Also, this is basically another NCAA that will likely end up enforcing disparate, enraging outcomes.

    In short, any departure from the current four-year ban on sales has its own drawbacks. And as a UGA fan, I’m not comfortable jumping into a new system with Bama and Aubie boosters to learn just how exploitable it is. Also, a bright line no-sales rule is a bright line, and at least everyone knows what it means and how it will (or at least should) be enforced. I agree that the free market ain’t happy about it, but the issue seems to be more a question of the least among evils.


  13. Stoopnagle

    …or schools could keep the student/athlete’s gifts/keepsakes until their eligibility expires and then give it to them as a “graduation” gift at a point in time when they can do whatever they want with it.

    Just as another point to what a s/a receives: in many instances – and really the only people we’re talking about here are s/a in revenue sports at big-time schools – they get the use of superior facilities in which to train (most often off-limits to other students), preferential access to the nicest residence halls on campus in which to live, extensive academic support (whether they need it or not), professional trainers and coaches (again, not available to other students), and . . . there’s a lot there on top of the scholarship for tuition, fees, room and board, and books.

    I’m not unsympathetic to Aaron’s view, but the costs of the mean student/athlete in football’s total “education” far exceeds the costs of a normal student. Especially when most are, unlike Aaron White, academically challenged (to put it mildly). It would be very interesting to cost it out realistically and seeing how much institutions and student/athletes in revenue sports benefit.


    • Krautdawg

      +1 Stoopnagle. One buddy of mine lived in the (then) still-existant McWorter, another was Knowshon’s tutor, another showed proof he took Ritalin in middle school so that he could register for classes with athletes, and I personally TA’d several football players. It ain’t like they’re getting nothing. In fact, their education is literally coming to them for free. Every aspect of it.

      I understand that it’s impossible to get a job while practicing football and taking classes. But it’s also impossible for the music major who takes 15 hours per semester and has to practice 3 hours per day. It’s impossible for the sports science major who takes 14 hours and has to attend multiple clinics per week. It’s impossible for anyone taking 15+ hours with any serious extracurricular ambitions.

      In other words, the atheletes aren’t facing anything unfamiliar to the rest of the student body. And the athletes get tutors, special meals, and preferential treatment to boot. When combined with the prospect of earning millions in the NFL, the 3/4-year sales ban on memorabilia doesn’t seem all too unfair. Not that I have an axe to grind — I simply see anything beyond the current rule as excessively costly for everyone but the athletes.