I can’t say I’m totally unsympathetic to the point Sally Jenkins makes in this piece of hers blaming college football’s current state of affairs on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the NCAA v. Oklahoma Board of Regents antitrust case.
… It’s a rich irony that Oklahoma is sweating the chaos caused by TV money, given that it set the chaos in motion in the first place. In 1984, Oklahoma, joined by Georgia, sought to break NCAA control over college football by suing all the way to the highest court for the right to negotiate its own TV deals, and won.
Citing restraint of trade, the court stripped the NCAA of much of its centralized power. A quarter-century later, the Big 12 has been weakened, the entire college football structure destabilized, and Oklahoma is threatened because Texas, with its powerful Longhorn Network deal, is acting so rapaciously, running “roughshod” and making its own rules. Well, where do you think Texas got the idea? It’s pretty entertaining that Oklahoma, which asked for this landscape, is crying for some sort of protection from it.
The problem is that her analysis grows strained (as she, to her credit, recognizes), mainly because the NCAA has been no bastion of virtue itself. How can you not laugh at loud at Mark Emmert’s hypocrisy in calling out the conferences for the latest round of the expansion shuffle?
“People today have greater doubt, greater concern about what we stand for and why we do what we do,” said Emmert. “And that is a huge problem for us.”
“The specter of the past couple weeks of conference realignment has not been a healthy thing. The world’s convinced that’s all we care about…that all this is about money. I didn’t read many of us stepping up and saying that this will work really well for student-athletes because we’ll do X, we’ll do Y, it will create more resources, it will help us stabilize our programs.
“It was all about the deal.”
This, coming from the man who recently presided over a process of exploring the expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tourney to 96 teams. And let’s not forget that the reason they didn’t wind up there was that they couldn’t find a broadcast partner willing to pony up the necessary bucks. So he can spare me the crocodile tears over the poor, poor student-athlete.
But returning to Jenkins’ article, that’s not the only flaw in her reasoning. As a fan, I like – no, make that love – what the Supreme Court’s decision ushered in. In terms of access to the sport, we’ve never had it so good (except for being exposed to Craig James twice a week). And the reality is that somebody is going to make a buck off of our passion. Jenkins doesn’t really have a good answer to that.
If Jenkins’ admiration for Justice White’s advice were to be followed,
If it’s okay to restrict athletes from making money for playing on TV for ethical reasons, then surely we should restrict the universities that rake in multimillions, he wrote. Remove restrictions, and “unlimited [TV] appearances by a few schools would inevitably give them an insuperable advantage over all others and in the end defeat any efforts to maintain a system of athletic competition among amateurs who measure up to college scholastic requirements.”
… the result would be that either we’d get to watch fewer games, or more money would stay in ESPN’s pocket. I don’t see either of those as a win.