The root of all evil

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.



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

12 responses to “The root of all evil

  1. People keep forgetting what pays for all the non-revenue sports-With title 9 in place. I don’t think the girls Horse riding team would pay for itself.


    • stoopnagle

      You need to go a bit deeper into the numbers.


    • Macallanlover

      But, you could restructure women’s horseback riding in such a way where it would outdraw men’s football. A few rule and uni changes….Just sayin’.

      Otherwise, I support addressing CFB as a different entity, because it is.


      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        You might want to change the criteria for being a member of the women’s horseback riding team to include certain physical assets as well. And the unis, as you said, definitely.


    • Comin' Down The Track

      I know it’s fun to blame Title IX for the ills of athletic departments, but no one goes to see men’s lacrosse, men’s swimming and diving, etc. enough to pay for themselves either. So, yeah, women’s sports don’t draw, but neither do false equivalencies.


      • Macallanlover

        True, and my frustration is not with just the waste in women’s athletics, as you point out there are many sport for men that should be intermural as well. Great to have the extracurricular activity and competition around campus, but it should not be another wasteful use of money…which should be of concern to anyone with a brain at this point.


  2. stoopnagle

    I blame Notre Dame.


  3. Vindexdawg

    Speaking as a Dawg who recollects the TV landscape of CFB in the 1960s, my general response would be, “Sally, you ignorant slut….”
    This barren wasteland of Big 10, Neuter Dame, and Pac 10 matchups, with an occasional Bama game thrown in for us great unwashed south of the Mason-Dixon Line, improved a little in the course of the 7os, but all of CFB should be forever greatful to UGA and OU for breaking the NCAA’s stranglehold over who got to be televised and how often. Combined with the rise of cable TV, this made the 1980s and early 1990s a golden age for intersectional matches on TV.


  4. If Oklahoma is in such a tizzy, they should leave the Big XII and give them the finger on the way out. Leave Texas to play with itself as an independent or reform the SWC.

    The SEC, B1G and Pac 12 all have enough clout to tell Texas to drop its LHN or stay an independent (which they have basically done already). As long as they are going to be co-dependent on Texas, they deserve being bent over by Bevo. Texas gets the benefits of being an independent and the benefits of being in a conference (which, good for them, by the way), but if you don’t like it… leave.

    Give Aggie credit for having the balls to step outside of UT’s long shadow. Whether it is a wise decision or not, we won’t know for a while, but at least they were self-aware enough to leave when the playing field was stacked decidedly against them.


  5. 69Dawg

    Justice White was a prophet in that what he said would happen is finally coming true. There are guys playing that aren’t smart enough to spell university must less attend one and amateurism is slip sliding away.


  6. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Math according to Sally Jenkins: 1+1=3.