… When we spoke this week, Southall directed me to an obscure link he had stumbled upon at the N.C.A.A.’s Web site. It consists of a series of short briefings prepared by the N.C.A.A. staff for its incoming president, Mark Emmert. (Emmert, the former president of the University of Washington, took the reins at the N.C.A.A. in April 2010.) I clicked through to a section called “Protecting the Collegiate Model.” It read, in part: “The consistent use of the term — with the steady drumbeat of what it means — can be an effective constraint on practices that threaten to estrange intercollegiate athletics from higher education.” In other words, pound the message home, over and over. Just like that ad does.
It was amusing this week to watch Emmert trot out “the collegiate model” as he was confronted with the reality of the “one and done” freshman. “One and done” freshmen — or players who have no interest in college and are enrolling only until they turn 19 and become eligible for the professional draft — have been a hot topic in the runup to this weekend’s Final Four. That’s because John Calipari, the Kentucky coach, has become the master of recruiting them — and his team is favored to win the championship. Calipari is completely upfront about what he is doing: He is gaming the system by bringing in players who need a way station until they are old enough to turn pro. Indeed, Calipari tells them when he is recruiting them that he doesn’t expect them to stay for more than a year.
Calipari, complained Emmert, was “throwing away the collegiate model.” But, he’s not, because in the big-money sports of football and men’s basketball, the collegiate model is a fiction. Rather, Calipari is dispensing with the hypocrisy that everyone else goes along with, including our basketball-mad president, who allows himself to be interviewed while filling out his March Madness brackets, but can’t bring himself to utter a word on behalf of the athletes that college sports so ruthlessly exploits.
I’m not sure the NCAA is as blameworthy as Nocera suggests. The NFL and NBA have made major contributions in the exploitation department. But hypocritical? Oh, yeah. The pros may have made the bed, but Emmert’s still chosen to sleep in it. I don’t think many people watching this week’s March Madness play are personally offended by Calipari’s business model. And Emmert’s sure not turning that broadcast money down over it, either.
You can’t be a little pregnant.