Talk about your Freudian slip:
Skeptical, the lawyer for the plaintiffs read Pilson a quote from the writings of the late Paul “Bear” Bryant, in which the legendary University of Alabama coach observed in retirement, “I used to go along with the idea that football players on scholarship were student athletes, which is what the NCAA calls them, meaning student first and athlete second. We were kidding ourselves, trying to make it more palatable to the academicians. We don’t have to say that, and we shouldn’t. At the level we play, the boy is really an athlete first and a student second.”
That was a win for the plaintiffs, just getting that in the court record. But then it got better.
The lawyer, Bill Isaacson, asked Pilson if he thought such an opinion has an impact on the affection that Crimson Tide fans have for their team, and more broadly, television ratings for games.
Pilson bristled, responding, “We’re talking about the strongest possible school in terms of pro football. I read what Bear says, but I — I think, frankly, the University of Alabama football advocates follow their team win or lose, paying them or not.”
You read that right. The court transcript did not get it wrong. Pilson called Bama a pro team.
Besides the pro team comment, read that last sentence of Pilson’s carefully. He took the position that paying student-athletes would make college football less attractive to its fans, yet there clearly says that Tide fans couldn’t care less about payment. (Hell, let’s face it – a major chunk of that fan base would support payment if it got Nick Saban even one more five-star, right?)
Then, again, maybe it wasn’t a slip after all.
Most interesting about Pilson’s oral gaffe on the stand was that no one — not the judge or even the NCAA’s lawyers — tried to correct his testimony.