Florida’s former President shared some wisdom with Mike Slive first and then with Andy Staples:
“We’re backing our way into a pay-for-play model for football and men’s basketball,” Machen said. “I think this is a Hail Mary from Delany to say, ‘Wait a minute. What if we do it the way it used to be?’”
You mean like when you people didn’t chase broadcast money like crack whores chase johns? Like when you didn’t treat conference alignment as a game of musical chairs? Like when you didn’t arrange conference scheduling to be a joke? Like when college football had real traditions like the Nebraska-Oklahoma game?
Yeah, that would be a real Hail Mary. Instead, Machen’s just parroting the party line bullshit; the money ain’t going anywhere. But he thinks it can all be made better. Really, he does.
Machen believes the collegiate model works. For evidence, he points to graduation rates for athletes in every sport except football and men’s basketball. Most of the others outpace the general student body, and the success beyond graduation for former college athletes is well documented anecdotally. The problem, Machen said, is anyone can see that football and men’s basketball at the highest level aren’t using the collegiate model. Players are essentially required to practice year-round, which makes it tough for the NCAA’s lawyers or lobbyists to keep a straight face when they call college sports an avocation that enhances the college experience. “You look at the schedules of these kids,” Machen said. “They are essentially in a full-time mode.”
With all the money at stake for schools and coaches, why on earth would you expect anything different? The answer is straight out of Delany-land: you don’t really, but at least it sounds like you’re trying to change the perception of what you’ve been up to.
That’s why Machen thinks Delany’s proposal has merit. Instead of merely voicing support for the collegiate model and then doing exactly the opposite in two sports, schools would instead walk that particular walk for the first time in years. “I just think the collegiate model doesn’t hold up when you look at football and men’s basketball,” Machen said. “I don’t care how hard you put lipstick on that sucker. It still is a pig.”
The subtext of Machen’s theory is this: If the schools don’t actually start doing what they claim, the courts will push them into the professional model that they have been hellbent on creating—with the exception of the giving raises to the labor force or the paying taxes parts—for years. Federal judges, especially ones not versed in the quirks of the economic model for major college sports, will tend to look at what schools have done. They will see conference realignment for the purposes of higher television revenue. They will see soaring salaries for football coaches and athletic directors. They will see a refusal to budge on any additional benefits for the athletes until the athletes started filing lawsuits.
But if the schools were to make freshmen ineligible—something that would be expensive for them for reasons I outlined last week—that might offer tangible proof they do care about the education of athletes in those two sports. If schools voted to further restrict organized practices and time commitments out of season, it might offer more proof of that dedication. Instead of merely saying they aren’t running quasi-professional programs, officials would actually do something to back up what the NCAA’s lawyers keep saying…
And, a pony.
The tell here is obvious: why the concern for the academics of college football and men’s basketball players only? Is it that they need more help with the books, or that they generate more income for the schools than athletes playing in other collegiate sports?
I think we know the answer to that. And with all the patronizing in the world by Machen notwithstanding, I expect your average federal judge would too, even if he or she isn’t as “versed in the quirks of the economic model for major college sports” as the intellectual giants running college athletics.
Machen’s arrogance would be irritating if it weren’t so amusing. These guys are either cynical enough like Delany to think a ploy like this is going to change how others see things or they’re actually convinced by their own nonsense into believing it will change things.
Maybe I’m wrong, although I doubt it. Then again, maybe Machen can convince me he really is a sharp cookie by explaining how Jim McElwain offering two eighth-graders helps to advance the academic perception of the University of Florida. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.