“Exploited? Try blessed.”

Some of you will no doubt nod your heads in complete approval of Seth Davis’ ode of joy to the wisdom and good sense of the NCAA and its current amateurism protocols, but as you read his “players have never had it so good and they know it” explanation as to why things won’t get any stickier in terms of a player boycott…

Yes, the “system” (whatever that means these days) needs to be constantly upgraded to deliver more and more benefits to the student-athletes. But many people are unaware of the extent to which the NCAA has reformed itself over the last two years to do a better job taking care of the players. Thanks to a new governance structure that allows the Power Five conference schools to take the reins, players are now permitted to receive several thousand dollars in stipends in addition to their scholarships to allow them to cover the costs of attending school. There are basically no restrictions on how much food the schools can serve. For the second straight year, schools are permitted (but not required) to pay the travel expenses of players’ families so they can attend NCAA tournament games. (This applies to the women’s tournament as well.) Also for the first time, there are seats reserved on the NCAA’s primary governing councils for players, which allows them to have a direct say over legislation that affect their lives.

The problems facing college sports will be addressed this week, as well they should, but keep in mind that most of these same problems have been around since the enterprise began in the late 19th century. College sports, or at least college football (and later basketball), is big business, and wherever money is changing hands, corruption is sure to follow. But the transaction that will be on display this weekend is worth preserving. No, the players won’t be paid like professionals, but they will be feted like kings. They have earned that by working hard at their craft, under the supervision of some of the best coaches who ever stalked a sideline, in concert with the best strength and conditioning trainers money can buy, in front of the biggest audience most of them will ever see.

… keep in mind two things.  One, all those improvements he cites in his first paragraph there came not voluntarily from the NCAA, but in response to pressure the student-athletes brought in the courts and with the NLRB.  And those kids aren’t so stupid as to avoid noticing that pressure gets results, even with a bunch as stubborn as the schools are.  After all, learning lessons is what students do.

Two, as far as his last paragraph goes, those were exactly the kinds of things that were said about major league baseball players in the reserve clause era.  Once that time passed, it was off to the races, and that included strikes (and lockouts).  Given the level of stubbornness we see from the likes of Mark Emmert as well as the ever increasing wads of cash being handed out for mediocre to above-average results, it’s hard to see how college athletics avoids that same fate if the NCAA and the schools get their collective asses handed to them in an antitrust suit, players being “feted like kings” notwithstanding.  There’s too much money to expect otherwise.

No, we won’t see a player strike crippling this year’s Final Four.  But players have already struck, or threatened to strike elsewhere.

Too bad it’s still not the late 19th century.


UPDATE:  If you’re wondering about my MLB analogy, read this story about the time Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale held out.  Some of the quotes in there are eerily reminiscent of you know what.

“It was astonishing to me,” Koufax wrote, “to learn that there were a remarkably large number of American citizens who truly did not believe we had the moral right to quit rather than work at a salary we felt — rightly or wrongly — to be less than we deserved. . . . Just take what the nice man wants to give you, get into your uniform, and go a fast 25 laps around the field.”

Also, this.

Players skilled in hitting or pitching were not permitted to employ an agent skilled in negotiation.

“They had to go in and talk to the general manager about their contracts, alone,” Moss said.

“Players at the time were told they were lucky to be playing baseball. If it wasn’t for baseball, they’d be driving trucks. Or, if they were black, they were told they would probably be picking cotton. It was a very primitive time.”

Kind of like the 19th century.


Filed under The NCAA

15 responses to ““Exploited? Try blessed.”

  1. DawgPhan

    lulz that he is lamenting that the same problems have plagued the organization since the 19th century and drops an 18th century “let them eat cake” response.


    • Seth is like a bunch of other elitists who extol the puritanical virtues of amateurism while disregarding the foundational basis for amateurism, why it was so popular with the Victorian elite and how it crept into our college system of athletics as well as The Olympics, golf, tennis, etc.

      Seth went to Duke. He attended an elite prep school. His Dad was the special counsel to a President. But by all means, Buddy Hieldt doesn’t deserve a pay raise — give it Lon Kruger. After all, he IS ONE OF THE BEST COACHES TO EVER STALK THE SIDELINE!


  2. Puffdawg

    My favorite part is this:

    “…under the supervision of some of the best coaches who ever stalked a sideline.”

    Because you know, the coaches are getting paid a lot more now, which means they are better coaches than ever before. Has nothing to do with exploding TV contracts which caused all this debate to begin with.


    • It’s as if the term “a rising tide lifts all boats” has never been heard by these people.


    • Napoleon BonerFart

      As a long-time rec-league youth coach, I take exception to the notion that a coach making millions of dollars to focus exclusively on the sport with a support staff can do a better job than me and my buddy do after work a couple of days a week. Honestly.


  3. CB

    What would happen if a high profile player that got suspended for selling autographs or jerseys (AJ Green, Todd Gurley) turned around sued the NCAA for collusion? Also, why do you suppose lawyers don’t jump all over these cases? All the sentiments of the general public are in their favor, and they also have anti trust laws on their side. I really believe that one of these players could be the Curt Flood of the NCAA, but I don’t have any experience in the field of law. It seems like a no brainer, but clearly I’m missing something. Any thoughts Senator?


    • CB

      Is it rules on solicitation combined with these kids’ only being concerned about getting back on the field?


    • I would love if one of them did it but the fact is that most high profile football players in college football have shelf life of 3 years and high profile men’s basketball players has shelf life of 1 year. It doesn’t allow them enough time to sue. The schools, conferences, and the NCAA will injuction and appeal them to keep them off the field until the are eligible for the professional ranks.


      • CB

        That’s a good point. I wonder if a case of deferred payment stemming from their time as an amateur would suffice enough to open a free market?


  4. Rp

    It will sure be interesting if you guys get what you want. Can you imagine the scenario of thousands of high school kids going through simultaneous contract negotiations with dozens of schools throughout their senior year. It will be complete chaos. We will need thousands of new sports agents and attorneys if this pans out.


    • DawgPhan

      not really. the players would unionize, both sides would negotiate a deal and everyone would play under those new rules.

      It would also create a way to level the playing field for punishments and drug tests.


    • CB

      Thousands of sports agents as opposed to the current hangers on that are leveraging these kids to schools via back channels and getting payment under the table. All we’re talking about is bringing that process into the realm of legality and regulation.


  5. Dog in Fla

    “The problems facing college sports will be addressed this week,”

    What a relief because up to now…

    “It’s like a nightmare, isn’t it? It just keeps getting worse and worse.”


  6. 69Dawg

    The NCAA has always sounded a little like a Southern Planter trying to make the case that the help is better off with the way things are as opposed to the way things might be. Shoot these people don’t know how good they have it, we feed them etc. I know that there are kids out there that would give their left nut to play college football without even a chance of going pro. They play in Divisions II and III and the NAIA. Division I guys have a glimmer of hope that lightening might strike and they can get to the NFL. For most of the surefire guys, I’d bet well over 75 percent would op to go straight to a developmental league if one existed. We have three major sports in this country that need players to progress. The NBA has a D-league and the colleges, MLB has the minor leagues and colleges but the NFL has just the colleges. There is no reason in the world that the NFL or the NCAA want this to change. They are getting exactly what they want.


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