This Sally Jenkins piece on Zion Williamson’s injury is so good, I could blow it a chef’s kiss. It deftly turns the NCAA’s bullshit entirely on its head.
Exposure and mortification are what they deserve for cheapening a freshman year at Duke into nothing but predatory lending. This is what happens when everyone gets paid but the guy who is really earning the money. If Zion Williamson were allowed to be paid like he damn well should be by Nike, a faulty sneaker would not be quite so future-threatening, because, see, he was getting paid to wear it. It’s all very straightforward and simple. Pay him. But the men with no fingerprints won’t permit it, those athletic directors and presidents who have subverted college athletics into a rake-off while pretending to govern them.
When the sole separated from the shoe, it all became clear. The NCAA has managed to turn a Duke education into a risk that a talented kid just can’t afford to take.
What does that tell you? What does it say about the degradation of the NCAA, that it has made college so profitless for great athletes that it’s just not worth pursuing?
And, boy, do I love this part:
Duke Athletic Director Kevin White, a member of the NCAA oversight and basketball committees, certainly got his: He is reputed to be the highest-salaried athletic director in the country at $1.4 million a year, one of 17 athletic directors who make more than $1 million a year and one of 50 who make more than $500,000, according to USA Today’s database. ACC Commissioner John Swofford really got his: He rides on the backs of athletes to the tune of $3 million a year.
And, of course, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina Coach Roy Williams got theirs, multimillions in salary and apparel contracts. That, you don’t mind so much. They sweat and stress on the sidelines and take the public hits for losses or improprieties and have discernible talent, unlike those men with no fingerprints. There is a market for Krzyzewski and Williams, no matter who is on their rosters.
But without the Zion Williamsons, where is the market for a Kevin White?
Think about it. What is a college athletic director worth, without great athletes willing to serve as unpaid labor? Where else would he even be employable? Maybe the U.S. Olympic Committee — the only other organization that steals athlete sweat like this.
Maybe instead of asking what that second string offensive guard would be worth in the absence of amateurism, we ought to be asking that question about Greg McGarity.
The irony here is that their pure greed may have finally become self-defeating. Williamson’s gasp-inducing close call on the court probably will cause the NBA to lower its age limit, something it reportedly proposed to the union long before Wednesday night. That means future players with Williamson’s ability won’t have any incentive at all to enroll in a Duke and adorn the NCAA landscape.
If the NCAA would give up its decades-long clench-fistedness, its mean-spirited court battles to control the earning ability of athletes, the Zion Williamsons would have major incentive to enter the collegiate system not just for one year but for multiple years. By all accounts, Williamson, a good student who came out of a Spartanburg, S.C., high school that sends all of its grads to college, is not just a guy who is walking through his university experience.
Instead the NCAA has made it too unworth it. If you’re a 17-year-old or his parents and you saw that injury, why would you willingly enter the NCAA maw? Why on earth would a great young player commit to playing collegiately under the current circumstances if he could go straight to the NBA? Because he wants to do his part to make sure Kevin White and John Swofford can order from the top shelf?
This is what the NCAA is selling to us — that an economic system is more attractive, more entertaining to fans than elite talent. I throw snark at folks like Larry Scott all the time, but, shit, that’s the bottom line reason he’s getting paid. Shame on his enablers.
UPDATE: Mr. Conventional Wisdom linked to this piece with approval. It contains what may be the most absurd rebuttal imaginable.
So those advising Zion to “shut it down” are being irrational.
And, thus, they’re being irresponsible.
Because if you advise a young man to give up an activity he clearly is enjoying and obviously loves, there ought to be some sort of reward for him in making that sacrifice. Ceasing to play for Duke offers none.
He’s an amateur playing college sports, but if he walks away, it should only be if he’s rewarded for doing so. Sheesh. Oh, and by the way, if he renounced his eligibility today, he’d sign a monster shoe contract within 24 hours. Sounds like a pretty good reward to me.