So easy, even a former NCAA official can say it.

It’s really not that hard to admit reality.

The man who played a lead role in helping the NCAA earn its status as a billion-dollar organization says there is no longer a way to justify the current limits on how college athletes can make money.

From 2012 through 2016, Mark Lewis oversaw a division of the NCAA that organizes and stages 90 championship events each year. During his time in that role, Lewis increased corporate partnerships and completed a landmark $8.8 billion, eight-year extension to the contract that gives CBS and Turner the television rights to the annual men’s basketball March Madness tournament. The proliferation of television contracts at the school and conference level, Lewis said, has been a driving force that has fundamentally changed college sports in the last several decades.

“The priority is to monetize the sport,” Lewis told ESPN this past week. “That’s taken precedent over everything else. If that’s the model — and there’s nothing wrong with that — then you can’t expect the players to live by the same set of rules [as they did in the past]. To me, it’s just a question of fairness.”

I understand how someone can be an amateurism romantic.  What I don’t understand is how an amateurism romantic can’t accept how the surrounding world of college athletics has changed so dramatically when it comes to priorities.

The horse has left the barn.  What’s the point in shutting the door on college athletes now?


UPDATE:  “Using the word ‘amateurism’ is a loser long term,” one respondent said. “We are the only ones left who use it. It’s a lack of credibility issue. We are using the word … because we have to with these lawsuits.”


Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

17 responses to “So easy, even a former NCAA official can say it.

  1. Derek

    Was the justification for amateurism in 1914 “because we’re broke?”

    Should schools shut down all the sports programs that cost money rather than turn a profit?

    In other words, if amateurism as a concept was never about the availability of funds and if schools send women’s soccer players across the country at considerable cost to themselves why are we suddenly acting like this is a traditional business? If you’re a prospective college athlete and you don’t like what’s being offered to you, decline it.

    Finally, what the fuck does “fair” have to do with anything we confront in real life, ever? Is it “fair” that Roger Goodell makes $32 million while the league minimum is $480,000?


    • “The priority is to monetize the sport,” Lewis told ESPN this past week. “That’s taken precedent over everything else…”

      If it walks like a business and quacks like a business, it’s a business. Why is what the justification for amateurism was in 1914 relevant? The NCAA has changed the definition of amateurism more than once to suit its purposes.

      As far as being a prospective college athlete liking what’s being offered, does that include money passing under the table from shoe companies to go to a particular program?

      Here’s my definition of fair: not violating US antitrust law. So, yeah, fair has something to do with it.


      • Derek

        Yeah but it doesn’t unless they are writing off women’s equestrian as a charitable donation.

        I don’t know that taking advantage of TV’s desire to sell commercials means your in a business in the same way that CBS and ESPN is in business. The content has been available in the same way since before television. Not the other way around. College sports was not invented to be broadcast for profit. Its happenstance.

        After all there are no shareholders and management makes horrific decisions with their plunder as is routinely shown around here.

        If it were a business, a corporate raider would have purchased the Alabama Athletic Department long ago.

        Its not quite a duck in other words.

        Also if ratings plummeted and TV walked away the games would continue. Facilities and salaries would take a hit but the game would survive.


        • I love it — making stupid management decisions that are incentivized by the current environment means they’re not a business. Cool. Now do Wall Street, circa 2006.


          • Derek

            Not every fact in isolation proves the point. You must be familiar with the concept of the “totality of the circumstances.”

            A difference between bad Wall Street decisions and bad AD decisions is in the consequences.

            There are none in college sports. Zero. There is a complete lack of even the remote possibility of accountability. Revolving doors? Sure. Otherwise? Nada.


            • Gee, Derek, tell the class all about the consequences of bad Wall Street decisions. I must have missed those.


              • Derek

                They do happen. See Bear Stearns. They don’t always happen.

                They NEVER happen in college sports. Not even possible.

                They just keep getting voluntary donations.

                What business do you know of that simultaneously takes in billions in TV revenue and simultaneously takes in billions in donations?


                • The investors got fucked at BS, but management didn’t.

                  As to your last question, why does it matter where the money comes from?


                • Derek

                  I’m just saying if you’re going to insist on labeling it a business you have to acknowledge that its got LOTS of unique features that don’t exist in the real world.

                  The ONLY reason they are so profitable is because the content they were providing for practically free for decades is now worth billions.

                  Salaries and facilities have changed drastically because of that. Making the athletes employees solely due to availability of funds seems illogical. If they’re employees they were before expensive tv contracts. So why weren’t they demanding minimum wage in 1976?

                  It just seems that we’re jamming a square peg into a round hole solely on the basis that the amount of money at issue is obscene. There’s no other rational, consistent thought process at play.

                  I say make the colleges use the money to feed cloth house educate and better their players. But they ain’t employees. Better yet, give scholarships to fully qualified students.


                • I don’t really care what you label it. What I care about is what rationale exists these days to exclude college athletes from the same financial opportunities everyone else in the country is allowed access to. I haven’t seen much of an answer from you on that.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • rchris

                  Suppose the courts gave the ncaa the opportunity to keep the student athletes as amateurs if they would cease facility improvement, fire all coaching and strength staffs as well as their athletic departments, and rely solely on student volunteers for coaching. Or they could pay the athletes. Surely the ncaa’s devotion to amateurism would bring them to their senses and they would adopt the first option. Right? Right?????


    • Gaskilldawg

      College sports were not “amateur ” sports in 1914 under the definition of “amateur ” used now.
      Colleges back then could give benefits to players to get them to play back then. The “amateur ” concept arose in the late 1940s with passage of the “Sanity Code.” The “Sanity Code” was an attempt to create pure, Chariots of Fire amateurism and colleges changed their minds and loosened the rules in the 1950s. When I enrolled at Georgia in 1972 scholarshipped athletes got a modest monthly check as a part of their scholarship.

      The “how about non revenue sports” argument is a red herring. The existence of the other sports is the justification for 501(c)(3) status. If I could, by opening a second office that made no money could turn every penny of my revenue in to tax free I would do it in a heartbeat.


      • Derek

        College sports existed well before the constitutional amendment permitting income taxes (1913, I think). So no, they weren’t made up for 501c purposes at all.


        • Gaskilldawg

          I didn’t say nonrevenue sports were created for tax avoidance purposes. Missed my point by miles and miles.
          My point was that the existence of nonrevenue sports is not something that transforms the multi million dollars enterprises from businesses into something else. If McDonald’s could get a 501(c)(3) status on ALL its revenue just by opening a few stores that made more money, it would. UGA AA has an opportunity under the tax code as a result of offering those other sports that any other business would take advantage of it they could.


  2. Chopdawg

    Once again, we have a philosopher commenting on the unfairness of the current system, using generalities like “to me, it’s just a question of fairness.”

    Quoting John Lennon, “we’d all love to see the plan.” Let’s throw the generalities under the bus. Let’s get specific.


  3. JD

    Non-Revenue sports are much better characterized as a compliance or cost of doing business.issue than as charitable donations.
    Title IX laws force the “equal opportunity” compliance much the same way as environmental compliance affects other businesses. It’s just something you have to deal with if you’re going to play within the rules.