Category Archives: College Football

Steve Patterson, still rolling.

The biggest jerk in college athletics simply cannot believe what a bunch of ingrates college athletes are.  In fact, he’s mad as hell and isn’t going to suffer in silence.  Which is a shame, because this is how Steve Patterson goes about making a case:

First, you lie.

“It’s interesting when you look at the objections of the plaintiffs in the case; we address all of them,” Patterson said. “If our athletes get hurt, we pay all their medical bills. If they want to come back and graduate, we pay for them to come back and graduate. We do everything that they say they wanted.”

Next, you impugn their motives.

Patterson, who oversees an annual athletic budget of roughly $170 million, said the “whole thing smells of guys in the legal profession looking for a fee.”

Patterson directed that comment towards sports labor lawyer Jeff Kessler, who last month filed an antitrust claim against the NCAA and the five largest conferences in New Jersey federal court, hoping to represent all scholarship players in college basketball and football players.

Kessler is arguing for a more free market in which schools can offer more than a scholarship to win over a player’s services.

Then, you wrap it up with some over the top righteous indignation.

“Guys like Jeff Kessler are trying to destroy the college system to get a percentage or a fee,” Patterson said. “If they do that, they’ll be destroying the greatest thing to happen to the college system aside from the G.I. Bill.”

Yeah, how dare Kessler try to get a little money for himself and his clients.  Doesn’t he know guys like Patterson have worked hard for that scratch by doing their own share of damage to the college system realigning conferences, whoring out to television, lengthening the regular season and postseason, etc.?  If anybody’s gonna squeeze that golden goose, it’ll be Steve “Let’s Play ‘Em In Dubai” Patterson.

Patterson did admit Thursday that he felt the NCAA and the schools were losing the public relations battle.

No shit, Sherlock.  I wonder how that’s happened.

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Football, the South and bigotry

Can somebody explain the difference between this

Mr. Ruiz, the former prosecutor who handled the case for the state attorney’s office, recalled that the coach at the time, the revered Bobby Bowden, attempted to convince him that a crime had not occurred. A jury eventually acquitted the player.

“I learned quickly what football meant in the South,” said Mr. Ruiz, who grew up in New York State. “Clearly, it meant a lot…”

… and this?

In a speech Wednesday night, Slive described his job thusly: “…I am the trustee of a sacred public trust, and if you live in the South, you know exactly what I mean.”

‘Cause I’m not seeing one.

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“That’s why I’m on this case.”

You’ve read about O’Bannon.  You know about the NLRB ruling.  Now meet Jeffrey Kessler, whose antitrust suit may be the biggest threat of all to college football as we know it.

Kessler is essentially asking the courts to decide that players are employees whose compensation is being illegally constrained (to the amount of an athletic scholarship), and to lift those restrictions to open the market. Under such a scenario, the “total competitive landscape will change,” he says. “Maybe Ohio State will say, we’re going to pay X amount a year, which we’ll put in trust for when they leave school. The more years they stay, the more they’ll get. Another school might not offer more than the scholarship.

“That’s what happens in a market. It doesn’t force the schools to do anything except what they decide.”

And even here, again, comes an invitation to stop the bleeding:

Kessler acknowledges the possibility that a settlement could occur that “puts some system in place” to provide meaningful compensation for all future football and men’s basketball players.

What exactly that would look like is unclear, but he hinted that the sorts of changes that some people within the NCAA are talking about now — in which the wealthier sports programs might offer provide scholarships valued up to the full cost of attendance, or give some sort of small stipend — would not cut it.

While another lawyer without Kessler’s resources and resume might be willing to get a nice payday for his clients, “if I get my class certified, there won’t be any settlement without real change in the system,” he says.

I doubt anyone’s listening now, but it will be worth watching to see if attitudes change should O’Bannon not go in the NCAA’s favor.  My bet is it’ll take Congress not riding to the NCAA’s rescue to shake things up.

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“We don’t need an investigation, thorough or otherwise…”

If you wonder why some people are reluctant to pursue criminal complaints against star athletes, this might help illuminate the problem:

Officer Pate’s blunt interviewing style did not help, the student said. “The first thing he asked me,” she recounted, “was if I was sure this was rape or if I just didn’t want a baby or wanted the morning after pill.” He also made comments, she said, “like, ‘Are you sure you want to file a report? It will be very awkward, especially for a female.’”

In his complaint to the police, the father wrote that Officer Pate had suggested that an investigation “would be futile, as ‘this kind of stuff happens all the time here.’”

Or to put it another way,

A decade before the Winston case, the inspector general found that Florida State had violated its policy when the athletic department failed to inform the campus police of a rape accusation against one of its standout football players. Mr. Ruiz, the former prosecutor who handled the case for the state attorney’s office, recalled that the coach at the time, the revered Bobby Bowden, attempted to convince him that a crime had not occurred. A jury eventually acquitted the player.

“I learned quickly what football meant in the South,” said Mr. Ruiz, who grew up in New York State. “Clearly, it meant a lot. And with respect to this case I learned that keeping players on the field was a priority.”

Just win, baby.  Everyone in a college town knows what that means.

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Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment

Life begins at forty.

We gots us another bowl game.

The American Athletic and Sun Belt conferences will participate in a new bowl game in Orlando, Fla., in 2015, sources said Tuesday.

The addition of the game — it will be called the Cure Bowl and benefit breast cancer-related charities — will increase the number of bowls in 2015 to a record 40, although that includes the College Football Playoff title game, so only 78 bowl teams will be needed.

They still need a TV deal, so that explains the delay into 2015, but I doubt that remains a hold up for too long.

And to think there were twelve less bowls just a decade ago.  Between teams jumping up to D-1 and playoff expansion, don’t expect that trend to stop any time soon.

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The sin of wages

So here’s part of a Brian Cook rant about player compensation:

Everywhere else in society, an 18 year old who works really hard at something is financially compensated for it and most of them do not… I mean… why am I even arguing about this? If you’re the kind of person who thinks that young people doing dumb things with money is a threat instead of, you know, life, you probably start arguments with “Speaking as a parent.” Anyone who starts arguments with “Speaking as a parent” wants you to turn off your brain so they can feelingsball you. They are my mortal enemies, speaking as a person who can formulate an argument.

The aura of paternalism that hangs over objections to letting players get theirs is suffocating. “But if they get money they’ll…” They’ll what? They’ll still be under the thumb of a drill sergeant of a football coach desperate to remain in his good graces lest the faucet turn off. They will be the same, just with fewer things to stress about.

They might waste it. They might not. I just don’t care anymore. Let them have their five hundred dollars.

He’s got a point.  What is it about college players getting paid that turns so many of us off?  Hell, we’ve already seen what happens when colleges and conferences get paid.  Can players receiving payment make things worse than what the suits are putting us through as a consequence?

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Friday morning buffet

Pre-G-Day snack time…

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Filed under College Football, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Amateurism and the romance of the status quo

Yesterday’s post about amateurism drew a lot of impassioned commentary in support of Bob Bowlsby’s argument that equal effort by student-athletes requires equal treatment by the schools and the NCAA.  The best example of that:

FYI, I asked multiple womens golfers from 16 of the top 25 teams @ a tournament in Hilton Head, SC last month how much time they practice & spend competing. Every one said 4-5 hours a day 7 days a week except when playing in a tournament. Last week, I ran into the U of Illinois womens golf team @ my neighborhood course practicing after competing in a tournament the prior 3 days. This was during spring break. Most of these girls were business, psychology, public relations, biology, spanish, early child development, etc majors and were earning good grades. These girls bust their asses for UGA just like the football & basketball players but don’t get the same “star” treatment & bennies. Heck yes the $ from football & basketball should be spread around to support the other sports. I don’t care how much $ the school/AD earns off of any sport. If you are not there for the education via a free scholarship, go earn your keep on your athletic talent in some minor league. Unhappy with the NFL rules, go sue them for the right to earn a job

I don’t doubt the sincerity of that statement.  Nor do I doubt the effort that every one of those golfers gives.  But even starting with the assumption that each NCAA student-athlete busts as much ass as the next one, ultimately I don’t find the argument convincing.  The problem with the argument is that it romanticizes college athletics to an unrealistic extent.  The reality is that the playing field for student-athletes isn’t level right now.

First of all, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, equal effort isn’t rewarded equally.  I’m guessing that those lady golfers have scholarships from Georgia as a result of Title IX requirements, but their male counterparts (along with other male student-athletes participating in non-revenue sports) don’t fare as well in that department.  Again, if it’s all about equal effort, why should that be the case?  And taking Bowlsby’s line of reasoning out to its full extent, how can you justify a failure to treat every kid playing Division III sports to the same scholarship opportunities?  They work just as hard, right?

The answer is that they don’t make any money for their schools.  Hard work only goes so far when it comes to getting a piece of the pie.

Second, it’s a fool’s errand to pretend Emmert and Bowlsby aren’t aware of that.  Emmert and the power conference commissioners are pushing a stipend – hell, call that for what it is, player payment – for football and basketball student-athletes.  Why are they advocating different treatment for those student-athletes than for the rest of the 400,000+ they claim to represent?  Again, it’s not about the effort.  It’s about the revenue stream.

Third, the irony of the last two sentences of that comment doesn’t escape me.  Those women golfers have an avenue available to them that is denied to the players bringing in the money.  They can turn pro any time they want.  Indeed, they don’t even have to go to college to pursue a professional golf career if they’re talented enough.

College athletics is hyper-monetized now.  Nobody on the management side advocates going back to a simpler time; they can’t afford to.  So instead they pitch a bifurcated vision in which they claim the players in revenue producing sports must be insulated from the rewards of their efforts, even as they are forced to make greater sacrifices in the name of revenue generation (you think any of those women golfers have ever had to miss as much school as the kids who played for the national title last night did?) and in which any dollar delivered to those players has to come out of the pockets of the rest of the 400,000 student-athletes in some sort of zero-sum game.  Except for that stipend, of course.

Don’t insult my intelligence.

It’s not your father’s status quo anymore.  That didn’t just happen overnight, either, in case you haven’t noticed what an absolute cock-up SEC scheduling has become since Mike Slive decided he needed to revisit the conference’s broadcast deals.  And here’s the last thing to consider: what you’ve got now is nothing compared to what’s going to happen if and when the NCAA starts losing some of those antitrust suits.

Now, what we think doesn’t matter in the vast scheme of things.  But Bob Bowlsby?  Different story there.  Either the suits need to start smelling what they’re trying to sell to us and adapt to the times, or wait to get run over and lose the opportunity to direct where college athletics goes.  In any event, the rest of us had better get used to accepting the limited value of equal effort.

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“I mean, it’s time to act.”

With the news that the commissioners of the five major conferences met in Chicago recently with a team of  – as in “at least” fifteen – lawyers to discuss a recent antitrust lawsuit filed against those leagues, is it fair to say that Mark Emmert’s come up with the epitaph for college football as we know it?

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An agreement to agree

As the leaders of the free world college athletics’ power conferences work their way through their own private Yalta, it’s becoming clear that the easy part is the D-1 power grab itself.  What they’re going to do after they’ve achieved autonomy?  Well, therein lies the rub.  Right now, it looks like the commissioners don’t seem capable of much more than passing wish lists around to each other.

“I think what was reflected in that memo is a growing consensus,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “I think we’re going to get there.”

Among the topics addressed in what is labeled an “Attachment to Memorandum”:

– A lifetime opportunity fund that would allow former players to complete their education after leaving school. It would benefit players who depart early for the draft or who don’t graduate after their eligibility expires.

This point was mentioned specifically by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany last summer.

– Provide full cost of attendance to players. This long-discussed topic seems to a certainty in the future. Players would be given a prescribed amount extra in living expenses based on the cost of living in the particular college town.

– Redefine rules governing agents. That’s a preference of SEC commissioner Mike Slive. While Slive hasn’t been specific about what those changes would be, assume that new rules would allow more contact with agents while players are in school.

Slive often uses the example of students in other majors having access to experts in that field. Why shouldn’t an athlete be given the same advantages of a concert pianist who consults with great composer?

– Meet the healthy, safety and nutritional needs of players.

Those first four bullet items had been previously mentioned among the commissioners.

You think that’s a little amorphous?  It’s rock solid granite compared with the rest of what’s in that memorandum.

New to the memorandum are these points the commissioners may want to change “if future circumstances warrant revision.” …

– Addressing scholarships that are reduced, cancelled or not renewed at the whim of a coach. Coaches have been criticized for promising a full-ride in recruiting then have the power to cancel scholarships on a year-to-year basis.

In 1973, the NCAA went from four-year scholarships to one-year renewable scholarships.

– Provide paid transportation for parents for official recruiting visits to championship events. (College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament, bowls etc.)

– Rescinding rules that inhibit a player’s desire to pursue a non-athletic career. A Minnesota wrestler was declared ineligible last year because he posted music videos of himself online. NCAA rules prohibit a player from using his name or image for commercial use.

That rule seems to going away one way or another. Players’ rights to their image and likeness are at the heart of the O’Bannon lawsuit.

– Permit schools or players to get loans regarding “career-related” insurance.

– Policies regarding athletes’ time demands. Northwestern players were allowed to unionize, in part, because a National Labor Relations Board official concluded that players do devote at least 40 hours per week to their sport.

– More flexible transfer rules.

“if future circumstances warrant revision.” ?  Translation:  if we keep getting our asses kicked in court, here’s a potential Plan B to fall back on eventually if we can’t get Congress to intervene.  A profile in courage it ain’t exactly.

As for the items themselves, there’s little to object to there – unless you’re a head coach, of course – but I think I like where John Infante goes with his list a little better (there is some overlap), because it’s more tailored to keeping the academic part of the student-athlete in the equation.

I suppose they deserve credit for even acknowledging there are conditions that require change.  But not much, at least until there’s real action.  Maybe Nick Saban can reassure them.

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