Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

Membership has its privileges.

With yesterday’s news of yet another antitrust suit filed against the NCAA, this seems like sage advice.

But events — lawsuits, the Northwestern case — are moving faster than the NCAA membership is. “If we don’t find a way to funnel more benefits to student-athletes,” Pacific athletic director Ted Leland said last week, “then people on the outside are going to do it for us.”

But Mark Emmert’s never been much of a listener, I’m afraid.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

An outbreak of common sense?

I’m shocked – not in the Captain Renault sense, either – that the NBA is considering a tradeoff like this:

In the dispute over what should be done about age limits for players coming out of college basketball and entering the draft, expect the NBA’s D-League to become a major battlefield.

According to multiple sources, a proposed plan that is circulating now would see the age limit extended from its current position — one year after high school graduation — to three years, essentially barring most players from entering the NBA until they are 20 or 21…

The sources said that, in order to pave the way for raising the age limit, the league would be willing to expand salaries in the D-League, giving each team a salary cap and allowing executives with each team to sign players as they wish. Not only would that allow D-League teams to sign good young players, it would allow NBA clubs to size up young executives and player evaluators…

The idea behind the potential change is that, while the NBA wants to keep out players who are viewed as too young, it does not want to deny them the chance to make a living…

Logical and fair.  Which probably means it has zippo chance of becoming reality.  But, damn, if I were the NCAA, I’d be getting behind this proposal quick and hard.  It’s a golden opportunity to drain some of the hypocrisy out of the amateurism swamp.

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UPDATE:  Not so fast, says John Infante.

There’s two ways to look at college athletics: as private enterprise or a government program. Either way, changes to professional draft rules do very little to help the NCAA justify its position. As private enterprise, it still needs to establish why antitrust law should not apply, especially to an activity easily categorized as price fixing, not to mention the moral arguments raised both for and against amateurism. As a government program, college athletics should continue held to the even higher standard of fulfilling an important function and doing so in a fair way to the maximum number of people. The NBA offering a different route to even hundreds of players does little to help the NCAA in either case.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Eh, what’s in a name?

I appreciate that the Chick-fil-A Bowl is bringing “Peach” back to the name, but c’mon, guys, this?

“It got down to what is our history, what is our heritage, what is our tradition and how can we pay homage to that in our name,” Stokan said.

“We undertook research to find out what is the best name and how it fits with the bowl. That’s how we got back to Peach. We felt it was important to the fans, to the staff and to the volunteers who have committed to the bowl through the years. So we paid homage to the history and the tradition of the bowl.”

Seriously, if you had to spend more than, oh, ten seconds on that research, you were wasting your time.  It’s the only other name the game has ever had.

The real reason for the move wasn’t homage paying.  It was, as happens in so many ways these days, more corporate and commercial in nature.

The change back to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl stems from last April’s decision by College Football Playoff organizers to make the Atlanta bowl one of six rotating sites of national semifinal games.

The playoff organizers stipulated that the Atlanta bowl’s name would have to become more in sync with the other five in the semifinal rotation, all of which include a traditional moniker as well as a corporate sponsor: Allstate Sugar Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio.

Thanks, though.  Can’t wait for the peach milkshake, presented by Chick-fil-A.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

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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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“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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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“We didn’t get to this problem overnight.”

I know my focus on the threats facing the NCAA’s amateurism standard is a sore spot with some of you.  I do it because, like it or not, those threats have the potential to change college football as much as, say, conference realignment has.  Both are driven by the same engine of commercialism that is engulfing college athletics.

Don’t take my word for that.  Take it from the former commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.

Beebe agreed.

He said realignment increased students’ desires to get their share of the money generated by football and men’s basketball. He noted programs like women’s volleyball and softball in the Big 12 now fly to games and stay in first-class hotels with the bills paid by the revenue generated from football and men’s basketball.

In a capitalistic world, kids aren’t any less motivated by financial considerations than adults are.  And that’s not simply meant in the purest sense of “I want some of what you’re getting”.  It’s also meant in the sense that it becomes harder and harder to swallow amateurism as a defense to practical demands for changes.

That’s why the NCAA suddenly announced it’s getting the hell out of the food service business.  That may sound like a minor tactical retreat, but this is the NCAA we’re talking about, the same organization that until recently prohibited schools from letting players schmear a little cream cheese on their bagels.  No retreats are minor.

That’s why Mike Slive is bleating.

“We also have to accept the fact that college sports are evolving,” Slive said. “We are in an evolutionary mode.”

Translation:  the players are winning.

The thing Conley needs to realize is that the players got what they wanted and Napier got the attention he did for the same reason – the heat that’s coming down on the NCAA and the schools from the NLRB ruling and the antitrust suits.  The public may not be thrilled with a college players’ union or Johnny Football getting paid, but it’s not so blind to miss some of the obvious indefensible positions being taken in the name of amateurism.  And that’s having an effect.  Tell me where you would have heard talk like this from college administrators ten years ago:

Barnhart pointed to the Olympic model.

He said the organization changed from purely amateur athletes to today’s system where many, but not all, Olympians earn money without turning off fans.

The thing is, we’re in the low-hanging fruit part of the contest.  There are plenty of easy decisions to make about things other than how a school can feed its student-athletes.  That the NCAA membership is struggling even with those isn’t a good sign.  Change is coming and if the suits don’t come up with a satisfactory course of action soon, a quote like this a couple of years from now is going to sound much more dire:

“We’d be in a better place,” Beebe said, “and if it happened a couple years ago it could’ve held off some of these outside pressures.”

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

One man’s potential for corruption is another man’s hypocrisy.

Those of you who are firmly convinced that student-athletes who take part in revenue generating sports at major universities are fairly compensated for their efforts with a scholarship, tell me something.  If the NCAA’s amateurism protocols expired today, do you think those kids would receive greater compensation tomorrow in a free market setting?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

One and done

In response to Stacey Osburn’s tender question – But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? – has she noticed how much money Jordan Spieth’s made since he left Texas in the middle of his second year there to turn pro?  Too bad college football players don’t have the same choice available to them.

The NCAA’s problem isn’t that it’s a choice of love or money for the kids.  It’s that the NFL has a staggering love for money.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Stacey Osburn’s talking points are cheap.

If you’ve been disappointed by the NCAA’s consistent unwillingness to recognize the reality behind the recent NLRB ruling and the many antitrust complaints it’s in the process of defending, this isn’t likely to improve your spirits.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said it’s the association’s responsibility to “provide accurate and timely information on matters impacting college sports. Our members requested facts and data on pay-for-play because there was so much misinformation in the media, based in part on public statements from those who are advancing the union movement and those who have brought suit against the NCAA.”

So what kind of spin… oops, “facts and data” does Stacey have for us?

Well, there’s repetition of the irrelevant:

“We know we have work to do. But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? That’s not the message I want to send.”

“Do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? That’s not the message I want to send.”

I thought one of the main reasons you went to college was to enhance your earnings ability.  I wasn’t aware there was supposed to be a restriction on when you were allowed to start reaping the rewards of that enhancing – at least there isn’t for anyone in college who isn’t subject to the NCAA.

There’s love or money and nothing in between.

“The overwhelming majority of student-athletes play college sports as part of their educational experience and because they love their sport, not to be paid a salary.”

If only Stacey’s bosses, conference commissioners and coaches felt the same way.

A little mea culpa -

“Student-athletes should not have to worry about their scholarships being pulled if they are injured or ill.”

I’m sure you’ll get right on that.

And of course, a supporting cast providing a steady dose of denial of reality.  Dabo Swinney says, “We’ve got enough entitlement in this country as it is”, but proceeds to advocate giving kids a stipend.  (And since when is doing more to prevent concussion problems an entitlement?)  Mike Slive doesn’t appreciate anyone threatening to screw with the revenue stream he’s spent so much effort on generating.  Baylor’s athletic director – his school is private, by the way – commands the tide to roll back:  “In my view, student-athletes are not employees. They attend a university to earn a degree and participate in the sport they love.”  Larry Scott and Jim Delany believe in ongoing dialogue with student-athletes, not unionization, because meaningful dialogue with parties who have less power has always been a hallmark of Jim Delany’s management style.

I could go on, but, jeez, this is depressing.  There’s a historical precedent to what college athletics is facing in what MLB went through when Marvin Miller engineered the rise of the players’ union, and, along with a little help from Andy Messersmith’s agent, the end of the reserve clause, and it seems like the NCAA and the commissioners couldn’t care less about learning any lessons from that.  I can’t help but continue to feel that Emmert, Slive, Delany and all their cohorts think they’re a lot shrewder business people than they are.  And certainly the presidents and chancellors they work for aren’t nearly as shrewd as the lawyers who are fighting over the right to pick their bones.

This isn’t going to end well for some folks.  But, talking points!  Hey, that worked well for Baghdad Bob, right?

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Filed under Blowing Smoke, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

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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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness