Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

These kids think they’ve got it so hard.

You gotta love this:

  • Mike Gundy reminisces fondly about his offseasons as a college football player – There were still offseason workouts, but mostly ‘we hung out at the pool.’”
  • He then professes sympathy for what he asks out of his players today - “We didn’t have near the time commitment these guys have. They put in tremendous work,” Gundy said. “It’s a choice they make. They go out on their own in the summer, they put their time in. I think it’s a great teaching tool for them in life. You’re’ only going to get out what you put into something, and these guys learn about discipline, structure and accountability.”
  • And wraps it all up with the belief that college football will demand from them an even greater time commitment in the future - “I think the stock market in college football is going through the roof,” he said. “Four teams is going to draw more interest, and eventually it will go to eight because of the benefits and revenue that comes from the market for college football.”

They’d probably rather learn about how Gundy was able to parlay hanging out at the pool over the summer into a $30 million dollar contract.  Now there’s a life lesson.

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

Tuesday morning buffet

Eat; you look hungry.

  • StingTalk is always good for a chuckle“We should be getting great press about how there were over 2000 people huddled under the eaves for an off season scrimmage in the middle of a 45 degree torrential downpour, which was the actual truth. That’s a positive trajectory for Tech sports.”  Bless your heart.
  • It occurs to me that it won’t be that hard to figure out the fair market value for college football players’ memorabilia, if it ever comes to that.
  • And here’s a handy guideline to all the major stuff currently on the NCAA’s plate.  Yeah, Mark Emmert can handle that.
  • This is actually a pretty good idea.
  • Mike Slive says nobody’s talked to him about lowering the mandatory number of varsity sports required to be a Division I program.  (Jim Delany punches his speed dial after reading that.)
  • Atlanta wants to host college football’s national championship game in 2018.
  • Good stuff from Jeremy Fowler – anybody tells you they know what the consequences of unionization will turn out to be is making it up right now.
  • Michael Elkon wonders how the mix of special admissions for college athletes, increased athletic demands on those same kids and the “scholarship ought to be compensation enough” concept can be sustained.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Georgia Tech Football, It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

Watching the river flow

At Northwestern, they’re frantically trying to convince the players to put the unionization genie back in the bottle.  The student-athletes and their families have questions, and, hey, the school has answers.  Commence freaking out over a threat nobody’s voiced:

The “Background” section covers the school’s protocol if players strike: “Northwestern could potentially bring in replacement players, perhaps even asking the walk-on football players to cross the picket line,” and the tension from such a situation would be “unprecedented and not in everyone’s best interest,” the school states.

Boy, I’ll say.

Wonder why nobody asked the question how come schools and the NCAA didn’t take student-athlete complaints and concerns seriously until the lawsuits and the NLRB ruling started piling up.  Because it sure seems like those threats are getting somebody’s attention.  I mean, this is one helluvan analogy South Carolina’s president makes (h/t The Crystal Ball Run).

Shoring up the levee prior to Hurricane Katrina could have prevented the massive flooding that devastated New Orleans.

Determined not to make mistakes similar to those made in Louisiana, the NCAA more than three years ago began down a path toward transformation. Now, even amid rising waters, we are nearing the end of extensive work to shore up our governance structure, and soon we will provide better support for student-athletes.

On Friday, the Northwestern University football team will vote on unionizing. Regardless of the outcome of this vote and its potential ramifications, the NCAA must act now.

Admittedly, the wheels of progress have turned too slowly.

So the NCAA is voting on its new governance structure the day before the Northwestern unionization vote.  That’s some fortuitous timing there, Brother Pastides.

If the NCAA vote passes and the Northwestern vote fails, my guess is that after you hear its enormous sigh of relief, the NCAA will blather about saving the game and will return to resting on its laurels.  The short-term problem with that, of course, is that the antitrust suits are still out there and aren’t going away.

The long-term problem is that the foundational tension between amateurism and the enormous sums of money flowing into college sports isn’t going away, either.

The change has happened in part because of changing attitudes about amateurism and in part because of ­continued missteps by the NCAA. But it has mostly been about the money. And for all the money flying around college basketball, it’s college football that is raking in the craziest amounts: ESPN is paying reportedly $5.64 ­billion over 12 years for the upcoming College Football Playoff—six games each season. It is one thing to say that a $50,000 scholarship package is sufficient compensation for players when teams play 11 games a year on local television; it is quite another when the TV contracts are exceeding those of professional sports. The money has turned an abstract argument into a moral one.

The problem is that every fix seems to fundamentally alter things: You just can’t mend college sports without breaking them. At least, we haven’t figured out a way yet, as the recent challenges to the status quo show.

The biggest problem is that the NCAA hasn’t even tried to figure out a way yet.  Admittedly, I’m not sure if it’s capable of finding a solution – although I’m pretty confident current leadership can’t – but waiting for the court cases to go badly before making the attempt strikes me as a profoundly stupid way of managing the situation.

And all we can do is watch.

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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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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.

**************************************************************************

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