Category Archives: Look For The Union Label

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

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

“The N.C.A.A. system is messed up, and they’re doing something about it.”

After reading this and this, don’t you get the feeling that if Northwestern and the players could dump the whole unionization mess in the NCAA’s lap, they would do so in a heartbeat?

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

“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

Tuesday morning buffet

Go get a plate and dig in.

  • Keith Marshall makes a funny about Bubba Watson.
  • It’s springtime, and you know what that means:  this year, the Florida offense is going to be good.
  • The SEC’s appeal of the NCAA’s interpretation of the rule permitting recruits to sign early multiple financial aid offers is being heard today.
  • A student task force at the University of Michigan found that Brady Hoke likely lied about a player who was alleged to have been involved in a sexual assault?  Whoa.  We’ll see if the rule about the coverup being a bigger problem than the original incident plays out in Ann Arbor.
  • Brice Ramsey, on his G-Day performance:  “I was picking up blitzes, making the right reads. I just need to put the ball on. I had a bad day throwing.”
  • ”In theory, it could give the private universities a recruiting advantage.”
  • John Pennington argues for a rule that would prevent SEC teams from signing kids who had been kicked out of other SEC programs for violations.  One rationale for that: “The fact that a booted player could come back to haunt a coach down the road might lead some to hang onto players a bit longer even if they’ve proven to be bad news.”  That’s never been a concern at Georgia, obviously.
  • And Seth Emerson says the NCAA can’t find a middle ground.  Wouldn’t it have to be looking for one first?

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label, Political Wankery, Recruiting, SEC Football, The NCAA

Northwestern doesn’t really care if you can play football, young man.

All you need to know about Northwestern’s 55-page opus appealing the NLRB ruling is this one sentence on page twelve:

Contrary to the Regional Director’s findings, Northwestern scholarship football student-athletes are not “initially sought out, recruited and ultimately granted scholarships because of their athletic prowess on the football field.”

Hey, color me convinced.

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Filed under Blowing Smoke, Look For The Union Label

The NBA’s “three-way conversation”

How badly does professional basketball want to keep early entries out?  Badly enough to consider bribing subsidizing student-athlete compensation.

I do believe people are starting to freak out a little over unionization and the NCAA’s perceived incompetence.  Maybe that was Emmert’s plan all along.  Crazy like a fox!

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

Talk is cheap, chapter two

Larry Scott wants you to know he’s not a bad fellow.  Or at least he doesn’t think he’s a bad fellow.

… And let me be clear — I am not defending the status quo. The Pac-12 Conference, of which I have been commissioner since 2009, along with other conferences around the country, have been pressing for NCAA reform that would reflect the evolving needs of student-athletes, allowing for increased academic support, improved student-athlete health care, and enhanced athletic scholarships up to the full cost of attendance. I am confident reform is coming within the NCAA in the next few months, and soon universities will be allowed to provide this additional support for student-athletes.

Keep pressing, Larry.  Soon will come any day now.  Patience, student-athletes.  These things take time.  After all, who could have seen the evolving need for improved student-athlete health care coming?  Well, other than Walter Byers and every other suit who’s followed his example since… which, now that I think about it, would include you, Larry.

You really want to do something about that union threat?  John Infante suggests it wouldn’t be that hard.

The response to the NLRB decision from Scott and other leaders in college athletics has been that reform is necessary, inevitable, and on the horizon, but unions are the wrong way to go about it. All student-athletes have to do is wait, just a few of months according to Scott.

One problem: the leaders of collegiate athletics are running out of time. The NCAA and college athletics will not and maybe cannot fix themselves overnight or all at once. It will be a process of first not getting any worse, then getting better over time. But to have the time to do that, the NCAA and its members need to earn back a sliver of trust that they will follow through.

To do that, they should not wait months or weeks. Larry Scott could get the athletic directors and presidents of the Pac–12 on the phone tomorrow and have them vote to guarantee everything the union is asking for that is allowed under NCAA rules. The conference could make it a requirement that institutions provide these benefits and assurances. They could even agree to provide cost-of-attendance scholarships and outside income opportunities as soon as the NCAA allows them.

The most effective argument against unions is to demonstrate they are unnecessary by providing the protections and improvements a union would fight for without the fight. At the moment, institutions and conferences acting on their own can one-up the union by extending these guarantees to all athletes, including walk-ons and sports other than football.

You’re supposed to be a cutting edge guy, Larry.  Maybe it’s time to prove that in some other way than building a television network.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, Pac-12 Football