Category Archives: Political Wankery

Are we expecting the NCAA’s working group to really work?

If this is the best card Mark Emmert has to play with California, he’s got a weak hand.

The NCAA is ratcheting up its opposition to a California bill that would allow college athletes in the state to earn compensation for the use of their own name, image or likeness, beginning in 2023.

In a letter to the chairs of two State Assembly committees last week, NCAA President Mark Emmert implied that if the bill becomes law as it is written, California schools could face the prospect of being prohibited from participating in NCAA championships. That includes 23 NCAA Division I schools, four of which are in the Pac-12 Conference.

I say that because the NCAA faces a much bigger threat than the California bill in Mark Walker’s proposed congressional legislation.  I don’t think Emmert can threaten the entire country with being prohibited.

“We recognize all of the efforts that have been undertaken to develop this bill in the context of complex issues related to the current collegiate model that have been the subject of litigation and much national debate,” Emmert wrote in his letter to the committee chairs. “Nonetheless, when contrasted with current NCAA rules, as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships. As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist.”

As I like to say, “likely” is doing a lot of work there.

I suspect this is posturing more than anything else right now.  After all, the bill, if passed, doesn’t go into effect for another four years.  The California legislature couldn’t make its intentions any more clear than this:

Late last week, wording was added that says “it is the intent of the Legislature to monitor” the NCAA working group and “revisit this issue to implement significant findings and recommendations of the NCAA working group in furtherance of the statutory changes proposed by this act.”

In other words, “Mark, get your organization’s collective head out of its ass and figure out something that’s more fair than the current ban.”  This being the NCAA we’re talking about, though, it’s probably a 50/50 proposition that it sues to void the law first.

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Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

Know what a DSO is?

I bet Greg McGarity does.

The days of big-time college sports being “amateur” are long gone. The NCAA generates more than $1 billion a year in revenue. Athletic conferences and member schools negotiate multi-year, billion-dollar TV deals as well as lucrative merchandise, apparel and live streaming contracts. Some college coaches earn millions of dollars a year and take home more in pay than their universities’ highest-ranking officers. Meanwhile, the legal efforts of college athletes to be compensated for their labor and for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses continue without resolution. Yet the “professional” elements of their collegiate experience are undeniable: college athletes at major programs play and train in stadiums, arenas and other facilities that rival those of the major leagues.

By many measures, then, college sports are professional sports.

Still, should athletic departments of public universities be privatized from the rest of their schools? Is that a step too far from the romanticized ideal that collegiate athletics and academics ought to be inseparable?

In some ways this is already occurring in Florida. As detailed by Iliana Limón Romero in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida State University’s athletic department intends to become a so-called “direct support organization” (DSO) under Florida law.

By doing so, FSU would better coordinate its athletic department activities with Seminole Boosters Inc., which is also a DSO. The boosters’ entity raises money from the private sector and then uses those proceeds to fund intercollegiate athletics, specifically athletic scholarships. The Seminoles athletic department—which will be renamed the Florida State University Athletics Association—would join the University of Florida Gators and the University of Central Florida Knights athletic departments as DSO athletic departments. Final approval for FSU’s initiative is expected by the fall.

Hmmm.  So what does that get you?

Although they operate for the betterment of their universities, DSOs are partly autonomous from those universities and to some degree function as separate entities. They are not like the university’s English Department or its School of Law or any another academic department school governed by detailed academic procedures and university policies—DSOs are their own corporations, with their own rules. DSO employees work for them, not the associated university. DSOs can thus rely on different systems for payroll and benefits that are used for university employees.

DSOs’ mission statements heed to industry issues and practical applications. They are less engaged in the types of theoretical studies and scholarly pursuits often found at universities and are more about real-world engagements. Further, DSOs can take advantage of public/private partnerships and similar entrepreneurial collaborations that are sometimes difficult to pursue in a public university setting….

DSOs are also beneficiaries of Chapter 768.28 of the Florida Statutes. It is the state law for sovereign immunity. As a general concept, sovereign immunity protects public entities, including state schools, from having to defend against lawsuits. There are a variety of exceptions and limitations to sovereign immunity, but overall it diminishes a public university’s exposure to litigation. This normally means lower legal fees and lower insurance rates for universities. It also means a lessened risk for pretrial discovery, which in the public university context involves the taking of sworn testimony from university officials and sharing of emails, texts and other evidence from those officials with the party that is suing.

All this needs is some timely General Assembly lobbying to make this happen.  I mean, when you’re a legislator trying to pass whatever it takes to bring Georgia that elusive national championship, you gotta do what you gotta do.  And surely we don’t want those Florida peckerwoods getting the jump on our fair state’s premier athletic department!

Now, to make sure Kirby has some free time next year…

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UPDATE:  Oops, I guess I should have looked.  It appears the Georgia Code already recognizes direct-support organizations.  Welp, get cracking… don’t want to lose this arms race, amirite?

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UPDATE #2:  More here.

The story was about Florida State creating a private nonprofit organization to oversee its athletic department, a move that will effectively shield athletic officials at one of Florida’s flagship public universities from having to comply with public records law. Once the transition is complete later this year, Florida State athletics officials — just like their colleagues at Florida and Central Florida, who made similar structural changes years ago — will no longer be required by law to turn over internal financial documents, emails, text messages and other records to inquiring journalists and citizens.

To Petersen and other advocates for government transparency, the announcement prompted concerns Florida State athletics officials are trying to avoid the public scrutiny and oversight that usually comes with working at a public university.

“It’s outrageous,” Petersen said. “It really doesn’t make much sense to me, except that they want to do everything secretly.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Florida State President John Thrasher said secrecy was not a motivation for the restructuring. Thrasher pledged that Florida State athletics officials will continue to fulfill records requests as if nothing has changed, even after state public records law no longer applies to them.

“The idea has never been to be not transparent. The athletic department’s going to be very transparent,” Thrasher said. “Nothing’s going to change in that regard as long as I’m here. I guarantee it.”

Oh, he guarantees it.  Well, that changes everything.

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Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

“This is a potentially profound outcome.”

I’m not convinced that, on its own, California’s Fair Pay to Play Act represents an existential threat to the NCAA.  Emmert and his cohorts have played the hardass card more times than I can count and contrary to McCann’s speculation, I can see them telling California schools and the Pac-12 it’s their problem to sort out, not the NCAA’s.

But that’s one state statute in isolation.  What has the potential to represent an existential threat is if several jurisdictions, including Congress, follow suit.  There are only so many places the NCAA can say talk to the hand before it becomes impossible to sustain.

That’s why the most important part of California’s impending legislation is that it doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2023.  Can the NCAA take a hint?

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Friday morning buffet

The chafing dishes have been refilled for your dining pleasure.

  • In case you didn’t hear, D’Wan Mathis underwent emergency surgery at Piedmont Hospital in Athens on Thursday to remove a cyst that was on his brain.
  • Meet George Pickens.  (You can bet Jake Fromm will this summer.)
  • 247Sports ranks the top twenty college football facilities in the country.  Georgia clocks in at number eleven, behind five other SEC programs and number one Clemson.
  • While we’re on the subject, Georgia is looking at dropping a cool $80 million on a new football facility, depending on ” … donor support and how it’s financed”.
  • Rankity, rank, ranking college football quarterbacks.
  • Holy crap — Texas A&M has hired Ole Miss’ Ross Bjork as its new AD.  I wonder if Hugh Freeze has a little more spring in his step this morning.  (Probably not, since Jimbo is safely ensconced there.)
  • “College athletes in California would be able to sign with agents and profit from endorsement deals under a bill that cleared the state Senate…”
  • On a related note, Mark Emmert’s net compensation for 2017 was about $2.9 million, a more than $450,000 increase over his pay for the previous year.  Further, the NCAA spent $56.6 million on outside legal fees.  Gosh, I wonder why.

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Filed under College Football, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, SEC Football, The NCAA

Talk, talk, talk.

Good for Andy Staples, who made the call to Rep. Mark Walker I was hoping somebody in the media would make in the wake of the news that the NCAA would being begin exploring allowing players to market their names, likenesses and images without ending their college eligibility.

Walker, as you might except expect, didn’t dismiss the development outright, but did express a cautious skepticism about the NCAA’s intentions.

“I want to make sure there’s more action than smoke,” Walker says. “There have been other meetings in the past. I’m going to be positive that hopefully there’s some motivation to really come out of this with a game plan.”

He’s a Congressman, after all.  He knows something about how bureaucracies work.

Walker knows all about bureaucratic tar pits. He works in one. “I thought Congress was good at beating issues into the ground,” Walker says. “But we may have to pay homage to the NCAA if they can’t get something done here.”

So, he will be watching.

Meanwhile, they’ll be watching on Capitol Hill. “We’re going to monitor what comes out of this,” Walker says. “If this is just another thing where we hear they’re just going to create another talking group for the next couple of years, we’re going to raise a stink about it.”

And what would keep them from raising that stink? “A plan of action, even if it’s not immediately implemented, to say ‘Over the next two to five years, this is the course of action steps we’re going to take to make sure these student-athletes have access to the free market like other students and like every other American,’” Walker says. “If there is a game plan to do something like that, then we’re going to applaud them and work with them to try to see that come to fruition. But if it’s more hyperbole, then I’m going to beat the drum even louder.”

There’s a fair amount of wiggle room there, but it’s not endless.  Is the NCAA willing to take the hint?  I’d say it’s even money, at best.

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“We believe the time is right for these discussions…”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the NCAA is starting to feel a little bit of heat.

The NCAA president and Board of Governors appointed a working group today to examine issues highlighted in recently proposed federal and state legislation related to student-athlete name, image and likeness.

Of course, there’s no more tried and true method of putting things off than forming a working group.  And in any event, this sounds like a tough barrier to surmount.

According to the board, the group will not consider any concepts that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports. The NCAA’s mission to provide opportunity for students to compete against other students prohibits any contemplation of pay-for-play.

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

As part of its efforts, the working group will study modifications of current rules, policies and practices. In particular, it will focus on solutions that tie any changes to education; maintain the clear demarcation between professional and college sports; and further align student-athletes with the general student body.

Not sure that’s gonna mollify many politicians, but then again, the word salad may be for the NCAA’s benefit if it’s forced to cave sometime down the line.  One thing you can tell from that language is that the NCAA is deathly afraid of ceding an inch on non-educational compensation in the NLI arena because it might be the precursor to letting the direct school pay to play camel into the tent.

By the way, note that Morehead’s included in the working group.  Todd Gurley just shook his head a little.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, The NCAA

Monday morning buffet

Knock yourselves out.

  • How does the transfer portal work?
  • ESPN’s Football Power Index projects Bama, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma as favorites in every game on their respective schedules.
  • Here’s a look at the politics behind the move to name the Sanford Stadium field in honor of Vince Dooley.  Let’s just say Don Leebern wound up on the wrong side of history.
  • USA Today’s Paul Myerberg saw the same thing I saw at G-Day:  “The Bulldogs’ series of practices revealed a team loaded with underclassmen talent set to contribute at many important spots — such as the secondary, for example, which coach Kirby Smart singled out for praise multiple times in April.”
  • Pete Fiutak’s take on this year’s Auburn team“This year, grade the Tigers on a curve.”
  • Dabo is “disappointed” his program was mentioned unfavorably in the federal corruption trial into college basketball.  No shit, Sherlock.
  • Today’s SEC returning player stat may surprise you a little.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Georgia Football, Political Wankery, Stats Geek!, Transfers Are For Coaches.