Category Archives: The NCAA

Friday morning buffet

Grab a plate and get in line.


Filed under Georgia Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, Pac-12 Football, Recruiting, SEC Football, See You In Court, Stats Geek!, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

“That’s just the way it is.”

Lemme see if I’ve got this straight.  The outgoing SEC commissioner, a man who was routinely called one of the most powerful people in organized sports during his tenure because the organization he directed was obscenely profitable and successful in relation to its collegiate conference peers, shares a sad with his conference coaches and ADs that the future of collegiate sports management is no longer about maintaining a level playing field.

Seriously?  Seriously.

“For all these years, when the NCAA passed legislation the premise was a level playing field,” he explained. “Which, in effect, means it’s for the institutions. So, when we put together the vision for the 21st century, we made the incoming student-athletes in the next century the primary focus. We moved from a level playing field to student athletes.

“By definition, when you do that you end up with issues that aren’t as comfortable if you’re grounded in and had experience in the level playing field.”

To which I say:  get the fuck outta here.

What, pray tell, was the NCAA keeping level all those years?  Not financial strength between the D-1 conferences, unless I’ve missed a bunch of stories about multi-million dollar waterfalls gracing the presence of locker rooms in the MAC and Sun Belt. How did I not hear about all those seven-figure assistant coaches’ salaries in the Mountain West?  And those postseason checks that were dished out seemed to be anything but level when it came to the number of zeros in them.

Nor competitive strength, either, as anyone who’s watched a cupcake game or two in his or her time can testify.

How a man who was a prime mover and shaker in the power conferences wresting autonomy away from the rest of the NCAA body can get all misty about level playing fields is beyond me.

And now that it looks like the hand of the schools and the NCAA is being forced to share a little of the pot of gold with the student-athletes who help put dinner on the table, so to speak… now Slive wants to tell everyone the reason that playing field can’t ever be level again is because of those very same student-athletes who still can’t have representation in arranging the terms of where they go to school and play?

Man, that’s pretty nervy, Mike.  Maybe you can take that pity party with you when the schools lobby Congress to try to get an antitrust exemption.  I’m sure Orrin Hatch would love to hear you talk about leveling the playing field again.

The truly sad thing is that I don’t doubt Slive really believes that garbage.


Filed under SEC Football, The NCAA

“This is a watershed moment in college athletics.”

I linked to an Andy Staples piece last weekend in which he speculated that the conferences are looking at a choice between settling the antitrust litigation for 10-15 cents on the dollar, or fighting to the death and looking at a split with student-athletes more along the lines of 50-50.  Facing those choices, most rational people would make the effort to settle, but, hey, this is the NCAA we’re talking about.

The funny thing is, it sounds like there may be a few cracks in the glass starting to show.  Take, for example, what Ohio State AD Gene Smith has to say about O’Bannon:

“I don’t struggle with (covering) the cost of attendance because it’s in our financial model,” Smith said. “What we had (in the NCAA) was antiquated. But we could be getting to the O’Bannon thing, which is really pay-for-play. That’s going to be real interesting.”

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in August 2014 that the NCAA’s restriction of compensation to college athletes for use of their name, images and likeness is in violation of the nation’s antitrust laws.

The federal judge’s injunction allows schools to offer deferred payments to Football Bowl Subdivision players and Division I men’s basketball players for use of their name, image and likeness beginning in the 2016-17 academic year.

Wilken ruled that the NCAA is allowed to cap those payments at no less than $5,000 per year, but the Aug. 1 start date could be delayed if the NCAA wins its ongoing appeal before a three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“With the O’Bannon case, there isn’t much you can do,” Smith said. “You just got to sit and wait and see what (the appeals ruling) is and what the clarifications are. There are a lot of questions around that.

“You can ask questions all you want, but at the end of the day, you have to have finality in order to have clarity. And we’re not there yet. Even with the ruling, whatever it ends up finally being, you still have a million questions even if you just go down the Title IX route.”

Smith isn’t high enough in the food chain to make that call, but you have the sense he knows what’s coming down the turnpike soon and would prefer to get on with making plans to deal with that.  That’s about all an AD at a P5 school can say right now.

However, Harris Pastides is a horse of an entirely different color.

NCAA Division I board of directors chairman Harris Pastides said he is not inclined to have the NCAA try to get the US Supreme Court to hear the Ed O’Bannon case if the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals rules unfavorably against the association.

Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, said that an NCAA committee is currently working on creating new NCAA bylaws allowing football and men’s basketball players to be paid if the O’Bannon injunction goes into effect. Depending on the outcome of the NCAA’s appeal, schools could begin offering players deferred payments for use of their names, images and likenesses (NILs) beginning Aug. 1. The payments would go into effect in the 2016-17 academic year.

Pastides said he thinks the NCAA made a good case in its appeal and described the O’Bannon decision as a “hybrid ruling” that at least would allow the NCAA to limit how much money could flow to athletes. The NCAA could cap the amount of money for NILs at no less than $5,000 per year.

“My hope would be that we’d get beyond this,” Pastides said in an interview with from the SEC spring meetings. “You ask me if I’d like to see it appealed to the Supreme Court. I’m one member of the board. I’m eager to see us turn the page on that and start working within whatever framework we have to start working in.”

You wonder how many of Pastides’ peers are also ready to turn the page.  It’s hard to believe he’s expressing himself in a vacuum.

Besides making peace at least on one front, there’s an added benefit from structuring NLI payments.  Conferences could use them, as long as they meet Judge Wilken’s minimum requirement, to level out uneven COA stipends. Wilken did include cost of attendance in the O’Bannon injunction in addition to the allowance of money for NILs. So is it your understanding that it would be $5,000 plus cost of attendance, or it would be a combination?

Pastides: I thought it would be a combination. I really do. That’s why I think (the dollar amount is) not that far away. … I think her decision would be just a bump up to five grand. But there are details that would have to be figured out. In fairness to us, if it goes through unobstructed by appeal, there would be some clarification. The NCAA would immediately have questions back: What did you mean by that? How does that get adjudicated? Literally, if we wanted to implement that ruling, it’s not clear. Just like the questions you had for me.”

Pastides may not have the court order exactly right, but you can tell where he’s going with his thinking.  And this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, either. Some members of Congress want to create a presidential commission to examine issues in college sports. Do you think that is going to happen and what do you believe Congress’ role should be in college sports?

Pastides: I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think there will be a constant din. There will probably be a minority of people wanting this anytime there is a flagrant problem [in college sports], because there will be these problems, I’m sure, every year. Congress’ role ought to be inquiring, to be interested, to be observant, but not to be managing or legislating because I think we’ve done very well all these years.”

At least they’re starting to get a clue about what things to be concerned with.  On the other hand, you’ve got to laugh at this:

Pastides: I know, but I would say 90 percent or more of NCAA members — even the 65 universities in the five autonomy conferences — are not going to find it easy to find the extra money because you can’t divert it from the coaches. The only thing you really can do is either in the best case defer projects that are of value to the university and the players themselves, or increase tuition or take state appropriations away in order to pay the athletes more. There’s not a huge treasury that allows us to do that. We’re fortunate with the [SEC] Network we have some new income. That’s where we’re going to get the money.

They’re stuck with the coaches’ salaries, salaries that have been set in a market distorted by free labor costs.  Poor babies.

Bottom line:  college football’s landscape a year from now may look very, very different from how it appears today.


Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

“The N.C.A.A. did not respond to requests for a statement about Mr. Byers.”

If you want to read something fascinating today, read the New York Times’ obituary of former NCAA head Walter Byers.

The inventor of the term “student-athlete” came to see collegiate athletics in a different light.

For much of his tenure, Mr. Byers was an ardent advocate of the student-athlete concept and of the necessity to maintain the strict amateur status of college athletes; he consistently came to the defense of the N.C.A.A. enforcement division, whose pursuit of athletes committing minor offenses against arcane N.C.A.A. regulations often drew criticism. But as his tenure grew closer to its end, he viewed the college sports landscape with increasing cynicism, recognizing, he said, that the high stakes of the sports business had led to rampant corruption, made the notion of amateurism quaint and outdated and the N.C.A.A.’s insistence on maintaining it hypocritical.

In 1984 he told The A.P. that he believed that 30 percent of big-time college athletic programs were cheating and that he despaired of bringing the problem under control. He suggested the creation of an “open division” within the N.C.A.A., within which colleges could opt to operate their sports teams as semiprofessional programs.

“I don’t think the fabric of higher education as we believe in it and would like to see it function in this country can stand the strain of big-time intercollegiate athletics and maintain its integrity,” he said in a subsequent interview with Sports Illustrated, adding: “I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that there has to be a major rearrangement on the part of the institutions of higher learning as to what they want to do with their athletic programs. I think there’s an inherent conflict that has to be resolved. I’m not prepared to go into how an open division would work. But we’re in a situation where we, the colleges, say it’s improper for athletes to get, for example, a new car. Well, is that morally wrong? Or is it wrong because we say it’s wrong?”

Shit, no wonder the NCAA doesn’t want to talk about him now.


Filed under The NCAA

Today, in amateurism

Shorter Joe Alleva:  It’s totally okay to exploit a high school kid with a marketing campaign to sell basketball tickets because he’s thrilled about it.


Filed under The NCAA

Today, in things the NCAA does that make you go hmmm…

If, as the organization claims, the NCAA’s enforcement model “creates no legal duty to prevent NCAA members from violating NCAA rules”, then what’s this all about?  I mean, why even bother with it?


Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA

Herschel Walker and antitrust law

I remember what a kick in the nuts it was to hear the news that Herschel was leaving for the USFL, but for some reason, I didn’t remember this particular development afterwards:

In 1983, I testified before Congress, along with former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and several prominent college football coaches to oppose a bill called “The Collegiate Student-Athlete Protection Act of 1983,” which was designed to encourage college student-athletes to complete their undergraduate education before becoming professional. The hearing was prompted by the signing of Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker to a multi-million dollar contract by the USFL’s New Jersey Generals prior to completion of Walker’s college eligibility at Georgia. The bill was introduced to preclude the professionals from raiding the colleges of their most talented football players before they graduated. At the time, there was enormous fear of the potential upheaval that student-athletes abandoning college for the riches of professional football before completing their college football eligibility would cause within the business of college sports: a poaching of talent would make collegiate teams far less marketable.

The hearing sought to answer under what conditions could Walker, or any other student athlete, lose his amateur status and become professional. Senator Arlen Specter probed then-NCAA president John Toner, Joe Paterno and Bo Schembechler on how a young athlete could make such a decision without counsel of an attorney/agent, particularly since attorney/agent counsel was prohibited under NCAA rules. They not only failed to answer the question directly, but he interplay between them also suggested that they had had many prior discussions regarding amateur and professional eligibility.

Senator Specter further pressed them on the existence of the perceived “gentlemen’s agreement” between the NFL and the NCAA not to sign contracts with undergraduates until after the expiration of the athlete’s college eligibility. Such an agreement, if it existed, would be a violation of antitrust law. Amidst laughter in this public hearing, they expressed their disappointment in the USFL’s signing, but would not admit to having a group agreement. USFL commissioner Chet Simmons explained that the league only approved the signing for fear of an antitrust lawsuit filed by Walker’s lawyer and that the USFL was there in support of the bill since it would allow for a league rule to prevent such legal action. Rozelle testified that for the past 50 years, NFL rules honored the amateur athletes’ four years of college eligibility and would continue to do so in spite of a potential legal challenge. On the other side, NFL Players Association executive director Ed Garvey criticized the NFL for its disregard of the Haywood v. NBA decision in a similar case.

The author of the quoted piece was at one time the executive director of the NBA Players’ Association, so he’s certainly got some perspective on the matter.  His suggestion on how to deal with the NCAA’s current struggle defending its amateurism protocols, which you can read in some detail, is for the colleges to enter into a partnership with their student-athletes – as he summarizes it, “a revenue-sharing business model and recognize a Trade Association representing the college athletes’ interests as partners”.  Yes, if you think that makes too much sense for the NCAA membership to embrace without a struggle, you’re not wrong.

If that’s Plan B, at best, it’s not hard to guess what Plan A is shaping up to look like.

As pressure from litigation and possible congressional intervention mounts, the idea of handing some control of college sports to the federal government in return for protection from antitrust law becomes more of a possibility.

“It’s not my preferred path,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. “I think it is increasingly an inevitable path.”

Swarbrick was part of a panel of legal and college sports experts who tackled the prospect of an antitrust exemption for the NCAA early this week at a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in Washington.

The NCAA has no official position on whether to pursue an antitrust exemption.

“It’s certainly the case that some people in the membership raise this as a question: Is this an avenue that needs to be pursued for college sports?” NCAA chief legal counsel Donald Remy said.

“Some people” – Donald’s not saying who, exactly, but he wants you to know they’re out there.  Like we didn’t already know that, dude.

The problem for Donald’s folks is that antitrust law isn’t about academics, which is the noble cover in which they’re going to try to cloak themselves.  It’s about economics, which is what we all know this move is really about.

“The problem with it is it implies equivalence between education and athletics. That equivalence should not exists,” Katz said.

Katz does not believe antitrust exemption is a realistic solution for college sports as is.

“The idea of going to congress and trying to get an antitrust exemption for what is a huge commercial enterprise I think is a fool’s errand,” he said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has characterized the NCAA as a cartel. Cartels don’t get antitrust exemptions. Educational institutions do.”

Not that their tune has changed much since Herschel left Athens.

The NCAA, its coaches, the NFL and the USFL were there seeking antitrust protection because a new league had broken with tradition and an unspoken honor code, but mainly it highlighted the difference in the intent of the senators and their desire for the student-athlete to get an education while the NFL, NCAA and USFL focused entirely on the question of eligibility. Thankfully the bill failed, but the power of the NCAA and its political lobby was clear, as was the collaboration, which looks more like collusion, between the NCAA and the professional leagues.

Cartels don’t change their spots.  Although sometimes they do look for legal protection.


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