Category Archives: The NCAA

“Welcome to the Historical Basketball League”

This appears to be an interesting experiment brewing.

Welcome to the Historical Basketball League, the first national basketball league for college students that will substantially compensate college athletes based on their athletic ability. The HBL is founded on a simple idea: college sports are popular because they are sports played by college students, and that NCAA-style amateurism is a means of excluding athletes from the financial benefits of the league, rather than as a benefit to fans or athletes. The HBL will be also be a financial boon to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that will comprise the schools in the league. The HBL hopes to give schools and athletes an option outside of the traditional NCAA model.

There’s a lengthy FAQ section at the website that addresses a ton of issues we’ve raised in the comments here about student-athlete compensation.  The organizers have also just issued a statement about the FBI investigation of college basketball and Title IX that’s worth a read.

I have no idea whether this works out, of course.  Running it through the cash-strapped HCBUs is a sharp idea, but there are a lot of boxes that have to be checked before it’s a viable option — after all, agreeing to pay players is one thing; actually having the financial wherewithal to pay them is entirely another.

Regardless, it’s still an interesting experiment, if only to provide an environment that may answer a bunch of questions that are raised regularly about compensation.  Keep an eye on this.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Talk about compensation, a brief history

It’s been around almost as long as college athletics have, which isn’t surprising when you think about it.

The idea of paying college athletes is really old. In 1905, Harper’s Magazine published an editorial (subsequently reprinted in newspapers nationwide) addressing the “Pay of College Athletes.” Harper’s saw the issue as one of visible inequity.  The popularity — and profitability — of college athletics made the problem of “how to make athletes work for nothing” — or to put it another way, “how to keep the athletes from drawing salaries” — increasingly difficult for university administrators to manage. Harper’s concluded that unless a more transparent and fair compensation system arose, college athletes would continue to be paid “surreptitious wages.”

In 1915, the University of Chicago Daily Maroon upended the college football community by pushing the matter further. Given that the editor of the college newspaper and the tuba player in the marching band received compensation from the university, the Maroon argued, why not the college athletes? “They work hard for the university organization known as the football team, which is a money making enterprise, the receipts from football being something like $20,000 [roughly $478,000 today] more than expenditures for the sport. Why not give the players a share of the profits accruing from their hard and faithful labors?”

The University of Chicago was only one year removed from a national championship in football; its voice on the subject mattered.

In 1929, Major W.H. McKellar of the University of the South (Sewanee) proposed that his school’s conference — the Southern Conference — embrace open, above-board payments to college athletes. Actually, the Major preferred universities doing away with charging admission to college football games. But recognizing that this was crazy talk, McKellar argued that “his proposal to openly pay college athletes in the Southern conference” was the only reasonable way forward.

Even the nation’s most beloved humorist at the time — Will Rogers — provided flyby support for the pay-for-play model. He was the John Oliver of his day, just pithier. “There is only one fair way to ever arrange amateur athletics in any line in the country,” Rogers declared, “and that’s let the athletes work on commission of what they draw at the gate then make them pay their own schooling expenses.”

Eh, better we send people to jail for compensating student-athletes than, you know, compensating student-athletes.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Friday morning buffet

If you’ve got an appetite, dig in.

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Filed under ACC Football, Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football, Political Wankery, Recruiting, SEC Football, The NCAA

Prohibition

I’m a little surprised nobody brought up the subject of what I was hinting at in the header of yesterday’s post about the announcement of federal prosecution of several basketball coaches.  No doubt it was easy to be distracted by the fact that, yet again, Auburn finds itself enmeshed in another recruiting scandal, but let’s not lose sight of the underlying cause of the (alleged) criminal activity.

It is from the NCAA’s system of amateurism that the criminal investigation became possible: law enforcement became aware various persons broke NCAA rules in ways that violated criminal law. If the NCAA had adopted a system where players were compensated for their labor and compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness, perhaps all or some of these “under the table” payments would not have occurred. We’ll never know. But some will ask.

Blow it off, if you like, but that is a typically real world result of market distortion.  If you want an uncomfortable analogy, it’s kind of like how they caught Al Capone.

The NCAA has a problem here, as well, that’s probably beginning to dawn on its member schools.  The problem is, unlike the usual investigation of such matters, it has no control over the proceedings.  Even worse, the federal investigation is far from toothless.  Unlike the NCAA, the feds have subpoena power and the threat of jail time to play in order to get cooperation.  That can turn over a lot of rocks that normally would stay in the shade.

Along those lines, the fact that such extensive corruption allegedly occurred raises questions as to whether the NCAA is even capable of stopping any of it. The NCAA, like any organization, has a limited bandwidth. Further, since it is a private actor, the NCAA lacks subpoena powers and other investigatory capabilities enjoyed by law enforcement.

The individual schools implicated in the prosecutions—including Auburn, Oklahoma State, Arizona, USC and Louisville—are also impacted by the trajectory of these cases. Employees of their schools are now accused of partaking in conduct that violates criminal law and NCAA rules. It stands to reason the NCAA could, and no doubt will, investigate the criminal cases and potentially impose sanctions on those schools.

The schools might also worry about civil liability associated with criminal acts committed by employees, as well as repercussions with their insurance companies. It stands to reason that a recruited player who loses his NCAA eligibility as a result of this criminal investigation could consider suing the recruiting school as well as others involved.

Adidas is also impacted. One of its well-known executives, Gatto, is now a defendant in a criminal case in which he is accused of peddling his position with the apparel company to advance a criminal enterprise. Even if other sneaker company executives partake in similar kinds of misconduct, Adidas is the one with an executive who faces charges. That dynamic could damage the brand and the confidence placed in it by company investors. Also, given that Adidas is a publicly traded company, allegations against an Adidas executive might attract the unwanted attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

All of these associated parties would likely be pleased if the defendants strike plea deals to end the cases as soon as possible. The NCAA, universities and Adidas all know the longer these cases drag out, the more likely compromising evidence will surface, whether that occurs through subpoenas, warrants or the pretrial discovery process. It’s possible many names, including of significant figures in college sports, will come to light and in unflattering ways. To that end, it seems quite possible head coaches and athletic department officials of implicated schools may have been aware of an assistant coach’s wrongdoing. Further, executives at the related universities and Adidas could all be called to testify in forums that damage their associated brands.

All this to preserve the amateurism protocol.  At some point, you have to wonder if Emmert’s bosses start to question if this a price worth paying to prevent student-athletes from being compensated for their names, likenesses and images. Down the road, we may look back on this indictment and recognize it as being as significant a turning point in the history of college athletics as NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma wound up being.

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Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

“How can you plan a roster or a team when every player is a free agent at the end of the season?”

If this is true…

There is much work to be done and any drastic changes to transfer rules across all NCAA sports are likely a few years away at least. But change is coming, and guiding principles already have been established by the university presidents who make up the NCAA board of directors.

One thing is clear: New transfer rules will be rooted in academics, according to a statement released last week by the Division I Council group working on the topic.

Students with better grades could face fewer restrictions if they want to transfer, and schools may end up with less control over where athletes go…  [Emphasis added.]

… expect the number of Alabama players taking calculus, advanced genetics and nuclear physics classes to increase exponentially.  If there’s one thing Nick Saban knows how to do, it’s work those envelope edges.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA

“They shouldn’t be paid to play football.”

“…I don’t think paying all college athletes is great, not every college is loaded and most 19-year-olds [are] gonna spend it–and let’s be honest, they’re gonna spend it on weed and kicks! And spare me the ‘they’re being extorted’ thing. Listen, 90% of these college guys are gonna spend it on tats, weed, kicks, x-boxes, beer and swag. They are, get over it! They’re not gonna budget it efficiently, they’re not going to invest it, they’re not gonna shop for the best interest rate for their moped. No they’re not, they’re 19 they just got a fresh Honda, there’s a cute girl in chemistry class, they’re gonna get some new kicks. That’s what they’re going to spend it on.”Colin Cowherd

I suspect a lot of Cowherd’s attitude permeates the thinking revealed by this Washington Post survey.  I’m sure some of you will jump on the racial breakdown of the data, but far more interesting to me is that a majority of respondents support players being paid for their names, likenesses and images, despite the tats and weed that might buy.

As far as Cowherd’s argument goes, Andy Schwarz offers a rebuttal.

“Whenever you get down to the core of it, they’ll say it just doesn’t feel right for these young people to have so much money when they’re so young. And I say, well, how do you feel about Emma Watson, Hermione Granger, having so much money?” Schwarz said. (Watson, the British actress, reportedly earned more than $20 million by the time she turned 18 from her turns in the “Harry Potter” films.)

Which brings us back to the uncomfortable consideration of why people have a specific problem with college athletes being paid.  Again, I’ll leave that for you to surmise.

One other thing I’ll leave for you to speculate about is a suggestion from Andrew Zimbalist about how to resolve the amateurism problem.

In his new book, “Unwinding Madness” — co-authored with Donna Lopiano, former director of women’s athletics at Texas, and Gerald Gurney, past president of the Drake Group, a think tank focused on ending academic corruption in college sports — Zimbalist argues for Congress to provide a limited exemption to college athletic departments from federal antitrust law. This exemption would allow schools to impose universal caps on coach pay and other athletic spending in exchange for the schools agreeing to a series of measures, such as balanced athletic department budgets and expanded postgraduate health care for athletes. Zimbalist’s proposal also would allow athletes to earn money through sponsorship agreements and the sale of merchandise.

“If they’re students and amateurs, then it doesn’t make sense, ethically, to pay the coaches millions and millions,” Zimbalist said. “This would tend to promote more competitive balance across the schools, which, presumably, is a good thing . . . and it would save tens of millions for schools in their budgets.”

“This exemption would allow schools to impose universal caps on coach pay and other athletic spending in exchange for the schools agreeing to a series of measures, such as balanced athletic department budgets and expanded postgraduate health care for athletes.”  Seriously, can anyone imagine a more DOA proposal?  A salary cap on coaches?  Balanced athletic department budgets?  That’ll go over smoothly.

Let’s face it:  Jim Delany’s not looking for fiscal sensibility or ethical sense.  He’s looking to maintain conditions that allow his conference to pay him a $20 million bonus.  Those of you who buy his BS are deluding yourselves.  P5 romance, for the win!

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

“And that is what college athletics is all about.”

Fuck you, Jim Delany.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA