When things go badly, human nature searches for someone else to blame. Even when responsible party does the right thing and admits fault for an undesirable outcome, the internal wiring at a minimum sparks with the temptation to pin it all on another person.
When the NCAA suffers the fate that inevitably is coming, on a timetable much faster than anyone envisioned, president Mark Emmert should have no temptation to blame lawyers or unions or judges or senators or agents or parents or the media or anyone else. Emmert’s ongoing remarks about the state of college athletics, where more and more people are realizing that the “student-athlete” label has been for decades a scam to get free (or at least very cheap) labor, are serving only to broaden and strengthen the notion that something must be done to protect current and future student-athletes from being exploited by a system that pays everyone except the student-athletes.
Most recently, Emmert made an ill-advised appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning. Our friends at CFT have chronicled some of the highlights (lowlights), capped by the notion that student-athletes are “taking seats from a paying student.”
Yes, Emmert actually said that. By saying that, Emmert clumsily painted student-athletes, whose collective efforts bring in far more dollars per person than those paying full freight, as freeloaders.
Emmert and the conference commissioners and the university presidents and the athletic directors would be far better off saying nothing. That would at least delay the day of reckoning, giving the NCAA and the schools ample time to plan for change — and more opportunities to profit obscenely from the structure that currently is in place.
Instead, Emmert’s effort to stop the slow bleed could nick an artery, resulting in a public outcry for change so big and so loud that someone in a position of power will see a tangible political benefit to accelerating the process of bringing sweeping change to the world of college athletics.
Which in turn will bring change of some sort to the NFL, which continues to benefit from the free farm system known as college football. If/when (when) college football players must be paid fair market value, the farm system may not be free. And it may not be nearly as vast as it currently is.