NCAA’s leaders are sealing its fate


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.

44 responses to “NCAA’s leaders are sealing its fate

  1. also based the cost of scholarships athletes on the notion that the university athletic department gives the money to…. the university??? How is that a cost? That’s like my right hand paying my left!

  2. The “taking seats” comment is a little bit out of context. The host said something to the effect of, the scholarship doesn’t actually cost the university anything so that shouldn’t be counted as compensation. He responded by saying that it does have a cost associated with it because if that scholarship based student athlete weren’t in that seat in the classroom then there would be a paying student in it.
    This is not some sort of bombshell gotcha moment.

  3. Florio nailed it.

    Let’s put it this way – I’m no big union backer. I think most public employee unions (and some auto maker and other unions) are out of control and forcing the taxpayers or companies into bankruptcy with unreasonable demands.

    But the premise for unions is to provide a check and balance between labor in management.

    In the case of the NCAA, management is out of control and clearly delusional if they think the public is buying it.

    Especially if typical union-basher like me is supporting unionization in this case.

  4. Look its real simple. College offers you tuition room and board to play football. If you don’t like it – don’t go to college.

    Where the NFL doesn’t allow 18 year olds in the league – these “student-athletes” can play semi-pro, arena, indoor football – or maybe Canadian Football (unsure of their rules of eligibility). Or of course, they can work for McDonald’s and make $8 an hour.

    A very insignificant number of college athletes are able to make a living playing professional sports. At least going to college gives them an opportunity to set themselves up for the rest of their lives.

  5. As a current student at a Division 1 school (albeit one w/no football program), I can tell you that student athletes study harder than the average student. I love having them in my classes because they care about their school, actually make an effort to pass their classes, and make classes more enjoyable.

  6. And the question mark that no one asks, simply because it’s not reasonable to ponder, is… Do past student-athletes have a right to get paid?

    If future student-athletes get paid then what is to stop the land-rush of prior student-athletes to get together and form a class action that would completely bankrupt the NCAA?

  7. Johnny Manziel signs a few autographs and is “investigated?” And how much did his coach make?

    It’s time for the public to realize that all the college football teams really are is the minor league of the NFL.

    Pay the players!

  8. “…has been for decades a scam to get free (or at least very cheap) labor…”

    I don’t agree with that statement using the word “scam”. My opinion is that college football has slowly followed the rise in popularity of football and has become twisted – kinda just like a healthy corporation with shareholders who demand more and more profits each year.

    The whole system is messed up. Paying student athletes is just going to open a new can of worms and make things even more perverted. That money will have to come from somewhere – but surely not from the universities’ bottom lines – besides the obvious cuts to other college athletic programs, most likely it will come from the general public. Paying more for ESPN, and apparel, etc.

  9. Do the pro-union folks realize they’re advocating a losing proposition to the players? If they start to get paid, no more special tutors, no more looking the other way on grades, etc. Most of the players will flunk out and the very same people who are pushing for unions will blame colleges for being too heartless and letting so many young men fail.

  10. “taking seats from a non athlete” would imply a finite number of seats.. last time i checked, enrollment totals were going up. So that argument is a joke on multiple levels.

  11. Magic words: revenue sports!

    The allow the athletic department to be a separate entity from the university/school.

  12. I’m not a tax expert, but wouldn’t this arrangement require the scholarships to be considered “income” to the players? For some of these schools, that would be $50-75K per year. With no withholding taxes being deducted, that would be quite a tax burden each year for them &/or mom & dad.

  13. If the University of Georgia or New Mexico State University just buys a bunch of kids/men, etc. to not go to classes and just play football, what is the point of college athletics? I mean, haven’t we all lost sight of the concept of collegiate athletics in our pursuit of the almighty dollar? Aren’t they just fielding a team the same way as the Atlanta Falcons, Saskatchewan Roughriders ( or is it Rough Riders?) or Houston Texans? The only correlation between the school and the team is that the team wears the right colors?

  14. I listened to his segment on Mike and Mike on my way to work, and WOW…just WOW. This guy comes off so arrogant and his arguments as to why the NW players shouldn’t be unionized were so off base it was ridiculous. I’ve heard afternoon drive radio hosts give better reasoning as to why it would be a bad idea. This guy sounded like someone whose jig is soon to be up and was grasping at straws. Pretty embarrassing honestly. I was almost glad Greeny wasn’t on today because the guy that was covering for him was asking some difficult questions and didn’t hold back comments the common fan would say.

  15. A point I have not heard discussed yet about this, if NCAA players are permitted to unionixe, can the Universities then “force” the players stay the entire 4 years they sign up for when they leave High School?

  16. In a lot of situations, my stance is anti-union too — but the NCAA is so freaking out-of-line here in so many ways that the matter clearly needs to be rectified.

    Emmert — that guy was born without a capacity for shame, remorse, empathy, etc. He’s wired in a way that is ugly on the inside.

  17. If Emmert was a real leader, he could very easily make the case for why athletes are not paid and why they should not be paid.

    The reason people want these athletes paid is because they don’t know the facts. Just spell it out like so.

    Football is the only sport that makes money for the vast majority of schools.

    Most colleges LOSE money on sports overall.

    You can’t just pay the star football player. You would also have to pay the 3rd string LB and the women’s volleyball players.

    This would lead to huge losses on non revenue sports which is pretty much every sport but football.

    Colleges would drop whole sports and due to Title IX, they would have to drop male and female sports in pairs.

    This would result in hundreds of kids who would have gotten soccer or wrestling, or whatever, not getting any scholarship. Many of those kids may not end up going to college at all then.

    The product on the field would be terrible. You would have about 20 or so big money teams that are loaded with paid players and the rest would be like Div 2 teams.

    Everybody loses if players get paid significant money.

  18. If universities start paying players, would there be a bidding war between NCAA and NFL? There is a salary cap in NFL. There is not one in the NCAA. Plus, you can get away from that stupid “graduation” thingy, since going to school has zero bearing on the paid employees. Suiting up for YOUR ESU Tigers, quarterback mark Sanchez, running back Chris johnson, and the crowd favorite for the past 11 years, tenured starting LB Big Jim Smith!!

  19. I agree that the money generated by college sports is obscene, and I don’t think it’s right that the players see limited benefit above and beyond having their education covered.

    On the flip side, once these “student athletes” begin getting paid, and there is less money for the university, the people who will pay then will be the kids who were already paying, via higher tuition costs. Where else is the lost revenue coming from… Do you think the coaches, professors, or other university employess are gonna take less?

  20. Whatever your opinion on unions in modern society may be, being told that the only way you can be compensated for your services for three years is by living in the company town (campus) and being paid scrip that can only be used at the company store (school) is precisely what unions were originally formed to fight against. If there were a competitive marketplace and students could choose to play in a regular paid football league or choose the collegiate route, that would be different.

  21. I think people are missing the point of payments for players. It wouldn’t be different according to the school you go to. They’ve given a value of about 180k for an NCAA football player, and whatever the end value will be, that’s what every NCAA football player would receive, regardless of the school they attend. It’s a mess, but who let it become the mess? It sure wasn’t the kids. Like that axiom says, greed is the root of all evil, and the grown-ups in the room have been so consumed with their greed that they can’t see the forest for the trees. You’re paying college coaches nearly $7 million a year at the top end of that “college” sport. If it’s about academics and the student athlete and all of this pixies and roses nonsense, why is that going on. Why is the NCAA president making millions on top of millions. Do you think that’s right? Like I said, it’s a mess, and they only have themselves to blame as they got greedier and greedier, sitting back thinking players would sit in a corner and say that’s fine in this day and age.

  22. Count me as another traditionally conservative guy who is in favor of unionization for the student athlete. The NCAA has no one to blame but themselves for this. If they had treated the student athlete fairly– guaranteed scholarships, guaranteed health care for all injuries, a real-life stipend to replace the fact they are forbidden from working– unionization would not have been necessary. But now the chickens have come home to roost. Go get ’em.

  23. You think college athletes should be paid? Consider:

    1. No more scholarships. Athletes will have to pay for their “education” from their income.
    2. Athletes will have to pay taxes on this income.
    3. Men’s football and basketball would be the only two sports at the majority of NCAA schools.
    4. Athletes would now be subject to the same standards as regular students – no free tutors, pay for your own food/meal plan, held to a minimum standard GPA or risk probation and expulsion.
    5. Sub par or under performing players could simply be “fired” (lose the income they are getting for playing at a high level).

  24. The NCAA could get around it all by just paying all student athletes minimum wage. It isn’t like College Football makes any more money than McDonald’s and no one is crying about how fry cooks need a union. That prevents bidding wars for players, stacking teams with bigger budgets, and competition with the NFL. It would also allow the Water Polo squad, Women’s Tennis team and all of the rest of the non-revenue sports to give a stipend to their players without bankrupting the universities, forcing sports to be cut, or forcing tuition costs up for the non-athlete students.

    $180k as a guess at market value is all well and good, but true market value is what the market is willing and able to pay you.

  25. If the athlete must be a student, shouldn’t the coach then be a teacher? Shouldn’t they be making a teachers wage? If this is all about the “Education” then why are the highest paid employees of most universities football and basketball coaches?

  26. The idea of a college scholarship and the resulting college degree being fair remuneration for a student’s efforts on the field or the court are vastly overrated. I have two degrees (a BS in Finance and a MBA) and I personally feel that I wasted my time, money, and effort. Even including the GI Bill that I earned in the military, the ROI of my education is negative six figures. I’m not suggesting that colleges and the NCAA should pay players. But in these times of economic uncertainty, it is disingenuous to state that a college degree is a panacea to one’s economic well-being.

  27. OK, let’s say you pay the football players. How long do you think it will be before the lacrosse team unionizes? Swimmers? Gymnastics?
    They also give 50-60 hours a week to their sport and team.
    Title IX equalizes sports programs for men and women, and that means the universities will have to also compensate or GET RID OF one mens sport for every womens sport.
    If players are allowed to unionize, we are looking at the Twilight of College Sports.

  28. The “student athletes” get a free education and a fantastic college.
    THAT is their “pay”.

  29. I’ve always said the major universities are nothing more then big business making collectively billions off kids that for the most part don’t get to play in the MFL or any other lucrative major sport. It came to a head during Johnny footballs trouble selling something which was against the rules. The players are exploited barring those that do move up and a large number if kids are left with nothing. I’d like to know what the college completion rate is for student athletes that make it to the pros and more importantly those not.

  30. There is an issue, with regard to the small number of top schools whose big revenue sports- football and basketball- get sufficient paying attendance run at a profit.

    But the vast majority of college programs are not top level money-makers, and the vast majority of sports are not profitable.

    Pure labor law, particularly under the current NLRB, may push this, but what about all the other programs? As set forth in Coulter’s tunnel-visioned lawsuit, the entire system will end badly.

  31. So he’s admitting that he’s wasting money by letting the athletes be freeloaders.

    He’s freeloaded over all of our tax dollars as a state university employee.

    Not only that he participated in academic cover up at LSU per USA Today.

    So what we have a is a failing president that happens to be a fraud, freeloader, and thief.

    He doesn’t even look athletic enough to take athletes’ credit.

    The US apparently is a land of second chances, but I wouldn’t dare let him seek a second chance if I were hiring. He’s that immoral and unworthy of employment.

  32. tved12,

    I’ve asked this question constantly to crickets for the crowd supporting the NCAA vantage point. If it’s all about “student-athletes,” why are their coaches benefiting handsomely from the TV contracts by making a jillion dollars? Also, for the people bringing up the volleyball team, stop being dense. Their sports don’t generate revenue, so why would they be entitled to be paid. Either you need to pay every Division I football and basketball player because their sports generate a lot of money from the TV contracts, or you need to stop negotiating those billion dollar contracts. It’s pretty simple stuff.

  33. Ok, my last comment on this topic.

    To begin with, we need to stop directly associating unionization with large monetary payouts. Unions exist to protect the rights and interests of their members. It’s as simple as that. In the real world, we notice that the most when talking about wages. Unions, however, also negotiate things like health care coverage, working conditions, how easily and for what reasons employees can be fired, and any number of other issues. Just because wages are what people think of first, that doesn’t mean that’s all unions concern themselves with.

    When it comes to student athletes, there are quite a few issues that unions could concern themselves with. Leaving aside the issue of pay for now, what else could they focus on? Well, how about making sure scholarships are guaranteed? A student can lose their scholarship if the school finds a player they think is better, but students aren’t free to transfer to a school they believe has a better program. Students are punished if they try to transfer (lose a year of eligibility, meaning they wouldn’t be on scholarship for that year), yet a coach can recruit them one day and take a job at another school the next.

    When a student athlete accepts a scholarship, they can’t profit off of their own name or image (even when not directly connected to the university or team) for as long as they are on scholarship. The school can profit off of their name, however, and not just for the duration of their time at the school. The school can sell merchandise with the player’s name or image on it for as long as they want. A union could negotiate a way for a player to use their own name or image (as long as there’s no link to the school or team) or limit the school’s use of their identity to the time they are at school.

    Negotiate guaranteed scholarships and medical expense coverage in case of sports-related injuries.

    Those are 3 major issues off the top of my head, none of which have anything to do with receiving wages. There are many more issues (some major and some minor), but this comment is too long as it is.

    As for the idea of paying players, it doesn’t need to be a radical shift. You can still keep the scholarship system. Just adjust the stipends to make them reasonable for a college student who isn’t allowed to work, and then make them automatically adjust with inflation.

  34. This is so simple that I can’t believe this discussion about paying athletes is such a big topic….
    First and foremost, let them get paid for jersey sales, autographs, etc… If your a big enough star you will be compensated accordingly. Next, for every million dollars a program makes, be if football, hockey. Etc….every scholarship athlete will receive an additional bump in their meal plan as part of group plan. That’s it! Feed them, educate them. No need to care about if they have movie money or clothing money, there are plenty of poor kids in college without extra spending money. The stars that generate money for the schools will be compensated from outside sources such as autograph sales or personal appearances. And before anyone says that this will lead to booster problems and corruption …. That problem has existed forever and will always exist.

  35. Who pays to build the stadiums?
    Who pays for the maintenance?
    Who pays the salary of the coaches and staff?
    Who pays for the fancy weight rooms?
    Who pays for the Uniforms?
    Who Pays for the equipment and supplies?
    Who pays the travel expenses?
    Who pays for the recruitment visits?
    Who pays the tuition for these players?
    Who pays for the meal plans?

    and that’s not just football team expenses.

    It sounds like people foolishly think these colleges make all this money and just dumps it in the bank and collects interest.
    Yes, a College can make a ton of money off their football teams. But they also pay OUT a lot as well, which is probably a good reason why they try to make as much as they can to pay the bills.
    These players are treated like royalty. They’re given a shot ot make millions in the NFL.
    A Union?
    Yeah right. All they’re looking for is more dues money.
    If it comes to college players becoming unionized, it’s over. Kill college football. Start up the minor leagues and lets see how these pamper babies survive.

  36. he knows no one is going to do anything. These schools are like the pentagon or HHS or anything in government – all talk and no action. They live at the public trough just like most of America does.

  37. mike i think it would be interesting is you could put forth an article regarding what the new landscape would be like if these changes do occur because i have no idea of how college football could exist actually paying players. i do agree something needs to be done.

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