NYT on NCAA cartel

1/1/2012: Joe Nocera, the NYT columnist better known for stories on corruption in the financial sector, finds plenty of dirt in college athletics, and lays out a workable plan for cutting the burdens on the academic side, and shifting some of the benefits from overpaid athletic directors and coaches to the athletes:

Recently, Mark Emmert, the president of the N.C.A.A., tried to make the rules a tad less onerous. He got the N.C.A.A. board of directors to approve an optional $2,000 stipend as well as a four-year scholarship instead of the current one-year deal for players.
And how did the cartel react to these modest changes? It rose up in revolt. Enough universities signed an override petition to temporarily ice the new stipend. The same thing happened with the four-year scholarship.

A lawyer in Fort Worth, Christian Dennie, who specializes in sports law, got ahold of an internal N.C.A.A. document outlining some of the objections. One is especially worth repeating: “The new coach may have a completely different style of offense/defense that the student athlete no longer fits into,” wrote Indiana State. Four-year scholarships might mean that the school would be stuck with “someone that is of no ‘athletic’ usefulness to the program.” Thus does at least one school show how it truly views its “student athletes.” (Andy Staples at Sports Illustrated first reported on this document.)

At the N.C.A.A. convention in mid-January, both of these rules will be reviewed. In all likelihood, the N.C.A.A. will roll them back. However benignly it characterizes this action, it will be as clear-cut an example of collusion as anything that goes on at an OPEC meeting.

How can it be that the N.C.A.A. can define amateurism in one moment as allowing a $2,000 stipend and in the next moment as forbidding such a stipend? How can it justify rolling back a change that would truly help student athletes, such as the four-year scholarship, simply because coaches want to continue to have life-or-death power over their charges? How can the labor force that generates so much money for everyone else be kept in shackles by the N.C.A.A.?

Which side of this debate are UO athletics director Rob Mullens and our Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon on? The side that preserves their salaries and perks.

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