Tough times for Darron Thomas, who made millions for Chip Kelly

6/30/2014 update: 

Aaron Kasinitz has the rather moving story in the Oregonian, here. And this is a relatively good outcome for a Duck football player. If O’Bannon wins his lawsuit, Thomas might be able to collect some money from the NCAA cartel, someday.

And right on time, here’s news on a partial settlement of the O’Bannon lawsuit. Perhaps UO’s chief sports lawyer and FAR wannabe Rob Illig will comment?

“The filing of settlement terms today signifies an opportunity to provide complete closure to the video game plaintiffs, but should not be considered pay for performance,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement.”

Robert Carey, an attorney for the Keller and Alston plaintiffs, said that if a player appeared as an avatar in four different years of the game, he potentially could end up with $20,000 – or $5,000 per appearance year. But if such a player’s photograph also was used in two different years, he could get another $10,000 – again $5,000 per appearance year – for a total of $30,000.

9/5/2012 update: Unpaid internships, but with brain damage.

A paper in the journal Neurology today reports that NFL players are 3x more likely than average to contract Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And in today’s story on college football brain injuries Ron Richmond of the RG reports that

Dr. Greg Skaggs, the UO director of athletic medicine, also declined a request through an athletic department spokesman to be interviewed for this series.

Not exactly consistent with UO’s academic mission.

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College football players file union cards with NLRB

ESPN’s OTL has the story:

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.

Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB — the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.

Unionization is the classic response to hiring cartels, of which there is no better example than the one the NCAA runs for the benefit of their coaches and boosters. This might get interesting.

NCAA cartel to crack the whip

When you run a hiring monopsony like the NCAA you have to come down hard on defectors believers in free markets like Chip Kelly, who might try to use street agents agents to funnel impermissible benefits pay reasonable compensation to their student athletes players. Tonight’s scoop from former RG reporter George Schroeder, now at USAToday, is that the NCAA is about to get real personal about this. Too bad – unless it’s a sign of the collapse of their whole corrupt cartel. And don’t miss Margaret Soltan’s hilarious sendup of a USD administrator concerned about students leaving football games early.

Pouring miracle-grow on the poison ivy

that is big-time college football. As BCS Chair UO’s Dave Frohnmayer was a passionate defender of the college bowls, which spent the money they got from UO on illegal campaign contributions and strippers. But now history has moved on. The conferences and their athletic directors have figured out how to cut the bowls and the NCAA out of the profits and keep the cash for themselves. PAC-12 residual claimant Larry Scott cannot believe it has taken them this long to get with the program. The university presidents could still try to get some tiny amount of money for academics, but that would take some balls on their part, so it’s a non-starter. The players will still get nothing except chance to buy their sweaty, bloodstained bowl jerseys on ebay. The NYT has the beginnings of the story.  4/27/2012

NCAA moves to prop up cartel with tougher penalties.

2/12/2012: At its heart the NCAA is a classic hiring cartel. College athletic departments agree among themselves to all pay the athletes a bare minimum, so that the bulk of the profits can be used for inflated salaries for the coaches, assistants, athletic directors, and of course the NCAA administrators.

The catch is that every college has an incentive to cheat, and offer top players a better deal – a few thousand in cash from a booster, a loaner car, good deal on an apartment, and so on. If this gets out of hand the players get the profits, and the cartel can collapse, leaving little money for the NCAA insiders.

The NCAA knows it takes eternal vigilance to hold their cartel together. USA Today now reports that their latest plan is a drastic increase in the penalties for “cheating” – i.e. letting the players keep some of the money they earn. I love the way the insiders getting rich off this throw around phrases like “illicit benefits for student-athletes”:

The plan, which also would streamline the processing of cases and expand the adjudicating committee on infractions to help speed their disposition, reflects a call by NCAA President Mark Emmert for swifter, tougher action and greater deterrence. Amid a spate of cases involving high-profile programs from South California to Tennessee to Connecticut to Ohio State to Miami (Fla.), he has talked of instilling “some sort of constructive fear.”

… It threatens serious payback for programs and individuals involved in what the NCAA terms the “worst of the worst” cases, involving such things as academic fraud, significant payments or other illicit benefits for athletes and a finding of a lack of institution control.  

The people charged with delivering this “constructive fear” to those evil programs that want to compensate athletes for their work are the members of the NCAA Infractions Committee – including UO’s own “Faculty Athletics Representative” Jim O’Fallon.

O’Fallon has had the FAR job for 23 years – since back when he actually was faculty – without going through a review by UO. The 2004 UO Task Force Report on Athletics – signed by Dave Frohnmayer and Bill Moos – specifically called for a review of O’Fallon. Bullet point #2:

This never happened. Weird. O’Fallon’s contract is here.

The NCAA has even set it up so we have to pay their enforcers. O’Fallon’s salary and expenses come straight out of UO’s academic budget. Clever:

O’Fallon even gets called out by NYT financial columnist Joe Nocera, for this inane, officious decision penalizing a school for giving athletes books.

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.

League of the Violators

11/8/2011: More public records are coming out on the Kelly / Lyles deal, courtesy of Adam Jude of the RG. The Oregonian report notes the documents include:

Email exchanges between Glazier, Ron Barker, Pac-12 associate commissioner for governance and enforcement; Steve Duffin, NCAA associate director of enforcement; Angie Cretors, NCAA associate director of agents, gambling and amateurism activities; Bill Clever, UO executive assistant athletic director for compliance, and James O’Fallon, UO law professor emeritus and the athletic department’s faculty rep.

Here’s a taste of the emails, more later. Everyone knows Kelly paid Lyles for Seastrunk and the other Texas players, the question is whether the evidence is so obvious the NCAA can’t ignore it, or whether the AD could come up with some scapegoat to take the fall for Chip Kelly. That seems to be getting harder given how much coach seemed to love chatting with Lyles. We paid “The Cleaner” Mike Glazier $75,000 in student tuition money, but things still look dirty. Solution? Quit the NCAA and start our own “League of the Violators”. USC is in, and now Penn State, any other freedom fighters?

Trouble down on the NCAA plantation:

10/26/2011: Reports are trickling out of LA that athletes have begun to rebel against the NCAA cartel. AP story here, Yahoo sports report here, WaPo story here says NCAA will ignore the players. National College Players Association report here:

UCLA football player Jeff Locke, who circulated the petition among his teammates and the basketball team, is concerned that the NCAA might delay important reforms.  He stated, “As almost $800 million in new TV revenue streams into college football next year alone, it is important that we address these issues surrounding college athletics immediately.  If the NCAA pushes back these issues, the schools will find other ways to spend this money, whether it is put into new facilities or to increase coaches salaries, and the players will not be able to receive the basic protections they need from the billions they help generate.”

The entire UCLA basketball team and 70 of the football players have now signed the petition. Rumors are spreading of panicked assistant coaches and athletic department administrators packing up their SUVs and hitting the coast road toward sanctuary in Oregon, and a few more years of fat contracts, and of course free cars.

Meanwhile the NYT has an excellent review of Tyler Branch’s article, “The Shame of College Sports”, which is becoming the Declaration of Independence of the anti-NCAA movement. Branch will be on the Colbert Report 10/26. You can buy his book, The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA from Amazon:

“College athletes are not slaves,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Taylor Branch in “The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA.” “Yet to survey the scene—corporations and universities enriching themselves on the backs of uncompensated young men, whose status as ‘student-athletes’ deprives them of the right to due process guaranteed by the Constitution—is to catch the unmistakable whiff of the plantation.”

… But the true scandal, argues Branch in this gripping, deeply reported narrative, is the parasitic structure of college sports, a business that generates billions of dollars in revenue every year yet fails to provide even workers’ compensation for its young performers. The outrage, he writes, is “not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles by which the NCAA justifies its existence—’amateurism’ and the ‘student-athlete’—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.”

More on NCAA "reforms"

10/25/2011: Former UO journalism student Allie Grasgreen writes the best summary I’ve seen of the NCAA’s latest efforts to preserve its monopoly while claiming reform, for

From 2005 to 2009, athletics spending per athlete at Football Bowl Subdivision colleges grew by 50 percent, to $91,050 per individual, while academic spending per student grew by 22 percent, to $13,470. Institutional subsidies per athlete grew at the fastest rate — by 53 percent, to about $18,390 in 2009. …

“We are bringing in young men and women who are not prepared for collegiate-level education,” Emmert said. “Their probability of success is limited, to say the least.”

“When we got together in August — and the mood would be no different today — I and the university presidents were disgusted with much of what we’d seen in the previous year,” Emmert said, alluding to high-profile scandals at places such as Ohio State University and the University of Miami. …

NCAA President Emmert is shocked to discover that there are NCAA scandals. This is during the Knight Comission meeting at, of course, the NYC Ritz -Carlton, on Central Park. Who does he think paid his bill? Your winnings, sir.

Kelly contract clause on NCAA violations:

10/1/2011: The contract is here. I’ve had a few questions about this clause:

So, Rob Mullens could indeed fine Kelly for NCAA violations, etc. A day’s pay would be about $20,000, but there’s no upper limit and Kelly would not seem to have much recourse. But I’m guessing this is not going to happen, even if the NCAA does find a violation and fine UO. What about a penalty like this? That would be the end of NCAA football and the last fat payday for a lot of people. Not least those on the NCAA Infractions Committee. Which would make the probability zero.

Former UO basketball coach Bev Smith favors paying "student athletes"

9/22/2010: From Don Kahle in the RG:

Indeed, “student-athlete” is a term invented by the NCAA to save its member universities from the workers’ compensation expenses that federal law mandates for all employees. Football in particular is hazardous work, so universities understandably resist categorizing participation in intercollegiate sports as “work.”
I asked Kidsports Executive Director Bev Smith what she thought.
“Only a small percentage make it to the professional ranks, so maybe student athletes should make money in college. It might be the last time they get that kind of paycheck for their sporting life.

Bev Smith is a former UO women’s basketball coach.

More mush from the wimps:

8/20/2011: The NCAA vows to get tough on schools that try to use athletics money to help with the players’ basic needs for drugs and hookers, instead of spending it as a righteous God intended – on car payments for the Athletic Director, his assistants, and the coaches. Oh yeah – turns out that dreaded “death penalty” just means the school can’t play football for a year. And the NCAA can’t use it, because if they do Div 1 football will take their money and set up their own super-conference.

The NCAA Infractions Committee is on the case:

Update: More chatter that the Div 1 football teams will leave the NCAA. That will make a lot of money for some people.

8/18/2011: From Tim Dahlberg, in the RG, on the latest football scandal from Miami:

Much of it allegedly happened under the watch of former Miami athletic director Paul Dee, who would go on to — no, we’re not making this up — become chairman of the NCAA’s committee on infractions. It was from that position last year that Dee came down hard on the University of Southern California in the Reggie Bush case, saying then that “higher-profile players require higher-profile monitoring.” 

It the allegations prove correct, that makes Dee either a hypocrite or someone who was stunningly unaware of what was taking place right under his nose. Either way, it doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in the enforcement efforts of the NCAA.

This is good – the rules that the infractions committee enforces are mainly designed to keep the money the players earn in the hands of the coaches, AD, and NCAA insiders. An incompetent NCAA Infractions Committee, stuffed with conflicts of interest, is optimal.

UO to break from NCAA?

7/26/2011: Looks like Howard Slusher’s plan to divorce Duck football from the NCAA is gaining more traction. Sports Illustrated breaks the story. The key seems to be to make football independent, while leaving the NCAA with basketball and the non-revenue sports. The model for this is college rodeo. Many fine universities have excellent rodeo teams, controlled by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which operates without conflict with the NCAA.

While the NCAA’s budget is $950 million, and their president pulls down ~$1.5 million, the CIRA gets the job done with a $1.6 million total budget and one full-time paid employee, Roger Walters. Roger gets $60,000 a year, no benefits. Not even a free pick-up truck?

The CIRA folks have seen plenty of bullshit close up, so their rulebook just covers the essentials, and doesn’t do PC:

The event director’s duties prior to the first (1st) performance shall be:

  • Careful inspection of chutes, chute gates, barriers, and boxes to insure that they are in perfect working condition;
  • Discuss with the arena director and judges the ground rules, score lines, starting lines for girl’s events, and exact location of barrels and goat stakes;
  • Discuss in detail with the judges the rules for the girl’s events;
  • Check timed event stock for consistency, and be certain that fresh stock is properly prepared for the first (1st) performance;

COMPETING ON STOCK DRAWN. A contestant must compete on the stock drawn for him/her unless he/she has been awarded a reride or rerun by the judges. Each contestant shall be responsible for knowing which stock they are to compete on. There will be an exception granted in the goat tying. The goat tying contestant will be awarded a rerun if they run the wrong goat.

BULLS IN SLACK AT TWO (2) PERFORMANCE RODEO. In the bull riding, there will be no double-back bulls in slack at two (2) go-round rodeos, progressive rodeos or rodeos with finals or short go, unless otherwise approved by the bull riding director.

Their major controversy has been over snuff – Skoal is no longer sponsoring the CNFR, but they are still giving money for scholarships.