Sunday, June 22, 2014

The End of NCAA Exploitation?

Charles Pierce reports on O'Bannon v. NCAA, and the potential end of the sham known as amateurism under the NCAA:
The NCAA lawyers led Emmert [ed. note: the current president of NCAA] through an easy direct examination. However, Emmert went for the water bottle after his first question, and that was one about his résumé. Jimmy Breslin once pointed out that drinking water on the stand is a convincing tell that the witness is not comfortable. Emmert drank as though he were sitting in a sand dune.
But he held to his main point, which was that amateurism, which he defined as not paying college athletes for playing their sports, was a “core value” of the NCAA, and that to strike at amateurism, as he and his organization define it, is to strike at the very substance not only of college sports, but of higher education itself. When asked by NCAA lawyer Glenn Pomerantz if paying the players for the use of their names, images, and likenesses would be a violation of his concept of amateurism, Emmert said, “Yes, very much so.” Pomerantz then asked Emmert to explain why paying the players for the use of their names, images, and likenesses was a violation of the concept of amateurism, but the fact that the NCAA and the colleges got rich off those same names, images, and likenesses, was not. Emmert essentially restated the same point the NCAA has been making through the entire trial: The NCAA and its member schools (pardon me, its “educational institutions”) create the game itself and, therefore, are entitled to all the revenues thereby derived, out of which they give the athletes tuition, fees, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses while providing those athletes with invaluable life skills and social mobility. But the NCAA and the educational institutions get all the money. Forever. This, as Emmert argued, and as was argued by the NCAA in one of its pretrial briefs, was for the good of the athletes because the NCAA does not want to see them “exploited” by corporate interests, or at least by those corporate interests with which the NCAA has not yet signed a lucrative partnership deal.
It is here where we pause to discuss the Curious Case Of Zach Bohannon. He was a 6-foot-6 swingman for the Wisconsin Badgers this past season, when he and Wisconsin made it to the NCAA Final Four. He also was working toward his MBA. He arrived at one of the Wisconsin practices with a bottle of water from Nestlé Pure Life. The NCAA’s official bottled water is Dasani, a division of NCAA “corporate partner” Coca-Cola. Arena security stopped Bohannon — a player in last year’s Final Four — and made him take off the Nestlé label before they would allow him to practice with his team. Bohannon told a reporter, “The NCAA likes to hide behind its student-athlete model. Well, they can’t hide anymore.”
The NCAA scheme is the most bare exploitation of athletes ever.  However, the multi-billion dollar athletic-industrial complex at U.S. universities is just the most ridiculous aspect of the completely off-the-rails higher education system in the United States.  The growing student debt issue and the warped job market combine to highlight an overall system in crisis.  Major universities are using some of the massive profits from sports to fund research and student aid on the academic side of the balance sheet, which is heavily skewed toward sucking in government aid and massive donations from the extremely wealthy.  The "amateurism" of the NCAA will eventually end, but what happens to all that money that doesn't end up with ridiculously overpaid coaches and school presidents, and actually goes toward the actual university?  Players deserve most of it, but then we end up with a professional minor league system illogically aligned with institutes of higher education.  No matter the outcome of this court case, there are huge changes coming to the nation's campuses and to big-time sports in general. 

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