In “Animal House,” one of America’s greatest fictional heroes bemoans the news that his fraternity has been shut down. Wearing a “College” sweatshirt, Bluto (John Belushi) sums up his situation thusly: “Christ. Seven years of college down the drain.”
To paraphrase the future (fictional) Senator Blutarski, the Commission on College Basketball was seven months of meetings, interviews and research down the drain. When the FBI (playing the role of Dean Wormer) dropped the big one on college basketball last September, the NCAA went to Page One of its one-page playbook and … formed a committee.
The 14-member committee produced a 60-page report that comically and willfully ignored the sport’s problems. To add gravitas to the dog and pony show, the commission was chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
No disrespect to Rice, but she knows as much about college basketball as Your Veteran Scribe does about being secretary of state.
When the commission’s report landed Wednesday morning like the plop of a wet rag, it was evident that it was an exercise in peal clutching and hand wringing. And it’s difficult to clutch pearls or wring hands when you’re throwing those hands in the air and blaming others for your troubles and woes.
In a one-on-one interview with Seth Davis of The Athletic, Rice said this: “If you’re disappointed that we believe in the collegiate model, I can’t do anything about that. We do believe in the collegiate model, but we don’t think people are living up to the collegiate model.”
In the Bizarro World where the NCAA exists, the “collegiate model” is yet another catch phrase for “amateurism” – a sham that started in and belongs to the 19th century. Rice also had this catch phrase: “We need to put the college back in college basketball.” Bumper stickers and t-shirts will soon be on sale at NCAA.com.
Nobody with any institutional knowledge of the college sports scene expected anything substantive from the Rice Report. As usual, the NCAA talked a big game. Nearly a month ago at the Final Four in San Antonio, NCAA president Mark Emmert – the emptiest of empty suits – declared: “Just to be blunt about it, you don’t waste Condoleezza Rice’s time if you’re not serious about it.”
Consider the time wasted.
The NCAA, as evidenced by the report, maintains willful ignorance regarding the problems that led the FBI (which, by the way, folks, should have more important fraud cases to chase) to shine a light on the cockroaches scurrying along the baseboards.
The one-track mind set of those tasked with and being paid millions to lead college sports was exposed Tuesday. Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News reported that the National Association of Basketball Coaches distributed an email to its members.
Regarding the Rice Report, the message included talking points plus the following marching order: “In short, it is imperative that the Commission’s recommendations be met with unequivocal support from each of us.”
So much for robust discussion and debate – replaced, instead, with talking points distributed from the commissar’s home office.
The committee’s “ground breaking” findings: cheating is bad; the one-and-done rule is worse; the summer “AAU” circuit is a cesspool that needs draining; high school players should have access to “good” agents and the NCAA/member schools should chase away “bad” agents; schools’ deals with apparel companies should be more transparent in terms of where the money goes.
There’s much to unpack, but let’s start there. Nike, Under Armour and Adidas sign big-name schools to multi-year, multi-million dollar deals so the school will wear the company’s apparel. The schools won’t turn down easy money to turn their student-athletes into runway models.
Two years ago, the NCAA – yes, the NCAA – eliminated a rule that required schools be transparent with how much of their apparel money was siphoned to coaches. The rule proposal came from the Big 12 Conference and was pushed by the University of Texas. In 2015, UT signed a 15-year deal for $250 million – the current high bar in terms of school/apparel deals.
Schools can now place that open-records request for transparency into their Nunya Files. As in, nunya business.
The numbers game in college sports works like this: the billions and the millions go to the conferences and the schools and the administrators and the coaches. The thousands go to the student-athletes players who generate those billions and millions.
Just as March Madness was cranking up, USA Today reported the NCAA had $1.1 billion in revenue for the 2017 fiscal year. It was the first time topping the “b” threshold for the non-profit organization. The NCAA quickly tut-tutted the revenue by pointing out it distributed $560 million to member institutions.
The NCAA has cleverly benefited from capitalism while engaging in socialism while mixing in indentured servitude for the student-athletes players who generate the income.
Notre Dame president John Jenkins, a member of the commission, actually said this Wednesday: “What our commission believes, I think what the NCAA believes, is that the interest in college sport is due to the fact that these are students pursuing degrees.”
That can be described as the “ivory tower disconnect.” CBS/Turner is paying $10.8 billion for NCAA Tournament rights and ESPN is forking over $7.3 billion for the College Football Playoff because of diplomas and grade point averages.
In basketball, the NCAA has created a black market in terms of recruiting and is shocked, shocked that black market activities are taking place.
Paying football or men’s basketball student-athletes players is never going to happen. The obvious solution is to treat student-athletes like students; if the kid sitting in class next to the 5-star point guard has an entrepreneurial idea that is worth a few thousand bucks, he’s free to cash in. The point guard should be able to benefit financially from his name/image/likeness. Simply, that’s American Way capitalism.
The NCAA and its “collegiate model” disagrees. Ergo, the NCAA is engaging in un-American practices. Perhaps it should form a committee to investigate.
Condi Rice is probably available.