The NCAA announced on Tuesday that president Mark Emmert is stepping down. Maybe this is just me being naive, but it would be nice if the next person in that position could actually do something for the benefit of student-athletes.
Seems simple, right?
Well, before you answer that question, the NCAA is going to have all of its members vote on a board that’s going to recommend establishing a committee that, after a while, might or might not appoint a working group that could, maybe, have the power to schedule workshops for consultants who will, in the end, recommend revisiting the issue when, and we’re quoting the lawyers now, “the legal framework one day presents itself.”
“For the benefit,” it was determined by the lawyers, is a phrase too dangerous for the NCAA to even consider addressing. The NCAA represents institutions of higher learning, noted the spokesperson. You can’t put a price on knowledge.
The NCAA, in other words, isn’t designed to benefit student-athletes. It’s designed to waste everyone’s time.
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Emmert, a well-paid coat rack, is scheduled to be out by June 2023. Good riddance, but, really, one guy at the top of an organization that represents all universities isn’t actually the problem with the NCAA. Yeah, Emmert was a poor leader by progressive standards, but that’s what the association wanted for so long.
The problem with the NCAA is fundamental. It is an enormous ruse to avoid taxes and the model is so badly outdated that even the United States Supreme Court agrees that its an artifice whose time is coming to an end. The players generating billions of dollars for the universities are unpaid by the universities so the athletic departments can remain non-profits. Instead of paying the athletes, universities spend lavishly on salaries and facilities to square the books.
How does the next president fix this mess? That’s the big question facing the NCAA.
A lot of people aren’t going to like this answer, but it might be figuring out how to pay the players once and for all. For now, universities are prolonging their con by allowing players to transfer one time in their careers and earn money for their name, image and likeness through third-party deals with school boosters.
For the purposes of the IRS, doesn’t that make them self-employed football players who are also full-time students?
More NIL collectives are being formed across the country every day in this new arm’s race. As Alabama football coach Nick Saban and others have said, it’s not sustainable. Saban is on record saying he wants everyone on his team to make the same amount of money in NIL deals, which, um, sounds a lot like salaried employees.
That’s the great fix, though, if you are among the people who believe college football and basketball are broken. I’m not so sure about that, but putting everyone on the payroll and splitting television and ticket revenue evenly (among the schools and the players) would be one way to sustain a business model.
See how messy this can get? All the university presidents wanted, in the end, were more donations.
Blaming someone like Emmert for the state of the NCAA is like blaming the current heads of state for climate change. Yeah, the leaders who ignore it are a major part of the problem, but, really, it’s up to the people making the money off of fossil fuels to help fix everything. Good luck.
Who’s going to be the next president of a bureaucratic scam in what feels like the twilight hours of the NCAA as we know it? Wouldn’t want that job, but my guess is that it’s not going to matter if the NCAA can’t first figure out how to revolutionize itself over the next several months.
A “transformation committee,” of course, has been established. Seriously, I’m not kidding. And SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is a co-chair. Good luck. Sankey might be a visionary, but there are trust issues after Oklahoma and Texas joined the SEC. The reason? A few months before the shocking conference realignment was announced, Sankey was a member of the infamous working group that suggested the College Football Playoff expand from four teams to 12.
The idea for playoff expansion, of course, was killed in committee. The CFP needs to include at least 16 teams to stimulate parity in college football, but that’s a topic for another day.
If “transformation” means breaking up Division I then so be it. If it means a formation of super leagues and a complete separation between those that pay players and those that cannot or will not, then, well, the NCAA did this to itself by doing what it always does best, absolutely nothing.
If we’ve learned one thing about the NCAA over the last few years, it’s that the student-athletes might just be better off without the governing body of intercollegiate athletics actually doing anything at all.
Which means, in other words, my vote for the next president of the NCAA goes for Condoleezza Rice.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team’”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.