Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Disband the NCAA

by Bill Holmes 

I am sick and tired of the NCAA. It is an old outdated organization that has no clue what the real world is about.

The latest crisis is that Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, aka Heisman Trophy winner, may have made a few bucks from signing memorabilia during the week of the NCAA/BCS 2012 National Championship Game in Miami. The allegations say Johnny made a flat fee of five figures. That means he may have made somewhere between $1,000 and $9,999. Other accusations are arising now that the story has broken. If found guilty, Johnny may not be able to play football during the 2013 season.

Let's get this part out of the way. Johnny Manziel seems like he is probably a cocky jerk who is not mature enough to handle all the attention and fame that has been heaped on him. He has made some mistakes. Let's also note that Johnny is 20 years old and last year at this time he was completely unknown to the world at large. A couple of years ago he was in high school in Kerrville, Texas (population 22K). I don't know about you but when I was 20 years old, I was probably a cocky, immature jerk. Some may say I still am and I'm a tad over 20. 

Johnny has made a few faux pas in the social media and during interviews. Besides the terrible crime of maybe selling his signature Johnny has had a few other dustups with the authorities in the past year. Most of these stem from activities related to parties and having fun. He was caught with a couple of fake ID's. Well again, I was in college when I was 20. I went to parties and bars. I had a fake ID. A few friends and I had a party house off campus that often had over 50 folks there. The only people we were sure would show up were the cops. They would tell us to turn down the music and be careful. No citations, arrests, ESPN or CNN stories. Of course the difference is that back then there was no Facebook or Twitter or cellphone cameras. Another difference is that I didn't win the Heisman Trophy my freshman year.

On with the show. I don't care if Johnny made a few thousand or a few million dollars signing memorabilia. I wouldn't care if he signed a multi-million dollar, multi-year deal with Nike or Reebok to endorse shoes. In fact I'd applaud him. 

As the NCAA rules stand now, he can not make one cent off his fame or name. His school (Texas A&M), conference (SEC), college football (BcS), the NCAA, TV networks, radio, magazines, newspapers, books and any other number of people and organizations are all free to capitalize on his accomplishments. Johnny gets a scholarship, one year at a time, to a state university. He's even restricted as to what kind of part time job he can hold. If you are a geek on scholarship and write an app you can keep the income. If you are a music major on scholarship and make a hit record you can keep the money. If you are any student except one on an athletic scholarship you are free to do what you want in your free time. No restrictions on what you do, where you work or how much money you make. 

What's the difference between a student-athlete, particularly football and basketball players, and other scholarship students? The football and basketball players generate income and maybe fame for the university. For the big universities this can be millions of dollars. These large athletic departments are often one of the biggest industries in the area. How about a place like Clemson, SC. Town population 14K, university enrollment 17K, football stadium capacity 81K. Think the football program has an effect on the local economy? There are many other university towns that have football stadiums with a capacity larger than the local population. 

It's interesting, I recently read something about the highest paid university employees. In almost every state, the highest salary is not the president or chancellor of the big university. It is the head football or basketball coach. Nick Saban, head football coach at Alabama, makes $5.3 mil a year. Those high paid coaches are also free to sign contracts with Nike or ESPN or Gatorade for even more money. The athletes can't even sell the free game tickets they get for a profit. They can't sell the free shoes they get from the company that pays their coach millions. 

It's time we even up the playing field. I agree the full scholarship is a very nice start. It can amount to over $40,000 per year at private universities to under $20,000 for state institutions. The problem is you can't spend tuition, book allowance and room and board money in the outside world. These athlete-students (a more realistic name) need money for other stuff. They need to buy gas, a pizza, socks and beer. They need a few bucks to go to a movie or out to eat with their friends or a special friend. Some of these folks are married and have kids. It's time we pay them something. Not the millions that pro athletes get, but enough to get by.

Steve Spurrier, one of my all-time favorites, has advocated compensation for athlete-students. He's been on both sides of the equation. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1966 as a University of Florida quarterback and now he is a very high paid coach at South Carolina. According to him, every head football coach in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) agrees with this. 

The good old boy NCAA doesn't want any compensation for athletes. They never have. What was good enough for your grandparents is good enough for today. As near as I can tell the NCAA makes thousands of rules about college athletics and collects large sums of money, $870 mil in 2012, from those athletics. The rules are ridiculously complex and minuscule even specifying what days a coach can talk to a recruit, text messages have different days, or how much a giveaway t-shirt can cost. Near as I can tell the NCAA doesn't really contribute anything to the college athletic scene. They are very good at BS and minutia. 

If a bunch of big universities think the current athletic landscape needs changing, why don't they get together and tell the NCAA to FO. The SEC, Big 10 (12 teams), PAC 10 (or 11 or 12), Big 12 (10 teams) and ACC don't need the NCAA anymore. CBS or ESPN can run the football and basketball postseasons. They already fund them.

So, disband the NCAA and treat collegiate athletes like human beings. Let the conferences and TV networks run what has become a big business. We will never return to the amateur idealism of the past. That was a myth too but nobody admitted it. Come up with a few simple rules with real punishments for those who break them. Sanctions that punish the coaches and school administrators, not the innocent athletes. 

The NCAA has outlived it's usefulness. Get rid of them.


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