Has College Sports Passed The NCAA By?

Written June 22nd, 2011 by JWinrow

“The NCAA was founded in 1906 to protect young people from the dangerous and exploitative athletics practices of the time.”  These are not my words.  These are the words found on the NCAA’s official website.  However if you take the time to examine this statement, it resonates with hypocrisy.

By its own admission, the NCAA was founded more than 100 years ago.  Is there anything in existence today that is 100 years old that is not in need of renovation?  I truly doubt that an office building constructed circa 1910 will be structurally sound enough to pass today’s stringent engineering standards.  How many 100 year old cars do you see traveling today’s highways.  If I live to see 100 years of age, will I be able to keep up with the times of 2071?  I think you know where this is about to go.

I’m not going to bore you with the innate history of the NCAA from 1906 to present, instead I will state some of the most common assumptions a college football enthusiast would make.  College football and basketball were more recreation than entertainment when the NCAA was formed.  None of the NCAA’s founding fathers could envision the level of technology their great grandchildren would invent in the new millennium.  The revenue generated from these two sports has grown more in the last 20 years than in the previous 80 years.  Under such assumptions, any other regulatory agency in existence may receive hundreds, if not thousands of overhauls during a 20 year period, not to mention during a 100 year period.

It’s safe to say that at one point and time, the NCAA’s main purpose was to preserve amateurism in college athletics.  However, its two main revenue generating sports are anything but amateur these days.

The television contracts, apparel licensing, and ticket sales alone make these two sports worth more than the country’s fourth biggest professional sport, hockey.  Some argue that college football alone generates more profit per year than the NBA- so why is everyone involved in this equation receiving compensation except for its athletes who are “the show?”

NCAA President Mark Emmert- Photo courtesy Glamourshots

Recent investigations into programs like USC, Ohio State, North Carolina, and Oregon revealed multiple infractions that have resulted in sanctions, ineligibility, resignations and firings.  In some cases, the cover up was worse than the crime.  In other cases, athletes took advantage of their celebrity in exchange for financial considerations that amount to pennies on the dollar considering their actual worth.

Good coaches no longer work in college sports because they failed to exhibit institutional control or because they lied to protect the players who allow for these coaches to win and subsequently command massive seven figure annual salaries.  One may ask “How is this possible?”  Quite simply, the rule book in effect governs a game that is no longer played.

Any other profit generating machine has valued employees who are the backbone of the entity.  In many instances, these employees have an advocate in place who protects them from the rules created by the employers.  So how can the NCAA be the de-facto employer and work for the best interest of the employees?  At best this seems to be a huge conflict of interest.

The union steward of the Teamsters cannot be the CEO of General Motors.  DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA cannot be the commissioner of the NFL.  Who is in place to protect the players from the office of Dr. Mark Emmert (NCAA President)?  It begs to ask the question, is the NCAA truly “protecting young people from the dangerous and exploitive athletics practices of the time?”  Or, is the NCAA the organization exploiting athletes by way of the practices of the time?

Opinions will abound on both sides of the argument.  However if we quit disguising the scent of college football and basketball on the Division I level with “amateur spray”, the correct argument is surprisingly clear.

The NCAA of the 20th century is not the appropriate governing body for what these sports have morphed into; huge revenue generating entities that continue to get richer on the backs, shoulder, and knees of the same men they were sworn to protect.



  1. MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    June 22nd, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Great article, Jason- Good to have you on board!

    Eric and I were just talking about this last night- What benefit does a school like Ohio State/Texas/USC/Florida have at being in the NCAA?

    With large institutions, it seems as if the benefit is mostly on the part of the Association- in terms of revenue, etc.

    The NCAA can “sanction” (approve) contests between member organizations, but what if there were enough organizations that stepped outside of this group to create their own entity? The NAIA exists in a (somewhat) similar fashion.

    Again, I’ll be interested to see what comes from the “50 President Summit” this summer… with conferences realigning, considering a greater amount of funding for student athletes, and having access to television deals large enough to allow for them to do their own thing, it would be naive of Emmert and team to not start thinking about ways to change their model.

    That is, before the “partners” change it for them.


  2. Phil SorentinoNo Gravatar
    June 22nd, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    WOW! This is right on! We need to change the way We treat our athletes. And who represents them.


  3. JimNo Gravatar
    June 22nd, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Good article.

    There is obviously a problem that is becoming more and more apparent every day. Whether it be billion dollar television contracts or slightly less lucrative endorsement deals, their is a huge amount of money to be made in major college athletics these days.

    The problem is clear, the solution will be infinitely more difficult to nail down.


  4. Bob WilsonNo Gravatar
    June 26th, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    I’ve been writing in blog sites and sending letters to editors for weeks about this very topic. Just ask yourself why we don’t hear about NCAA infections or investigations in college swimming or even baseball? Simple — because those sports don’t have big dollarsor stakes surrounding them. Major League Baseball has a minor league developmental system and doesn’t rely on colleges for its primary pool of players as does football and basketball. Further – as soon as you give a student athlete a full ride scholarship, they’re already getting “compensated” to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over four years, so why play this “charade” of them being amateurs? All we’re really quibbling about is HOW MUCH they get paid and since tuition and housing variies in value widely from college to college there is already a disparity that can range in the tens of thousands of dollars, so why is it the NCAA then suddenly gets so concerned if a kid gets a free dinner, a comp’d round of golf or a tatoo worth a couple hundred bucks? it’s chump change in the scheme of things and probably why coaches don’t overly concern themselves with such trivia. They see it for what it should be — namely meaningless. Frankly, I’d love to see the top 32 college football program secede from NCAA and create an NFL developmental league playing under the school flags but each team having an expenditure cap for coaches and player compensation to somewhat level the playing field. The 32 teams would play in 4 geographic based conferences then the two top teams from each conference could playoff for a true championship.


    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    June 26th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Great comments, Bob- thanks!

    Actually, you do hear about the non-revenue sports being investigated, but it’s typically either as a part of a LOIC finding (Southern Cal and Boise State), or a D1AA school or smaller getting crucified.


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