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Oh My Sports God, You Need To Read This!

6 - Published September 16, 2011 by in College, Pro Lacrosse

Do you play NCAA Lacrosse?  Heck, scratch that.  Do you know what the NCAA is, and have any interest in it whatsoever?  YOU DO?!?!?!  Then you simply need to read this article, all 3,536,765,688,679 words of it.  Print it out and make it your weekend reading.  Highlight interesting portions of it.  Obviously, you can do whatever you want, but just make sure you read this article on the history of the NCAA and how it relates to the issues of college athletes getting paid, or as the case is now… college athletes NOT getting paid.  The Shame of College Sports by Taylor Branch via the Atlantic.  Great stuff.

I’ve argued in the past that it would actually make sense to do away with the “student-athlete” lie at certain levels of college sports, most notably those that produce insane amounts of revenue, like college football and basketball.  Basically, I said that certain schools no longer have “student-athletes”, they just have athletes.  And that the sums of money being made off the backs of these athletes made these sports professional in every way, except in name.  Well, that and the fact that the players weren’t being paid, at least not directly and legally.

I’ve also said that the NCAA is an advertising Mecca, and people disagreed with me on both counts, which is more than fair!  We’re looking for discussion after all.  It’s always the first step.

Well, it turns out the NCAA has been doing this type of thing for decades, and the amount of effort they have put into keeping their players classified as amateurs is absolutely staggering.  But from the article below, it seems like legal precedent is finally beginning to really push back against the NCAA.  If there is one thing that could change the make up of college sports, this is it.  Title IX has dominated the college sports discussion for years, and I definitely think it would come into play if certain athletes began to get paid.  But college athletes being paid to play their sports would be bigger news by far, because the entire face of college athletics would change, and so would the all-important revenue streams.

Don’t believe me that the entire article is worth reading?  Well check out a couple of interesting excerpts below, and I think you’ll agree with me that this is quite possibly the most interesting article on college athletics EVER.

In an 1892 game against its archrival, Yale, the Harvard football team was the first to deploy a “flying wedge,” based on Napoleon’s surprise concentrations of military force. In an editorial calling for the abolition of the play, The New York Times described it as “half a ton of bone and muscle coming into collision with a man weighing 160 or 170 pounds,” noting that surgeons often had to be called onto the field. Three years later, the continuing mayhem prompted the Harvard faculty to take the first of two votes to abolish football. Charles Eliot, the university’s president, brought up other concerns. “Deaths and injuries are not the strongest argument against football,” declared Eliot. “That cheating and brutality are profitable is the main evil.” Still, Harvard football persisted. In 1903, fervent alumni built Harvard Stadium with zero college funds. The team’s first paid head coach, Bill Reid, started in 1905 at nearly twice the average salary for a full professor.

That didn’t do it for you?  Ok, so you’re a little harder to impress than I thought.  How about this one? The author is talking about a lawsuit brought by former NCAA athletes who claim their image is being used to sell games…

The legal contention centers on Part IV of the NCAA’s “Student-Athlete Statement” for Division I, which requires every athlete to authorize use of “your name or picture … to promote NCAA championships or other NCAA events, activities or programs.” Does this clause mean that athletes clearly renounce personal interest forever? If so, does it actually undermine the NCAA by implicitly recognizing that athletes have a property right in their own performance?

I mean, come on!  This stuff is incredibly interesting and just so relevant!  And even people recently involved with the sports world at the college level see the hypocrisy and rampant abuse.  Those still in power seem blind to this argument, however.

The late Myles Brand, who led the NCAA from 2003 to 2009, defended the economics of college sports by claiming that they were simply the result of a smoothly functioning free market. He and his colleagues deflected criticism about the money saturating big-time college sports by focusing attention on scapegoats; in 2010, outrage targeted sports agents. Last year Sports Illustrated published “Confessions of an Agent,” a firsthand account of dealing with high-strung future pros whom the agent and his peers courted with flattery, cash, and tawdry favors. Nick Saban, Alabama’s head football coach, mobilized his peers to denounce agents as a public scourge. “I hate to say this,” he said, “but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None.”

Saban’s raw condescension contrasts sharply with the lonely penitence from Dale Brown, the retired longtime basketball coach at LSU. “Look at the money we make off predominantly poor black kids,” Brown once reflected. “We’re the whoremasters.”

So check out The Shame of College Sports by Taylor Branch, and prepare to shocked right out of your seat.  Amazing detail, research and insight.  Awesome stuff, and even if we don’t necessarily like the message it sends, amateur college sports just might be broken.  Isn’t it worth a closer look?

Memorial_Stadium_medium Nebraska

Nothing about this set up says "amateur" to me...

Photo courtesy SBNation

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