An overdue judicial smackdown. A flip-flopping expert witness. An inconveniently curious Congresswoman. And, of course, more empty blather from the rich men who call the shots. Welcome back to the Laboratories of Hypocrisy, Sports on Earth's semi-regular roundup of the unfairness, dissimulation and sheer, head-shaking absurdity that characterizes amateur campus sports.
For the previous installment, click here. Otherwise, let's get started …
During a public forum in Manhattan last week, NCAA president Mark Emmert floated the idea of implementing a small stipend for college athletes to help cover the full cost of school attendance -- a cost that exceeds scholarship value at public universities by roughly $4,000 per year. He also dismissed the notion that said stipend was a response to the ongoing federal antitrust lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon.
"We've been working on [a stipend] for two and a half years," Emmert said. "They were talking about that long before I showed up. We don't need a lawsuit to do the right thing. That's important for people to know."
First of all, the O'Bannon case was filed nearly five years ago, making the stipend-as-PR-bone-toss idea both reasonable and chronologically consistent. (For another example of this strategy, see BountyGate and the rest of the NFL's reaction to the threat of concussion litigation.) Moreover, Emmert is half-right: The NCAA has been kicking around a cost-of-living stipend for a number of years -- because of another lawsuit.
In 2006, a group of former college football and basketball players sued the NCAA on antitrust grounds, arguing that restricting a scholarship to the cost of tuition, books, housing and meals was an unlawful restraint of trade. Two years later, the NCAA settled the class-action case, White v. NCAA, by agreeing to establish a $10 million fund to reimburse college athletes for -- you guessed it -- educational expenses incurred beyond their scholarship amounts.
Of course, this isn't the first time that legal pressure mysteriously has coincided with the NCAA's sudden magnanimity. In the 1980s, the association relinquished its iron-fisted control of televised college football -- resulting in a bigger, more lucrative market for the sport -- after losing an antitrust case that went to the Supreme Court. More recently, a crushing federal court loss forced the NCAA to abandon a series of arbitrary and illegal pay caps it had placed on assistant coaches.
As for the in-progress stipend that Emmert touted? When the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a measure that allowed schools to give athletes up to $2,000 in additional funds -- note: did not require, just allowed -- member institutions voted the plan down. Because of amateurism concerns. Because smaller schools felt they would not be able to afford a voluntary increase. Because those same schools felt it would make it harder for them to recruit. And because, in the not-at-all-condescending words of one Tennessee Tech University professor, "it seems most dubious to give some student athletes what amounts to "tattoo money."
Theoretically, the NCAA doesn't require a legal revolver to its head to do the right thing, but history suggests that it sure doesn't hurt.
Imagine this: You're an esteemed cancer researcher. So esteemed that you've written a college textbook on the subject. For 25 years, said text has cited the well established, causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Only now a major tobacco company is being sued. The company hires you as an expert witness -- for a modest rate, something like $1,200 per hour -- and suddenly, mysteriously, you begin making the case that smoking does not cause cancer.
Would that be a wee bit hypocritical? If not downright dishonest?
Enter Daniel Rubinfeld, professor of law and economics emeritus at Cal-Berkeley and expert witness for the NCAA in the O'Bannon case.
The core of the case -- which threatens to upend college sports as we know them -- is simple. O'Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs argue that amateurism is an illegal price-fix. How so? As a group, NCAA schools limit financial compensation for college athletes to the cost of an athletic scholarship. Anything above and beyond that -- like a cash handshake from a booster, or being paid for one's likeness to appear in a video game -- results in "ineligibility," which is another way to say "group boycott."
Acting as a monopolistic cartel, NCAA schools restrain trade, distort competition and prevent athletes from realizing their market value. Such is the conclusion of just about every independent economist who has studied college sports. Of course, the NCAA disagrees, and so does Rubinfeld. In an O'Bannon case report, he claims that the association is actually a "joint venture that achieves procompetitive benefits" -- in other words, the NCAA is not a cartel, nor does it violate the letter and spirit of antitrust law by harming competition. Which sounds nice. Except that in a college microeconomics textbook co-authored by Rubinfeld, he makes the exact opposite point, citing two organizations as (literal!) textbook examples of cartels. One of those is the OPEC, the friendly oil-producing co-op who brought you the gas station lines of the 1970s. The other is the NCAA.
Here's what Rubinfeld writes, in a section unironically titled "The Cartelization of Intercollegiate Athletics":
… profitability [in college sports] is the result of monopoly power, obtained via cartelization. The cartel organization is the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NCAA restricts competition in a number of important activities. To reduce bargaining power by student athletes, the NCAA creates and enforces rules regarding eligibility and terms of compensation
Moreover, here's what Rubinfeld said in an O'Bannon case deposition on the same subject (emphasis added):
… the NCAA does impose restraints of trade, which some would characterize as cartelization, and the collaboration ... which would be characterized as cartelization is part of the reason the NCAA and the leagues and conferences ... have been profitable as a result of the fact there has been this coordination …
Rubinfeld is right. "Some" would characterize the NCAA as a cartel -- "some," including Rubinfeld himself! Now, you might think that the association would know better than to hire an expert witness whose previously published testimony amounts to Mark Emmert did it in the library with a candlestick. You might even think that Emmert and Company would have a burning sense of, well, not exactly shame, but at least reluctance to produce what political consultants and PR flacks alike call bad optics.
You'd be mistaken.
Always remember: The NCAA is the same organization that investigated Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for the terrible, no-good crime for allegedly selling his autograph while simultaneously peddling name-searchable athlete jerseys on the shopNCAAsports.com website. The same organization whose member schools happily bid up salaries for coaches and athletic directors, while insisting that giving college athletes the same economic rights as everyone else on campus and in society would be ruinously unaffordable. The same organization currently arguing that eliminating amateurism will make college sports less popular, even though its own lawyer argued to the contrary during a 1984 Supreme Court case.
In other words, you'd be a fool to assume that the NCAA cares a whit about honesty, consistency or logic. And even more of a fool to think that Rubinfeld is anything but a fitting expert witness.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas is a frequent -- and frequently dead-on -- critic of both college sports amateurism and Emmert's tenure, and as such a Labs favorite. At the Manhattan forum, the NCAA president fired back at Bilas, saying, "I appreciate how passionate he is about college sports, [but] I don't like the ad hominem attacks."
A quick note to Emmert: Ad hominem attacks are personal in nature, i.e., rather than disputing a position using facts and reason, you instead dismiss the person who holds that position. When Bilas pointed out the NCAA online store fiasco earlier this year … or called attention to the infuriating case of former Richmond basketball player Jonathan Benjamin … or made the case that enforcing amateurism while coaches and administrators drown in the flood of television money washing over big-time college sports is just a wee bit unfair … he was doing just that: making a case.
By contrast, when I call Emmert a bureaucrat with a Gingrich-ian coif, during a takedown of the NCAA's rules protecting college athletes from
Candyman and the Hamburglar the supposed evils of commercial exploitation, that's ad hominem. Totally accurate, but ad hominem.
Get it straight.
Pulling Back the Legal Curtain
Back in October, I wrote that the NCAA's underlying legal defense against previous challenges to amateurism amounted to an Oz-like sham -- seemingly impressive, but substantively empty. Last month, federal judge Claudia Wilken came to the same conclusion, ruling against the NCAA's motion to dismiss the O'Bannon suit based on claims that:
(a) Amateurism is consistent with antitrust law;
(b) The Supreme Court already ruled in 1984 that amateurism is the settled law of the land.
Why did Wilken smack down the NCAA's contentions, and why was her ruling so important? Federal antitrust law is designed to protect and encourage marketplace competition. For instance, LG, Panasonic and Sony cannot agree legally to sell flat screen televisions at the same marked-up cost. Nor can Best Buy and Amazon. However, the law does allow marketplace rivals to enter what are known as "procompetitive" agreements -- that is, cooperative agreements deemed necessary for a product to exist in the first place. Consider an example I've used before: USB flash drives. Electronics manufacturers ranging from Sony to SanDisk agree to a standard format, and they then compete on the basis of memory size, price and other features. The courts approve. Why? Without a collective standard, the overall market for computer memory peripherals would be harmed.
Back to the NCAA and O'Bannon. Over and over, the NCAA and its lawyers have argued in federal court that amateurism itself is procompetitive, akin to the USB standard. Allow athletes to be freely compensated above the value of a scholarship, they maintain, and college sports will become a less popular product. Fans will stop tuning in to Duke-North Carolina basketball games. Demand for Auburn-Alabama football games will plummet. Entertainment-hungry television audiences will reject high-quality games featuring the best college-age football and basketball players in the country, and instead tune in to contests featuring athletes with the lowest possible sports-related personal income. Oh, and ESPN will promptly ink a $6 billion deal to televise the NAIA football playoffs.
OK. You can stop giggling now.
Now, you might assume that the NCAA has been forced to defend its amateurism-as-procompetitive stance with testimony and data, just like other antitrust defendants. Nope. For decades, the association instead has invoked one of its greatest legal losses, NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, a 1984 Supreme Court case that saw the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia successfully sue the association over its then-monopolistic control of televised college football.
In Board of Regents, the schools argued that NCAA control was anticompetitive, because it fixed the price of game broadcasts while placing an artificial cap on the total number of televised games. Both outcomes hurt college football as a product. Less money to grow the sport. Fewer broadcasts to grow a fan base. The association argued otherwise. Federal judges sided with the schools. So did the Supremes. So how did the NCAA snatch a self-proclaimed victory for amateurism from the jaws of antitrust defeat? Simple. Within the Court's 19,000-word majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the following:
… the NCAA seeks to market a particular brand of football -- college football. The identification of this "product" with an academic tradition differentiates college football from and makes it more popular than professional sports to which it might otherwise be comparable, such as, for example, minor league baseball. In order to preserve the character and quality of the "product," athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class and the like …
In legal parlance, Stevens' comments are known as dicta -- statements by the court that are not binding -- educated asides, basically. Stevens was making the larger philosophical point, consistent with antitrust law, that some restraints on trade are, in fact, procompetitive. However, he was not saying that the claim that amateurism is procompetitive had been tested in the courts and upheld; Board of Regents was about television rights, not athlete compensation. No matter. For nearly 30 years, the NCAA has cited Stevens' offhand remark that athletes must not be paid to justify amateurism in federal courts.
Amazingly, that tactic has worked, pretty much without debate. Until now. In Wilken's November ruling, she explicitly kaiboshed the Board of Regents argument, writing:
"[That case] focused on a different set of competitive restraints than the rules challenged in this case. Indeed, the Supreme Court never even analyzed the NCAA's ban on student-athlete compensation under the rule of reason nor did it cite fact findings indicating that this is the type of [restraint] which is 'essential if the [NCAA's] product is to be available at all.'
"While Board of Regents [gives] the NCAA 'ample latitude' to adopt rules preserving 'the revered tradition of amateurism in college sports,' it does not stand for the sweeping proposition that student-athletes must be barred, both during the college years and forever thereafter, from receiving any monetary compensation for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses."
The upshot? Without the fig leaf of Justice Stevens' throwaway musing, the NCAA now has to defend amateurism's procompetitiveness on -- gasp! -- actual evidence.
The Case Against the Case for Amateurism
Speaking of actual evidence, NCAA lawyers filed O'Bannon case documents, late last week, making five arguments supporting their position:
1. The public doesn't want college athletes to be paid money.
2. Paying athletes would "destroy" competitive balance.
3. Not paying athletes is essential to education.
4. Not paying athletes in revenue sports allows schools to afford non-revenue sports.
5. Not paying athletes results in more big-time football and basketball being available.
Arguments 2-5 are rehashes. No. 1 is new. Let's tackle them in reverse order:
5. The NCAA claims that eliminating amateurism will "force schools to recruit athletes" with "large cash payments," which in turn will lead colleges to exit big-time football and basketball. No. Eliminating amateurism will not force schools to spend a single penny more than they already do to recruit and compensate athletes; rather, it will simply allow them to spend more if they freely choose to do so. Schools who want the most in-demand athletes will have to spend accordingly, while schools who can't afford to do so will have to settle for less in-demand talent -- the same way schools already spend and settle for $600,000-a-year assistant football coaches, professors, postdoctoral students and university administrators. That is how functioning markets work.
Think about it this way: Northern Arizona spends less on its men's basketball coach and program than Arizona. The Lumberjacks have not dropped out of Division I. The Western Athletic Conference spends less on college athletes across the board than the Southeastern Conference. It continues to field sports teams. East Tennessee State spends less on its president than Michigan. The school has not abandoned higher education outright.
The NCAA is crying wolf.
4. The notion that amateurism makes non-revenue sports possible is an accounting trick, plain and simple. Moreover, there's plenty of money in the intercollegiate system to cover the relatively low cost of sports like women's rowing, particularly if you eliminate athletic department gold-plating and the distorted pricing that stems from it. Buh-bye, $1 million-plus AD salaries. For more, click here and here.
3. Amateurism has absolutely nothing to do with education; if it did, every student on campus participating in an extracurricular activity or earning income of any kind would be subject to it. Also see the Jim Delany item below.
2. Amateurism does nothing to promote competitive balance, not when it comes to acquiring the most highly valued recruits. Ball State and Indiana share a state but not the same gold-star space on Rivals.com; as Emmert himself says, Kansas does not go after the same men's basketball players as Butler. To the contrary, amateurism probably hurts the ability of small schools to compete for top prospects. Again, see here and here for more.
1. And finally, something novel. As Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY Sports reports, the NCAA filing features a public opinion survey, conducted by a market research firm, in which 68.9 percent of respondents were "opposed to paying money to student-athletes on college football and men's college basketball teams in addition to covering their college expenses" and 38 percent said they would be less likely to watch or attend games if college football and men's basketball players were each paid $20,000 per year -- percentages that increased as the theoretical pay figure increased.
So does that mean the NCAA is right, and that allowing college athletes to be paid would damage the popularity of the product? Not necessarily. Public opinion polls are notoriously mushy, in part because they're easily shaded to produce desired results, and in part because the public often says one thing and does another. To wit: Large majorities of Americans claim to support additional gun control legislation, but those same majorities consistently fail to pressure lawmakers into taking action.
Similarly, while many of the people polled by the NCAA's research firm say that they would be less likely to watch paid college football players, if Florida State's players were pocketing cash bonuses for playing in the national championship game, would they really change the channel? Plenty of real-world evidence suggests a contrary proposition: that sports fans are sports fans, and as such want the most talented young athletes competing in school-branded gear for the greater glory of Big State U, regardless of how said athletes are compensated.
Exhibit A: No struggling sports league has ever increased its appeal -- or even tried to increase its appeal -- by adopting amateurism. Exhibit B: Golf and tennis abandoned amateurism long ago, and both are now more profitable and popular than ever. Exhibit C: Three years ago, a group of Ohio State football players was suspended for amateurism violations that included selling memorabilia for cash. The players were allowed to compete in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Ratings for that game were up 25 percent from the previous year, while ratings for the four other BCS bowls starring pure, unsullied amateurs were down.
But wait! There's more. In 1999, a Gallup poll found that 66 percent of respondents felt the Olympics should "return to its original role as a competition for amateur athletes." Five years later, a Harris poll found that 51 percent of respondents believed the Olympics should be amateur-only. Meanwhile, the decidedly non-amateur 2012 Summer Olympics were the most-watched television event in American history.
Public opinion is one thing. Public action is another.
Jim Delany Opened His Mouth. Then Something Predictable Happened
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is exceedingly adept at two things: a) making scads of money for middle-aged college administrators who nobody wants to watch play basketball and football on television; b) saying whatever it is that needs to be said in order to keep the television network and cable/satellite affiliate fee checks cashing, no matter now laughably disingenuous.
At the Wednesday forum in Manhattan, Delany was up to his old tricks, dropping this doozy of a spit-in-your-face-and-tell-you-its-raining analogy: asking colleges to pay players, he said, would be like asking professional teams to require their players to attend college classes.
No. Just no.
One of the primary ways that college sports powerbrokers muddy the moral debate over amateurism -- and have done so for decades -- is by suggesting that there is a fundamental incongruity between making money and learning. Between an "amateur" athlete who hits the books and a millionaire "professional" who has no place in a classroom. Money, we're told, will somehow taint the purity of the educational mission.
Hogwash. Pure semantic puffery. As I've pointed out before, there's nothing anti-educational about having a campus job. Even if that job involves scoring touchdowns. Plenty of students -- including ones receiving scholarships -- are employed and somehow manage to graduate. Meanwhile, lots of professional athletes go back to school to complete or further their educations -- and generally are lauded for doing so.
Asking Ohio State to pay its football players is not like asking the Cleveland Cavaliers to make Kyrie Irving take calculus classes -- it's like asking Ohio State to pay its students who work in research labs, tutoring halls and the school cafeteria. Delany knows better.
Association of Denial
Four years ago, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) humiliated NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during Congressional hearings on brain damage in football, likening the league's dismissal and denial of the problem to Big Tobacco's handling of smoking and cancer, while reducing Goodell to a series of shoulder-slumping, mush-mouthed, empty platitudes.
The NCAA might be next.
Last month, Sanchez sent a letter to Emmert expressing concern over the organization's handling of concussions. She also asked four simple questions:
1. What action is the NCAA taking to protect collegiate football players?
2. What is the NCAA doing to ensure that member universities are following the 2010 NCAA policy that requires them to draft concussion management plans? And what are you doing to ensure schools adhere to this protocol?
3. Has the NCAA penalized colleges and universities that allow student-athletes to participate in a game after being injured or being diagnosed with a concussion? If so, what are those penalties?
4. What is the NCAA doing to educate student athletes about the long-term damage of major traumatic brain injuries?
Emmert's public response so far? Silence. With good reason. He'd be wasting oxygen and/or ink. After all, here are the answers to Sanchez's questions: 1. Almost nothing. 2. Nothing and nothing. 3. No and nothing. 4. Almost nothing. The NCAA's brain trauma policy is an utter disgrace, one that makes a mockery of the organization's founding mission -- protecting college football players from injuries, lest the sport be banned and we become a nation of what Teddy Roosevelt called "mollycoddles" -- while actually placing athletes at additional, unnecessary risk.
From a moral and practical standpoint, it's hard to disagree … the NCAA's concussion policy is a set of vague guidelines, the implementation of which is left in the hands of schools. There is no NCAA brain trauma clearinghouse, no compliance office, no monitoring staff, no get-tough punishment of programs that fail to protect athletes from potentially life-altering cognitive harm, as opposed to the unspeakable horror of talking to sports agents …
This is the same NCAA that crafts nit-picky lists of permissible bagel toppings, suspends "student-athletes" for accepting money for educational expenses, makes like the dealers in "The Wire" to go after an overzealous Miami booster and looks the other way when Ohio State's athletic department all but hires pre-cogs to keep tabs on athletes' personal bank accounts -- all in defense of amateur purity! That same NCAA treats potential brain damage with the same sense of hands-off, laissez-faire non-urgency that Dazed and Confused's Wooderson treated, well, just about everything. You just gotta keep livin', man. L-I-V-I-N.
Case in point? In the NCAA's voluminous, 400-page rulebook, the word concussion appears three times -- 76 fewer times than the word meals.
This matters. Matters to the young men and women who ostensibly are in school to have their minds nurtured and protected, and instead are being placed in harm's way. Take former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, who suffered numerous mismanaged concussions and now suffers from memory loss, depression, seizures and near-daily migraines, as a result of his injuries. Or consider the heartbreaking, stomach-turning story of Frostburg State football player Derek Sheely, who died after sustaining a wholly preventable brain injury during a 2011 practice.
Between 2004 and 2009, Sanchez notes, there were more than 29,000 reported concussions in college sports. More than half occurred in football. As for the accompanying standard of medical care? Three years ago, an internal NCAA survey found that less than half of all schools required concussed athletes to see a physician, that roughly 40 percent had no guidelines for athletes sitting out after being concussed, and that nearly 50 percent allowed athletes to return to play in the same game following a concussion diagnosis -- a dangerous, medically dubious practice.
Still, not to worry: An NCAA spokeswoman says that the organization has been "at the forefront of safety issues throughout its existence." Similarly, chief medical officer Brian Hainline claims to have a "fire in his eyes" about brain trauma. Of course, he also says that his employer cannot mandate change, 'cause, you know, God forbid the NCAA act all heavy-handed or something. The dissonance fits. Strip away the hollow rhetoric, and the NCAA's response to brain trauma looks awfully familiar. Like the NFL, the NCAA has treated human suffering as a legal problem. A liability question. A potential financial obligation to be shirked.
As attorney and NFLconcussionlitigation.com publisher Paul Anderson previously explained to me, "I think [NCAA officials] believe that if they were to even start enforcing their one-line policy that says schools must have a concussion management plan in place -- like the NCAA does with contact between players and agents -- they would be seen as pretty much the guardian of player health and safety and would then owe a duty to all student athletes."
In other words: If the NCAA doesn't acknowledge college football's brain trauma problem in anything but the most general terms, and doesn't try to do anything about the problem beyond making a few general suggestions, then neither a judge nor jury will be able to hold the organization responsible when the sport produces life-altering injuries and subsequent lawsuits.
"I use the analogy of walking down an aisle in a grocery store, and somebody falls over and has a seizure," Anderson says. "As an individual, you don't have a legal duty to help them. Morally, you probably do. But the moment you voluntarily assume a duty by picking them up or standing by them, then legally, you now have put yourself in a position where you must act reasonably. Otherwise you can be held accountable."
Speaking of accountability: The NCAA is being sued. By Arrington. By Sheely's family. By a handful of other athletes. Ultimately, the suits could be consolidated into a class action case, much like the NFL concussion litigation. And again, that's not the only parallel between the association and the league. Remember Hainline, the NCAA's new medical chief? He's a former professional colleague of former New York Jets team doctor Elliot Pellman -- a key figure in League of Denial, one-time head of the NFL's concussion-denying, junk science-producing Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, a man who authored papers concluding that concussions "are not serious injuries" and that "many [concussed] players can be safely allowed to return to play on the day of injury."
Last July, Hainline defended the NCAA's foot-dragging on requiring that concussed players not be allowed to return to play on the same day as their injuries, telling The Chronicle of Higher Education's Brad Wolverton that until the end of 2012, there was not a widely accepted medical consensus on same-day returns. To support his position, Hainline noted that "one closely watched set of guidelines suggested that players should not be returned on the same day -- but left open a window for adult or elite athletes under special circumstances."
About those guidelines: Hainline was referring to the 2009 Consensus Statement from the Third International Conference on Concussion in Sport, a document that cites the American Academy of Neurology, the U.S. Team Physician Consensus Statement and the U.S. National Athletic Trainers' Association, all of whom advise against same-day return. As for the aforementioned "open window?" The consensus statement contained a single sentence, footnoted by a single paper studying American professional football players. A paper authored by -- you guessed it -- Pellman and the NFL committee.
Association of denial, anyone?
Holiday Gift Guide
Unable to score a PlayStation 4 this holiday season, perhaps because you aren't a bowl-bound amateur college football player? Not to worry. Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson has your under-the-tree needs covered:
Way back in the 1980's, an infamous anti-drug public service television spot went roughly like this: A concerned, mustachioed father (possibly the Dunkin' Donuts "time to make the donuts" guy) barges into his son's bedroom, where junior is rocking out with a pair of drumsticks and an ultra-high-fidelity, wood-paneled home stereo from Radio Shack. The father is holding a wooden box. Inside is the stage-proppiest marijuana stash of all time. Mom found the box in junior's closet. Dad wants to know where the boy got the drugs. Answer me! The boy hems and haws. The father presses. Who taught you how to do this stuff?
A dramatic pause.
"You, all right?" the boy says. "I learned it by watching you!"
Substitute marijuana for money. The boy for a college athlete. The father for a campus coach, school administrator, or just about anyone else within the NCAA system. This, in essence, is the fundamental hypocrisy of college sports: telling athletes that it is somehow morally wrong for them to earn a free and fair market wage for their labor, even as everyone else in American society enjoys the same basic right without guilt, shame or interference.
Last month, Oregon suspended basketball players Dominic Artis and Ben Carter for selling team gear. Meanwhile, $1.35 million of Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman's $1.8 million annual salary comes not from the school, but from Nike, in exchange for complying with apparel and shoe deals. According to a recent report by Kate Howard Perry of the Omaha World-Herald, 94 Nebraska athletic department staffers receive complementary cars and/or memberships to country, golf and health clubs, all paid for by the University of Nebraska Foundation, college-affiliated nonprofits and other private benefactors. Meanwhile, former Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch -- who only won the Heisman Trophy, earning his school millions in free publicity -- was once suspended from competition for eating a four-dollar ham sandwich at a friend of a friend's house.
Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY Sports reports that Kansas State has a detailed licensing agreement to use the name and likeness of football coach Bill Snyder, that Ohio State is in the process of trademarking football coach Urban Meyer's name and the phrase "Urban Meyer Knows," and that Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney not only has trademarked his name, but also sells merchandise through the school's licensing program. By contrast, Clemson football player Darius Robinson -- a senior -- had to join the O'Bannon lawsuit just so future college athletes might have a chance to do the same thing. Is Robinson somehow less of a citizen than his coach? Does the fact that Clemson gives Robinson a scholarship in exchange for playing football make it OK for every school in America to deny Robinson and his peers very basic, economic rights that other (non-athletic) scholarship students take for granted?
Just a few weeks ago, Southwestern College basketball player Cameron Rodriguez won $20,000 for hitting a half-court shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder game. He promptly was informed by the NAIA -- the NCAA's killjoy little brother -- that if he kept the money, he would lose his playing eligibility. Why? Because amateurism. For his part, Rodriguez said he would never considering taking the money and forfeiting his college athletic career. After all, rules are rules. Authority should be respected. Even if said authority neither follows nor respects said rules. Twenty-four years ago, veteran sportswriter and former Northwestern defensive back Rick Telander published The Hundred Yard Lie, a passionate takedown of college football's ills. In the book, he discusses athlete misbehavior -- academic fraud, taking money under the table, running afoul of law enforcement -- with Thomas Tulko, then a professor of sports psychology at San Jose State.
"You can't blame the athlete when he sees the whole world cheating," Tulko says. "That seems to be the ethos in our society today: 'Can I get away with it?' is the question. Athletes don't feel that they're doing anything wrong."
I learned it by watching you.
At least ostensibly, college sports are about education. Beyond hypocrisy, what lessons are they actually teaching?
See you in 2014.