If the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s actions produced a salutary effect, so-called student-athletes would excel academically, in all the arts and sciences, and overall they would be financially far better off than they are today.
So as not to get the wrong idea and think this article is unduly critical, readers should be mindful that the NCAA’s chief raison d’être should be but is not ─ viz., to help athletes excel in academics. Anything short of this measure makes a mockery out of the NCAA’s avowed concern for the well-being of college athletes. Most certainly, its chief raison d’être should not be to amass great wealth for itself, universities, coaching staffs, sporting apparel and broadcasting companies, while profiting on poor players remain dirt poor.
Contrary to what the NCAA would like the public to think, these athletes are not little children, still too young to manage an allowance. They are young men and women old enough to marry, sign a contract, cast a vote, and fight in wars. Some freshmen athletes are already mature enough to play professionally but are prevented from doing so because the NCAA wants to “protect” them as long as possible. If they had their druthers, they would mother every player worth his salt until thirty-five or forty years of age.
The failings of the NCAA should not be considered as simple oversights: the association has had over a century to get a clear, well-focused look at the chronic carking issues that have always beset college athletes ─ namely, getting poor grades and having no money except a paltry sum to subsist on.
The proof is in the pudding: were the NCAA truly concerned about their dear college athletes, it would not be forever engaged in litigation with them.
In this first part, we will review the claptrap on the NCAA’s website. In Part II, we will look at the little that the NCAA’s has been doing to help athletes become better students ─ virtually nothing ─ and what it could be doing to make profound difference. In Part III, we will look at the NCAA’s financial books ─ to the degree that they are open to the public ─ and at their other streams of income which are fairly well concealed from public view. In Part IV, we will survey the history of the NCAA’s litigation with schools and players, and learn why there is a burgeoning number of bowls yet no playoffs. In Part V, the final part, we will look specifically at the NCAA’s callous indifference to football players’ overall well-being and at its lack of leadership to reduce the intolerable high incidence of debilitating football injuries.
Let’s begin by determining how much the NCAA’s professed maternal instincts are illusory. This should reveal the association’s abject disingenuousness. On the NCAA’s website, the association defines itself in a quaint fashion hoping to fool us fans that it is at once democratic and magnanimous . . . and then it professes its core values in an imbecile fashion with the sincerity that all platitudes engender.
To wit (numbers added by author so as to underscore the fluff) ─
The Association – through its member institutions, conferences and national office staff – shares a belief in and commitment to:
1. The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.
2. The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.
3. The pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.
4. The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.
5. An inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.
6. Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.
7. Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletics at the campus, conference and national levels.
The preamble to the litany of “core values ” ─ i.e. The Association – through its member institutions, conferences and national office staff – shares a belief in and commitment to ─ gives the false impression that the various member schools as well as the several conferences are one homogeneous body. In reality, however, the NCAA national office is separate and apart from the members it reigns over in a decidedly despotic fashion.
The first core value: “The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.”
Notice, avocation. The use of this word implies a few fibs about the players’ desires:
- that their partaking in an intercollegiate sport is for sheer fun.
- that their commitment to play a sport is casual ─ on par with that necessary to play a pickup game after school, weather permitting.
- that their financial situation has no bearing whatsoever on their decision to participate in a sport, especially when they sit on the bench and don’t play at all ─ game after game, year after year.
Notice, that this first “core value” supposedly balances academic, social, and athletic experiences! Whereas, in truth it could not be more out of balance!
Notice, which of these three experiences is stated last ─ athletics, of course! What does the NCAA have to do with athletics anyway? Nothing? Not! Everything, yes! Perhaps the NCAA will soon add another A to its name ─ a la government’s alphabet agencies ─ to fool us all the better ─ viz., the National Collegiate ACADEMIC Athletic Association!
Notice, that social experience is a null set ─ that is, there is nothing in it except blather, certainly nothing which the NCAA can rightfully toot its horn about.
Moreover, if the academic experience were as important to the NCAA as it claims, athletes would be excelling in every academic discipline and distinguishing themselves in all the arts and sciences. Except for a few rarities, student-athletes have no presence in physics, mathematics, chemistry, etc.
The second core value: “The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.”
Where is the integrity when everyone involved but the players benefit financially? Where is the integrity when coaches forever move from one school to another in quest for more money? Where is the sportsmanship when ranking is determined by how much they run up the score and humiliate their opponents? Where is the sportsmanship when a perennial top-ranked football team is pitted against a weak opponent from a lesser conference or division, the outcome of which is all but certain? Where is the integrity when such unbalanced matchups are wide open to corruption ─ i.e. beating the spread and deciding to go over or under (the total number of points scored)?
The third core value: “The pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.”
There is no pursuit of academic excellence except for specious discussions to dupe the unwary public. However, SAT and ACT scores and other academic standards have been dropping nationwide for decades in large measure to accommodate borderline student-athletes. Also, there is widespread pressure on professors to go easy on their school’s valuable revenue-producing assets.
As to athletic excellence, doubtless there is pursuit thereof but it comes at the onerous expense of academics.
The fourth core value: “The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.”
The NCAA plays no role in any so-called higher education mission except perhaps to undermine it. To stress what was just mentioned immediately above, standards could be so much higher if high school athletes had to excel academically to gain admission to college, let alone win inanely-named “scholarships.”
The NCAA does absolutely nothing that colleges cannot do themselves acting alone , except impose and vigorously enforce the universal amateur status of student-athletes.
The fifth core value: “An inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.”
The NCAA should not claim any credit for this. Several decades ago, after Alabama, in the heart of Dixie, was beat badly by USC, Paul Bear Bryant decided he had better start recruiting more Black players. He did so. It was this man’s far-reaching decision that integrated football, and consequently all of the other sports too. The self-aggrandizing NCAA’s may have wished that it had had the mettle to make such a monumental societal change.
Moreover, the NCAA has no authority to force colleges to choose a Black, Chicano, or a woman coach; such decisions are made exclusively by each of the respective schools.
All the NCAA can do and does is exact money from the profitable basketball and football programs and channel it to minor sports which lack sufficient spectator interest to sustain themselves. This function it performs very well. When the money runs out, however, as it did this year at the University of Maryland owing to falling revenue from a losing football team, less popular sports must be dropped.
Readers may wonder why there should be any limits to the NCAA’s largess! If this taxing body can legally extract money from participating schools, why then does it not re-channel some of it back to schools experiencing financial difficulties? Should there be any financial limits on equal opportunity, especially for women athletes? Apparently the NCAA thinks so ─ at least in as much as it effects its own tax-free bottom line.
The sixth core value: “Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.”
This core value may not be an outright lie, but it is certainly not the truth. As for the first part, the NCAA abhors institutional autonomy as much as our power-grabbing national government loathes states’ rights.
As for the philosophical part, it is just sheer balderdash! The only philosophy the NCAA ascribes to is accumulating wealth and power for itself.
The seventh, and last, core value: “Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletics at the campus, conference and national levels.”
“Presidential” here pertains to college presidents of the participating schools. It does not mean the pres of the US. Nonetheless, the NCAA, as well as pro teams, has gone all out currying political favor. Hapless players on championship teams are obliged to visit the White House, no matter how diametrically opposed they may be to the president’s politics, policies, and performance. In return for the favorable publicity, the Oval Office is inclined to ignore the many injustices to players and look approvingly at the tax benefits granted the NCAA despite its adverse effects on all concerned except itself.
As for the college presidents, they and their universities benefit hugely, but the public loses commensurately. While the cost of education continues to rise, increasing faster than virtually any other segment of the economy, the United States’ ranking among nations in education drops ever lower and lower.