College Football 2011: With NCAA Amateurism a Joke, Here's How to Fix the Mess
The NCAA is ruining college football by pretending that its amateurism-based rules are still relevant.
This has become a joke because the NCAA continues to inconsistently penalize a fast growing list of schools for related violations usually uncovered by the media that represent only a small percentage of the actual rule-breakers.
Making matters worse is the NCAA punishment of the wrong people; the guilty are usually not punished while innocent athletes suffer the impact of sanctions.
However, there are practical solutions to fix the biggest problems and end this nightmare without costing the colleges.
Let’s discuss the following to understand the amateurism problem, related NCAA issues and the solutions to fix them:
2. Out of Control NCAA Violation Cases and Revelations
3. Athletes Do Not Receive the Full Cost of an Education or Fair Share of Revenues
4. NCAA Enforcement Process is Ineffective, Corrupt, and Unfair
5. Real Problems that Must be Fixed
6. The Practical Solutions
Your comments about the problems with the NCAA and practical solutions are very welcome after you read the slideshow.
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
P.S. Since this article was published the College Athletics Protective Association (CAPA) was formed as a non-profit think tank. CAPA’s mission is to protect the integrity and best interests of college athletics, student athletes and amateurism. It will address many of the issues identified in this article, and a coalition of lobbyists will take that information to Congress to support the necessary changes to the NCAA.
The NCAA was formed in 1906 to protect athletes but it seems to do everything but that now. There was no TV, lucrative football bowl games or basketball tournaments, and related professional sports did not exist.
The modern Olympics began 10 years earlier with only amateurs; the original Greek Olympics used professionals. The NCAA was also formed based on amateurism and Congress gave it non-profit, tax-exempt status.
The world of sports is completely different today, and amateurism in the multi-billion dollar revenue sports of college football and basketball is dead or on life support from the NCAA.
The Olympics figured this out in 1986 and made the necessary changes to recognize that many athletes were no longer amateurs.
The NCAA keeps pretending that many athletes in the high revenue sports of football and basketball are not violating archaic NCAA rules by taking money from sports agents and sometimes boosters.
Their motivation is only to maximize the revenues that the NCAA and its member colleges retain at the expense of the athletes who generate them.
2. Out of Control NCAA Violation Cases and Revelations
Some of the football NCAA cases in the past year include USC, Ohio State , Auburn, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Boise State and Oregon; there are also BCS problems including the Fiesta Bowl $1M fine and BCS possible antitrust violations as discussed in these articles:
This is just the tip of the iceberg and it is nothing new:
Many of today's coaches are too young to remember the lawless 1980s. Dodds is the last athletic director in place from the late Southwest Conference, which cheated its way into oblivion.
"Oh, not even close," Dodds said. "The '80s were worse. The '80s were as bad as they could get. This pales to what was going on in the '80s."
There has been an underground rule-breaking world of sports agents and boosters paying athletes for many years.
Sports agent Josh Luchs, NBA star and TV commentator Charles Barkley, NCAA sportswriter Lonnie White, former OSU RB Maurice Clarett, former Texas QB Colt McCoy’s wife, four former Auburn football players and others have openly discussed the many athletes who have violated NCAA rules by taking money and none of them were ever sanctioned.
Is the NCAA the only one naïve enough to believe that amateurism still exists in Division I college football and basketball?
Here is what NCAA President Mark Emmert says about amateurism:
Mark Emmert defends the amateurism of college basketball and rejects any form of payments to players. “I think that it would be utterly unacceptable to convert students into employees,” Emmert tells Bergman. “The point of March Madness, of the men’s basketball tournament, is the fact that it’s being played by students. ... What amateurism really means is that these young men and women are students; they’ve come to our institutions to gain an education and to develop their skills as an athlete and to compete at the very highest level they're capable of. And for them, that’s a very attractive proposition.”
Of course, Emmert ignores the fact that college athletes are already paid through scholarships, housing, and meals and many of them have aspirations to join the NFL or NBA and participate in college sports for that reason.
This ESPN Outside the Lines video about Selling the NCAA is a very good summary of the current situation. Thayer Evans of Fox Sports wrote that the NCAA is truly out of control because they did not pin the loss of institution control on Ohio State or North Carolina but did on USC. Both schools had many more violations than the Trojans including more serious infractions by their coaches.
Emmert is not in touch with what is happening with the athletes, and certainly does not care that football and basketball players generate a lot of money for colleges and do not receive even the full cost of a college education, much less a fair share of the revenue from their efforts.
3.Athletes Do Not Receive the Full Cost of an Education or Fair Share of Revenue
The NCAA has its hand in the cookie jar since it has amassed over $400M in net assets from revenue skimmed from TV revenues that it did not distribute to the colleges. This is growing at about $40M per year.
Why would a non-profit need net assets this large? Is this what Congress had in mind when it granted tax-exempt status?
The Ithaca College study in October 2010 found that the average student-athlete must invest $3,000 per year to make up the difference between the athletic scholarship and the actual education costs. But, the NCAA has plenty of money to fund this difference for all scholarship athletes without any additional cost to colleges.
Athletes are not allowed to sign with the NFL until more than three years after they finish high school, and basketball has a one year delay.
This means that for most athletes with NFL or NBA aspirations, college sports and the NCAA are their only real choice.
The NFL and NCAA have done nothing to prevent sports agents from giving money to college athletes. There is almost nothing that colleges can do to prevent this from happening because it is done in secret, and sports agents do not get punished.
4. NCAA Enforcement Process Is Ineffective, Corrupt, and Unfair
The NCAA made all of this much worse with its hypocrisy and the corrupt enforcement process that are inconsistent, unfair, biased, lack due process and are ineffective.
The USC case is one example of many NCAA enforcement problems as indicated in Ten Reasons Why USC Football NCAA Sanctions Are Not Fair and Former Trojan RB Coach Todd McNair Files Lawsuit Against NCAA.
Some believe that the best solution is to penalize the schools so harshly that they won’t commit violations based on the assumption that the colleges are aware and cheating. Robyn Norwood of USA TODAY wrote “Are Ohio State, USC too big to be hurt by NCAA penalties?
This article makes it clear that NCAA penalties do not affect the winning percentage of schools:
A 2007 study by Chad McEvoy, an associate professor of sport management at Illinois State, found that the five-year winning percentages of 35 teams sanctioned over a 15-year period ending in 2002 actually rose, from .547 to .566 in the five years after they were penalized by the NCAA.
Even among 10 schools hit with what were considered the most serious sanctions, the winning percentage dipped only slightly, from .634 to .614.
Increasing penalties and enforcement staff is Emmert’s solution as discussed in Mark Emmert isn’t backing down.
The NCAA and USA TODAY story got it all wrong. Finding all the violations, if the NCAA were capable, and punishing them more harshly would end college football and basketball because there are violations at almost every major college and in most cases the school is unaware of the secret transactions.
4. NCAA Enforcement Process Is Unfair (Continued) – the NCAA Is Running Scared
Ohio State’s AD Gene Smith said that his school is considering hiring private investigators to monitor student-athletes at the recent NCAA Director of Athletics Convention.
What’s next? Perhaps offer monetary rewards to other students who provide leads about athlete violations that result in a “conviction.”
Remember this is the same guy who heads the NCAA Basketball tournament selection committee and misled the NCAA about his own compliance department to complete the hoax so his five ineligible football players could compete in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.
Maybe he’s just trying to line up his next gig. After all, the NCAA put Paul Dee as the head of the Committee of Infractions, and he was responsible for some of the worst violations in NCAA history as the Miami Athletics Director.
The reality is that the NCAA finds very few violations (most are uncovered by the media or colleges) and that won’t change much even with increased staff.
The NCAA is running scared.
Emmert knows there are growing criticisms of the NCAA by the media, and he faces opposition to his strategy to increase enforcement and penalties while maintaining an unfair process.
So he has summoned 50 college Presidents to a retreat on August 9-10 to make sure that colleges do not pay athletes, and discuss investigative tools and penalty structure.
Doesn’t anyone in the NCAA or their cronies understand the real problem?
5. Real Problems That Must Be Fixed
Some of the real issues include:
1. The NCAA punishes the wrong people (student-athletes impacted by sanctions often did not attend the school when violations were committed).
2. Many rules are arcane and do not make sense in today’s rich TV environment.
3. Most of the rule breakers never get caught and their schools punished.
4. The NCAA enforcement process is ineffective, arbitrary, biased and unfair.
5. Athletes do not receive the full cost of their college education, a fair share of revenues generated or independent assistance in planning for their NFL or NBA sports careers.
6. “Pay for play” violations are much worse than “pay to leave” but not according to the NCAA
There should be a big difference between “pay for play” (colleges and/or boosters paying athletes to sign at the school and continue playing there) and “pay to leave” (sports agents paying athletes so that they will sign with them and/or leave early for the NFL/NBA).
“Pay for play” recruiting violations are the worst because the college gains an unfair advantage and should be punished accordingly. It is also wrong for schools or their boosters to pay athletes to continue to play at the school instead of transferring or declaring early for the NFL or NBA.
“Pay to leave” situations can actually harm the school by encouraging the athlete to leave early, and do not give the school an unfair advantage.
However, USC was a “pay to leave” situation with one athlete and the Trojans were hammered harder than any other college with multiple athletes in “pay to play” violations except SMU who received the only death penalty. This is one of the many problems with this case that is useful because it illustrates many of the NCAA issues.
5. Real Problems That Must Be Fixed (Continued) – the Media Perspective
The following articles discuss the NCAA problems and have various solutions:
Here are some excerpts from these articles starting with the reason it is the NCAA’s fault.
The NCAA created the problem with its arcane, unfair, and unrealistic rules, along with its refusal to admit that it’s completely and totally unable to properly investigate and police those rules. Did the NCAA uncover the Ohio State scandal? No. Did it blow the lid off of Reggie Bush’s shenanigans? No. Did it whiff on the Cam Newton fiasco? Yes. Has it done anything to prevent programs from cheating and future players from taking cash, benefits, and other incentives? Not even close, and the chickens are coming home to roost.
The NCAA is Corrupt. To cite just one example, the scalping of Final Four tickets over the past 20 years or so by athletic department personnel to corporate entities and the laundering of that money through various red-haired AAU personalities has gone on with the full knowledge and approval of NCAA members and administrators.
The NCAA Makes Up The Rules As It Goes Along. Much of the rationale for NCAA sanctions are based on post hoc reasoning that is nearly impossible for schools to navigate.
The NCAA Is Selective and Biased In Its Enforcement. Just ask Jerry Tarkanian, whose long-running feud with the NCAA finally culminated in him beating the organization in court. “Public records suggest (Tarkanian’s) case was the worst investigation ever conducted by the NCAA, rife with intimidation of athletes, bigotry . . . slipshod work, creative note-taking and untruth by an investigator and vindictiveness by a disgruntled former coach.”
… It’s just to point out that the NCAA is too corrupt, biased and vindictive to be the valid judge, jury and executioner it claims to be.
College athletes fair market value restricted by NCAA Cartel:
… Both deserve fair market value, and the only reason to question their salaries is because they are part of a cartel that restricts athletes from realizing their fair market value while others profit.
I don’t believe college athletes should be paid as employees. Rather, I believe barriers should be removed that limit an athlete from receiving fair compensation for his or her image and likeness. There is no legitimate reason why a college athlete should be denied the opportunity to enter into legitimate, legally binding contracts to, among other things, hire an agent, do paid appearances, appear in advertisements, endorse shoes and apparel or otherwise profit from their names and likenesses. It would not sink college sports, substantially limit the NCAA’s massive television profits or negatively affect the education of the athletes or any other student. It would simply be fair.
Fans and Media can’t help themselves:
Does the media really care about whether a school is truly guilty as charged by the NCAA? I don’t think so. Sure, there are some media members who are honest enough to acknowledge the NCAA’s faults, but how many of those who spent tons of column inches ripping Miami in 1995 or Alabama in 2002 or USC in 2010 actually read the full reports and the evidence they contained?
The fans are even worse. It is a truism that followers of a school hit with infractions are intimately aware of almost every detail in an NCAA penalty report that concerns their beloved institution and that opposing fans who have not read the report will automatically assume that school is guilty without bothering to read it. Instead, they rely on the media–which also hasn’t read the report–to tell them what to think.
Change the focus of the NCAA:
NCAA, it’s time to change the focus of your mission. Instead of trying to police all the minutiae, realize what’s truly important. Do more research on the concussion problems. Finally start doing something about the underreported and completely unnoticed steroid and performance enhancing drug problem. Work harder at helping players be students. Basically, focus your energy elsewhere.
NCAA, this is fixable, but you have to become realistic. Times have changed, and you need to, too.
6. The Practical Solutions
Many argue that most division I colleges are operating their athletic budgets in the red. However, that is not true for most football and basketball programs. They generate almost all of the revenue for the NCAA and university sports programs.
Nevertheless, it is important to develop a solution that has minimal cost impact to the colleges, treats both the colleges and athletes fairly, and complies with Title IX.
So, how can we fix this mess without making the colleges pay the athletes any more money?
6. The Practical Solutions (Continued): Fix the NCAA Enforcement Process
The NCAA has shown for many years that they are not capable of fairly and effectively enforcing its rules.
The silly “apples and oranges” statements by President Emmert were institutionalized in a new rule passed in April 2011 that past precedent does not matter. It was no coincidence that this was done just before the NCAA denied the Todd McNair and USC appeals.
The NCAA can do whatever they want to any school and never have to justify it based on other similar cases.
The only practical way to fix this is to reduce the NCAA’s role back to helping athletes with rules and assistance consistent with their original purpose and charter.
An unbiased independent enforcement organization should be formed with standards, consistency, and due process.
Funding would come from the college TV revenues just as the NCAA is funded now. The NCAA budget would be reduced since it would no longer perform enforcement functions.
Punishments would focus on the actual people or organizations that commit violations. For example, colleges could receive huge fines instead of punishing athletes who had nothing to do with violations by eliminating bowl games or reducing scholarships as they do now.
Coaches and athletes would be required to sign agreements that they will cooperate with investigations and abide by decisions even after they have left college football. Penalties for coaches and athletes no longer involved in college sports could include significant fines if there is no other way to punish them.
As discussed in the next slide, most if not all “pay to leave” violations would be eliminated. So, enforcement would be able to focus on the “pay to play” violations making them more effective to eliminate the real unfair advantages gained by breaking rules.
6. The Practical Solutions (Continued): Help the Athletes
We have established that college scholarship athletes are paid so there is no real amateurism. The only real issue then is how much the scholarship athletes get to keep of the billions in annual revenue generated, and the source of those funds.
Sure there are many fans who believe that scholarships, even though they don’t cover the full education costs, are sufficient compensation for the athletes.
Few of these people have played college sports at this level to understand the amount of effort involved and the large sums of money surrounding Division IA football and basketball. Often the highest paid university employees are the athletic department administrators and the coaches of these two sports. Even conference commissioners receive $1M per year or more, exceeding most university presidents.
This is very different from the many more student academic merit scholarships (often combined with financial assistance) that do not require any additional non-academic effort or generate any revenues. They are free to get jobs and generate additional income all year long, and still get a free education.
The NCAA amateurism rules exist today solely to control the amount student-athletes benefit from the revenue generated.
Here are ways to help the athletes without making the colleges pay them more compensation:
1. Division 1A scholarship athletes in all sports receive the full cost of their education expenses. The NCAA can give them an additional $3,000 per year stipend using its current $400M in net assets (plus the additional $40M per year) as an “endowment” fund.
2. Allow relationships with sports agents including ability to loan them money to be paid back after the athlete leaves college, guide the athlete toward their professional career and arrange merchandising deals.
But, in return for these relationships with athletes, sports agents will have to sign agreements with the NCAA that they will abide by the rules or they will cooperate with enforcement investigations and abide by penalties including fines or show-cause orders preventing them from having relationships with college athletes.
3. Allow athletes to receive money from merchandising including signing athletic apparel and equipment, selling their own memorabilia, and endorse products.
None of this would violate Title IX because it would apply to every athlete in every sport. Of course, the amount of money that the athletes receive would vary based on their marketability but that is only fair.
This would take a lot of the financial pressure off most athletes and eliminate almost all of the "pay to leave" violations.
Then the real problems with the "pay to play" violations can be addressed in a fair and effective manner because they are the only ones that create an unfair competitive advantage.
The NCAA has made a mess of its enforcement process, changed its rules to “legalize” unfair penalties and uses its “amateurism” principle to benefit itself and the member schools at the expense of the athletes who are prevented from participating in professional sports.
Emmert has made it clear that the NCAA will increase its enforcement organization which will result in more (but still a small percentage) violations being punished. But, the NCAA will not change its “amateurism” rules, athletes will not be helped and more innocent athletes will be punished.
The sad truth is that while the NCAA should be eliminating unfair competitive advantages gained by breaking “pay for play” rules it is actually creating them with its corrupt enforcement practices.
The NCAA has lost all credibility with its ridiculous enforcement practices and this will only get worse unless this responsibility is taken away and given to an unbiased and independent organization that has standards and consistent treatment of violations and sanctions.
Rules must be changed to reflect today’s realities.
Scholarship athletes deserve to receive the full cost of an education, and the opportunity to share in the multi-billion revenues from sports like football and basketball without costing the colleges. These athletes also deserve the opportunity for professional advice to prepare them for NFL and NBA careers.
None of these changes are difficult to make and they solve the majority of problems with the NCAA. It is clear that the NCAA will not make these changes because they don’t get it. So, it is going to take the public, media, and Congress to force them to happen.
This may not happen overnight, but it will happen because the alternative is to continue this mess and ruin college sports; TV, other sports media and college sports fans won’t let that happen.
Rest assured that significant efforts outside the NCAA are being made to transform its guidelines and arbitrary governance of college athletics and this will become visible soon.
Stay tuned. This is going to get a lot more interesting … in a good way.
Contact College Presidents or Chancellors Before NCAA August 9-10 Meeting
B/R Contributor Michael Tierney made an excellent suggestion in the course of discussing this article in the reader comment section. He suggested sending emails to college presidents or chancellors who may be attending the NCAA retreat on August 9-10 to make them aware of the solutions in this article.
Below is a suggested email content with the email addresses of those who are most likely to attend this meeting. Please use this information as you deem appropriate to communicate with these folks.
Subject: Practical Solutions for Your NCAA Meeting August 9-10
Dear President (or Chancellor) XXX:
I love college football and basketball, and do not like the way that the NCAA is ruining them. I understand that NCAA President Mark Emmert has summoned 50 college presidents or chancellors to a retreat on August 9-10 to discuss the future of Division I sports.
This is an opportunity to address the real problems with college sports, and fix them in a way that will help the colleges and the athletes. President Emmert’s agenda does not do this.
This article is a comprehensive review of the major problems with the NCAA and college football, and offers practical solutions that are a win-win for colleges and athletes. They will eliminate most of the violations, ensure a fair enforcement process focused on the issues that create unfair competitive advantages, and help the athletes without increasing the costs for the colleges.
The NCAA retreat meeting may be the last opportunity for college presidents and chancellors to identify the appropriate changes before similar ones are forced by external bodies.
I sincerely hope that you make the best of this opportunity, and the solutions in the recommended article are a good place to start. As you can see from the reader comments, college sports fans are overwhelming in favor of these changes.
William P. Leahy
Richard H. Brodhead
Eric J. Barron
G. P. "Bud" Peterson
Wallace D. Loh
Donna E. Shalala
W. Randolph Woodson
Thomas W. Ross
Nathan O. Hatch
Ken W. Starr
Gregory L. Geoffroy
Stephen J. Owens
David L. Boren
William Powers Jr.
R. Bowen Loftin
James R. Ramsey
Mark A. Nordenberg
Richard L. McCormick
James P. Clements
Michael J. Hogan
Michael A. McRobbie
Sally K. Mason
Mary Sue Coleman
Lou Anna K. Simon
Robert H. Bruininks
James B. Milliken
Graham B. Spanier
France A. Cordova
Rev. John I. Jenkins
Robert N. Shelton
Robert J. Birgeneau
Bruce D. Benson
Edward J. Ray
John L. Hennessy
Gene D. Block
A. Lorris Betz
Michael K. Young
Elson S. Floyd
Robert E. Witt
J. Bernard Machen
Michael F. Adams
Lee T. Todd
Daniel W. Jones
Mark E. Keenum
Nicholas S. Zeppos