Dan Wetzel on “Amateurism” in the NCAA

Yahoo! Sports, with Wetzel, Robinson and now Forde, has excelled against its competition covering college sports over the past few years, particularly in its coverage and commentary of the numerous scandals and instances of increasing NCAA irrelevance (while using actual documentation as evidence rather than “unnamed sources”). Rather than focus its entire platform on pointless “debate,” Yahoo! actually still covers sports.

Unfortunately, you must be blessed with patience, motivation and web-savvy to actually navigate the new Yahoo! Sports website. So, in case you missed it, here’s a topic that isn’t going away.

Dan Wetzel, on “amateurism” in the NCAA (Yahoo! Sports):

These kinds of stories, much of the focus is on the NCAA enforcement angle. Some just want to know what the penalties will be and how it will affect competitive balance. Some want retribution along fair-is-fair guidelines – the NCAA lit up their favorite program, so it’s about time the damn Tide got its comeuppance too. Still others just want to blame the media for supposedly doing the NCAA’s investigative work or even propping up the rulebook by laying out violations.

Almost everyone is missing the forest for the trees.

These stories – from Johnny Manziel and autographs, to Sports Illustrated’s current series on Oklahoma State to North Carolina academics to Nevin Shapiro to UConn hoops to Ceruzzi Sports to John Blake to Oregon football to whatever is coming next – contribute to the pulling back of the curtains on how this massive enterprise truly operates. There’s enough media selling the fairytale. We don’t need fewer investigations.

This is major college athletics. Not those public-relations commercials during the games with cinematography, soaring music and canned concepts propping up “amateurism” as anything more than a tax dodge. And this is the river of underground money that flows through major college football. It’s everywhere. It’s undeniable. It’s uncontainable.

The more that truth is exposed, the better.

Enforcing amateurism became so impossible and ridiculous that even the International Olympic Committee – still in favor of kickbacks and bribes, mind you – gave up on it … nearly three decades ago. The Olympics didn’t collapse because Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps can appear in TV commercials. It actually got more popular. It’d be no different in the college game.

Besides, it’s not like college administrators – commissioners, athletic directors, coaches and so on – have any use for the spirit of amateurism.

They long ago ditched any semblance of austerity that might come if you were truly operating just an extracurricular activity or true non-profit sports enterprise. Instead, they drape themselves in huge salaries, private planes, comp cars and country club course memberships. They snatch every last freebie at Nike retreats and lounge on Caribbean cruises funded by bowl executives. They hold their meetings at palm-lined luxury hotels.

One of the arguments against offering football players a cut of the revenue is that the school athletic departments can’t afford it. Then the athletic departments, in an effort to make sure it is following the rules (or at least create the perception of doing so), construct massive compliance departments to monitor the athletes and stop them from getting any extra cash.

Ohio State’s compliance office, to pick just one example among many, has 15 employees. The top guy gets six figures and a free car. Bloating up the budget with all these well-paying administrative, non-coaching, non-training, non-athletic jobs – jobs that are completely unnecessary and serve no basic purpose in the world of either sports or education – just further drains the available funds and then conveniently backs up the argument that they don’t have any money to share with the players. Around and around it goes.

Collectively, these athletic departments are spending tens of millions of dollars to make sure the athletes aren’t getting an extra dime.

Since this is a bye week, please feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments below.

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32 Responses to Dan Wetzel on “Amateurism” in the NCAA

  1. Wulfpack 09/13/2013 at 12:48 PM #

    My thought is mine as well cheat – everybody else is. And the NCAA apparently has no interest and/or ability to stop it. It is a giant joke.

  2. coach13 09/13/2013 at 1:10 PM #

    You’d have to redo conferences for football. Instead of DII-III, FCS, FBS, divisions would be determined on how much you are paying. Declare what you are going to spend on total player salaries that season and play at that level.

    And just do away with academics or at least make them optional.

  3. MP 09/13/2013 at 1:14 PM #

    “Unfortunately, you must be blessed with patience, motivation and web-savvy to actually navigate the new Yahoo! Sports website.”

    Haha. Upon reading this statement I decided to launch Yahoo!Sports and look for the article first, without the hyperlink. Could not find it.

    Helluva’n article though, once I hyperlinked.

  4. wufpup76 09/13/2013 at 3:17 PM #

    No matter what, the ‘business’ side of college athletics will most likely always be disgusting.

    No easy fixes or catch-all’s.

  5. tjfoose1 09/13/2013 at 3:46 PM #

    ” because they’ve defined his [D.J Fluker] worth as far greater than just tuition, room and board.”

    Loses all credibility right there. If they’re going to blatantly mislead and omit here, how can I trust the rest of the article?

    A simple copy/paste from another article to save time:

    “D.J. Fluker helped the University of Alabama make millions of dollars and wasn’t allowed to be paid a dime for four years of labor”

    BS. He was paid 6 figures, tax free! Aside from the tuition itself, how much would someone have to pay out of pocket to receive the specialized training and coaching? How about 24/7 access to some of the best facilities in the world? How much for the specialized nutritionists? Tutors? He’s a big boy, I wonder how much it cost just to feed him, daily? How much for his room? Career counseling per NFL opportunities? Other career options? Clothing and other SWAG? And with rising health care costs, let’s not forget the value of the medical coverage, care, and treatment he received… I could go on, but my point is made.

    And I reiterate, all of that compensation was tax free. Anyone else receiving those benefits would owe buku buckies in taxes.

    All this for a mutual agreement. No one is forcing a college athlete to participate in sports. If Fluker was so abused, he could have simply decided not to play college football. Plenty of other kids out there would pay their own way to play football for Alabama.

    There are plenty of valid arguments on both sides of this issue, but you lose all credibility when you claim Fluker wasn’t paid a dime.

    But while we’re at it, what and who is really generating all that revenue? If Fluker had been playing semi-pro ball in Scranton, PA for the past four years, performing at exactly the same level, what would’ve been his value? Would all those Alabama fans still show up in Scanton to watch Fluker play every week? Would the TV networks shell out the same dough? I submit [for debate] it is the Alabama name and brand, and not the individual athletes, that generate the revenue.

    It is this revenue that provides the very resources for such opportunities that Fluker used to position himself for a multimillion dollar career.

    What has been the added value to Fluker’s career opportunities due to Alabama’s investment in him, and his in Alabama? From my analysis, that’s one helluva return for Fluker’s time.

    Considering that perspective, how much more does Fluker owe Alabama, and the coaches and athletes that came before him who created the system and established the brands that enabled him to turn a meager four year investment into 10’s of millions of dollars?

  6. budfox88 09/13/2013 at 4:08 PM #

    Are athletes going to school to play ball, or playing ball to go to school. The athlete should view the scholarship as a means to get a free education, or spring-board into the pros. Nothing more, nothing less. Why should players be concerned with how much revenue a school makes…the school takes nearly all the risks. Too much money in the product as it is, and it’s taking it’s toll on quality.

  7. Mike 09/13/2013 at 4:40 PM #

    Foose +1. Anyone else, scroll up and re-read.

    No one is FORCING these kids to get a free education, free meals, room and board etc which is what I have always said. Foose makes a great point about the training and coaching that would be tens of thousands of dollars in monetary value.

  8. DC_wolf 09/13/2013 at 4:50 PM #

    I read this article yesterday & almost copied the link myself but didn’t have the time. I get the point of what foose is saying but what Wetzel is trying to point out is the farce that is the NCAA and the mockery they are making of the term “amatuer” athletics; lets face it: a LOT of people are profiting! (incl. the NCAA)

    An interesting comment from the article that wasn’t pointed out above:

    “The real scandals don’t involve money; they involve academics … Systematic academic fraud – one that keeps borderline students uneducated – is what should generate the harshest penalties, the loudest condemnations and the most aggressive NCAA investigations. These are, after all, supposed to be institutions of higher learning. And the schools are very capable of looking into this stuff themselves.”

    I thought this was particularly compelling & quite an indictment of what’s been transpiring over at the institution in Orange county

  9. tjfoose1 09/13/2013 at 4:55 PM #

    “Foose makes a great point about the training and coaching that would be tens of thousands of dollars in monetary value.”

    All benefits included, it’s $100’s, not 10’s. At least at the big boy schools. There was a study recently – someone here may have the link – but strictly from memory (so I may be a little off), I think Alabama topped the list of somewhere around $235K per student athlete.

    That’s PER STUDENT ATHLETE. Not just the stars, not just the starters, not just the letterman, put all athletes.

  10. tjfoose1 09/13/2013 at 5:00 PM #

    “but what Wetzel is trying to point out is the farce that is the NCAA and the mockery they are making of the term “amatuer” athletics”

    I agree with that point too. But it doesn’t help to support one argument by making false claims regarding a conflicting point of view.

    In fact, in the other referenced posting, I went on to write:

    “I’m honestly not sure where I am on the issue. I think what he NCAA did to Jeremy Bloom was a travesty. I’m also a firm believer in the free market and capitalism. However, collegiate athletics is not the free market. But even “amateur” athletes outside of collegiate athletics are no longer amateur. They are free to sign endorsement deals and receive other income. And where does Title IX fall into this? And the legal doctrine of “disparate impact”? There should be a line drawn somewhere, I’m just not sure where. But when discussing the issue, the “pay the players” side rarely, if ever, accurately defines the compensation athletes currently receive.”

  11. tjfoose1 09/13/2013 at 5:02 PM #

    And then I went off on a tangent (I was on a roll), and I’ll probably lose some of you with this, but…:

    Speaking of “disparate impact”, I’m surprised an enterprising lawyer has not yet coerced some slow white WR or RB to file suit against the NFL, or a short Asian (Linsanity baby!) against the NBA. Or how about the female athlete? What defines a minority group in those leagues? What qualifies as a protected class within the subculture of professional sports? I think its pretty obvious the established requirements to participate in professional sports has had a “disparate impact” on certain minorities and protected classes. There have already many stories published by respected magazines and news papers about the racism against the non-black athlete. Quotas for white RB! Quotas for the white WR! Quotas for females in MLB! Dangit!

    I think such arguments are garbage, but IMHO, much of established case law is.

  12. Gowolves 09/13/2013 at 6:21 PM #

    I guess I am from the old school that there is value in the education they are getting for free. If you listen to the sports radio pundits here locally(Joe and Adam) they scoff at the idea of free education as being substantial enough when compared to the revenues the schools and the NCAA bring in. I’m sorry but stats have proven that the life time earnings of a individual with a college education are close to million dollars over what someone would earn without one. Now I understand these are averages and generalities. But I would rather have that piece of paper than not. Athletes should not be paid. There is an answer some where in all this just not sure if the colleges are willing to do it.

  13. Wulfpack 09/13/2013 at 7:11 PM #

    The vast majority are going to school to play ball. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be admitted in the first place.

  14. ncsumatman 09/13/2013 at 8:18 PM #

    Every time I hear someone mention paying players, split revenue etc. I lose my mind. Title ix. Title ix. Title ix. Argument loses all credibility when you consider the law of the land. this is not creating a way to compensate football players, its got to satisfy the supreme court as well.

  15. ncsumatman 09/13/2013 at 8:18 PM #

    Every time I hear someone mention paying players, split revenue etc. I lose my mind. Title ix. Title ix. Title ix. Argument loses all credibility when you consider the law of the land. this is not creating a way to compensate football players, its got to satisfy the supreme court as well.

  16. Gene 09/13/2013 at 9:26 PM #

    The problem with the NCAA is it is too flat.

    There are 100+ FBS schools and the drop off between the top tier teams and the lower tier teams is dramatic.

    There are 300+ Div 1 basketball programs.

    You want to pay players, create smaller tiers. Let there be a Premier NCAA League, where the top teams compete against each other and have the resources to spend against each other to attract/pay players.

    You then got down the line until you probably split the current FBS group into three to four different leagues.

    As far as Title IX goes, I think you need to pay the non-revenue sports as well, if you are paying football and men’s basketball players.

    But a much simpler course of action would be to allow popular college athletes to maintain the rights to their image, so every jersey sold with their number and name on it gives them a cut of the proceeds.

    I’d also add maybe allow them to do advertisements or at the least sign autographs at the mall for a few bucks.

  17. PackerInRussia 09/14/2013 at 12:51 AM #

    Foose, maybe I’ve just not been reading in the right places, but I think that’s the first time I’ve read that aspect of the other side of the argument. It’s certainly never brought up in these “it’s time to pay athletes” articles. It’s not even a matter of agreeing/disagreeing, but presenting a balanced argument. Do reporters/writers even do that any more or is that too old fashioned? Would be interesting to hear from some former college athletes on this site.
    For those who say that “free education” isn’t compensation enough, would it be better to get paid instead of getting tuition and then having to pay tuition out of that salary (I’m sure some places would figure out a way to still give free tuition)?

  18. Gene 09/14/2013 at 3:12 AM #

    “For those who say that “free education” isn’t compensation enough, would it be better to get paid instead of getting tuition and then having to pay tuition out of that salary (I’m sure some places would figure out a way to still give free tuition)?”

    The argument against just having tuition as compensation is the ridiculous amounts of money big-time programs generate. If Gottfried gets ‘x’ thousands for shoe and apparel deals, then why shouldn’t the players who “model” the gear get a cut? The companies aren’t paying top dollar to see what middle aged coaches will do, when working out in their duds; they are paying for us to see what their gear can do, when worn by elite athletes.

    The problem with paying players is the big time programs – like Alabama, Texas, etc. – are so far above the next tier of programs, in terms of revenue, that you’ll end up creating an MLB sort of situation where A Rod’s yearly take home is more than the payroll of the Astros, and attempt to keep the big boys from paying top dollar for the best athletes, so the competitive imbalance that already exists will just be made worse.

    We talk about Doren recruiting in-state talent to stay in-state, but how could we compete if ‘Bama or other SEC schools could throw money they could afford at in-state talent? We couldn’t compete with their payrolls.

    And lets say NCAA tried to limit how much each school could pay athletes? With a “zero tolerance” policy on paying players, we have enough trouble with enforcement. Once you let the pay players option out of the bag, trying to figure out who is skirting the rules will just become harder and I think it’s going to be “off to the races” for the big time programs to out bid smaller schools for top talent.

    Also, for smaller schools, the athletics departments are overall money losers and this includes football and men’s basketball. Some schools feel the investment is worth it to attract more students, but from a purely program related system these schools cannot afford to pay players.

    There’s probably some way to settle things between the current system and out-right paying players, but I think a lot of it will have to do with how the money athletics departments generate gets managed.

    Maybe plow some of the excess earnings back into the academic side of things at a university, instead of having tens of millions of dollars in operating profits just sitting in the athletics department?

    I don’t know the answer, but as long as there’s so much money at the top tier of NCAA athletics, this issue is always going to come up and the fact is the NCAA has been corrupted by the money it gets from being associated with this industry; it is no longer the impartial watch dog that tries to keep things fair.

  19. BJD95 09/14/2013 at 10:17 AM #

    The point to me is how the NCAA shrugs its shoulders at blatant academic fraud like the Holes did. They don’t have a dog in that fight. But any notion that some of the f-ckton of money is going to players…and they freak.

    Although the “$200 handshakes” and autograph sessions aren’t GOOD – they don’t make a mockery of the universities themselves like academic fraud. It’s like giving somebody 20 years for a speeding ticket, but probation for attempted murder.

    To me, it makes sense to give revenue sport athletes (and ONLY revenue sport athletes) a stipend that allows them to live like a typical college kid whose parents send them money. Because they are less likely than non-revenue sport athletes to fully value the academic side. And because they make huge amounts of money for the university, and allow those non-revenue sports to exist. I think that equitably merits something extra. And while it wouldn’t eliminate ALL the scummy stuff, it would at least reduce it.

    Remember also that the vast majority of these athletes are poor, and the time demands of their sports (which DO exceed those of non-revenue athletes) preclude them from having a job to earn spending cash.

  20. Gowolves 09/14/2013 at 11:01 AM #

    Well most athletes in the revenue sports don’t go on to play in the pros. They need to value that education more but we all know most don’t.

    I think that the revenue sports need to brought out from under the college ownership. What I mean by this treat the teams like minor league teams with the college team names. Kinda like a subsidery company. These kids would be allowed to play full time. No classes to attend. Pay them the stipend or reasonable wage. If the day comes they do not make it to the pros the money they earned playing sports can go to paying to attend college after their career is over. Like paying into 401k. The tuition would be at some reduced rate. Money made from the revenue sports would go back to the college in some sort return of capital or dividend or debt payment to the university. The leaseing of the name of the university name and logo.

    Kids are going to play college sports (revenue sports) with the hope to get to the next level. Why should we pretend that they are student athletes.

  21. BJD95 09/14/2013 at 11:09 AM #

    I like that proposal, too.

    One thing is certain – we will NEVER go back to the more pure “amateur” model. The colleges don’t want it, nor do the TV networks, nor does the NCAA.

    I just want to be honest about how things really are, and level the playing field as much as possible. Under the current scheme, there’s every incentive to cheat, and cheat hard.

  22. Gowolves 09/14/2013 at 11:53 AM #

    College game day thread?

  23. BJD95 09/14/2013 at 12:39 PM #

    Look above – there is one.

  24. packalum44 09/14/2013 at 12:49 PM #

    Screw paying the kids. Why has no one mentioned that WE as fans would have to PAY MORE for tickets and donations etc…. Where’s the money going to come from? A tree? Or the alumni…

    I don’t give a shi* about debating this issue because at the end of the day it’s in my wallets best interest to keep the status quo.

    Good day.

  25. BJD95 09/14/2013 at 12:52 PM #

    Not true. The school doesn’t charge fans based on expenses, they charge as much as the market will bear. If they could charge 10% more NOW without losing customer base, they most certainly would. Without a second thought.

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