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. Whiteshoes67 09/14/2013 at 6:02 PM #

    I haven’t paid much attention to the lawsuits brought by ex-athletes against the NCAA, but it seems to me that sales by the NCAA of player likenesses and EA Sports use of these likenesses, etc. shouldn’t mean a hill of beans.

    I’m no accountant, but as long as the organization is tax exempt, then paying NCAA athletes any royalties or compensation ain’t happening. Period. Note that I didn’t say the NCAA should be tax exempt. In fact, plenty of churches, non-profits, medical insurers, etc. with tax exempt status should be paying taxes imo. There’s your problem. The NCAA issue is really easy to solve.

  2. fullmoon1 09/15/2013 at 9:47 AM #

    I hate to say it but that article sounds pretty pessimistic and ther’s a little but of “everyone does it” sprinkled in. In my opinion in the last 30 yrs the Olympics are less popular and much less significant as a result of not caring about amateur status.

  3. 1time 09/15/2013 at 12:04 PM #

    So, we’re talking about eliminating what once was, always has been, and not at all that long ago, was widely accepted as those four years of “amateur” status beyond high school???

    My questions are, and I cite any stage of the current state of the game of basketball, at any level, as an example, but where does the blurring of that line end? We already seeing all kinds of high school athletes, basketball players mainly, being shuffled here and there throughout grade school. So, if the line for incentives is whittled down to just one summer away, and no longer includes any requirements for amateur status beyond high school, then why would people feel the need to stop there? You’re an alum, go out recruit that high school athlete, pay them, that long standing and once accepted line has already been crossed, so why not push it even further???

    And, all of this thinking affects the NCAA how? What would their purpose be at that point? Would they now be the ruling body, and as ineffective as ever, on the high school level?

    Don’t forget, they charge at the gate too, and those middle school kids also sweat some at practices as well. So, what kind of compensation are they owed? And the kids in city rec leagues, is that all expected to just be free???

  4. Avid109 09/15/2013 at 10:02 PM #

    For those athletes that want to make it to the pros, why not let them major in the sport involved? Have 4-year sports degrees in football, basketball, and baseball. Make them study all of the rules, the history of the game, strategies, methods of coaching, etc. along with basic classes in English, Math, etc. Give them grades on their game-day performances. Once they received their 4-year degree, the pro teams could pay them more than the early dropouts. Those that fail in the pros would still have a basic education and could go into coaching, sports broadcasting, etc.

  5. tjfoose1 09/16/2013 at 12:10 PM #

    ^ I doubt that would ever happen. The ivory tower academic types would never let their “institution of higher learning” be turned into a glorified trade school, which is essentially what you are proposing.

    Professional athletes, are after all, not much more than very expensive and highly skilled laborers plying their trade as performers in the expanded world of entertainment.

  6. packalum44 09/16/2013 at 10:07 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.”

    This analysis/logic only covers half the story.

    Margins at our school (and every other one presumably) would shrink. You think that doesn’t impact the average fan?

    It will increase expenses for the schools. Poor programs, like NC State, will suffer the most, because we already run on a shoe string budget.

    Fewer facility upgrades, less recruiting money (it isn’t cheap flying our assistants around the country) etc…not to mention non-revenue sports which are subsidized from football/basketball.

    So since schools will have less money, then 1) the product suffers in form of lower facilities and non-revenue or 2) YOU as a BOOSTER has to cover this in terms of donations etc. just to have an equal product as before.

    Furthermore, paying players would further polarize the haves and have-nots. It would create more inequality because frankly it would make it “legal” to do what UNC and other programs already do. Also the have-nots recruiting footprint shrinks, leaving the Bama’s of the worlds’ competitive advantage to grow further.

    We are in the have-not camp for those in Faison. We have one of the lowest athletic budgets in the BCS world.

  7. 1time 09/18/2013 at 12:59 AM #

    Seriously guys, exactly what are we talking about here?

    We’re talking about effectively eliminating amateur athletics, as we and all previous generations before us have known them, just out of high school. And why???

    It’s all because that great and noble institution that everyone is so high on right now, The NCAA, has stood by, allowed, and condoned such a lust for the almighty dollar (their own, first and foremost) that it now supercedes anything and everything that was once meaningful and pure in amateur/collegiate athletics.

    The way I see it, the one institution that no one respects anymore, the one that has become so corrupted by money, while at the same time allowing anything resembling honesty, fairness, and purity in collegiate athletics, to become totally tainted in the same manner as they are, they are the best example available of what money can truely do for/to college athletics.

    So yeah, just because that admireable group known as The NCAA has taken something that they were chartered to value and protect, and whored it into a huge money making machine instead, then let’s not stop there. Let’s go ahead give these kids right out of high school, the ones now who are just so much poorer and less fortunate than any in all the previous generations before them, let’s forget everything about the word “amateur” because somebody is making money and we ain’t, and let’s shell out some of those tainted bucks to these teenage kids as well.

    Seems to be the rage everywhere. Just forget about the original intention altogether and throw money at it like there’s no tomorrow. The examples are everywhere you look, that fixes everything.

    It fixed The NCAA, didn’t it? Literally.

    Though, with the way they have made a mockery and so royally screwed up at seemingly every turn in recent years, I easily could see where the NCAA may quickly warm to the idea of paying big time… simply in order to persuade anyone into ever taking them seriously again.

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