Uh-oh. It seems that the NCAA might not be able to suspend and sanction their way out of this one.
Over the past few months, the NCAA has been under massive heat after the FBI opened an investigation about potential illegal actions taken in regards to the pay of college athletes following the released financial statements from an NBA agent. Four assistant coaches have been arrested, big-name schools like Louisville, Arizona and Kentucky may have been involved, and the most surprising thing is that it wasn’t really all that surprising to have the NCAA’s dark underbelly exposed.
I mean, we all kind of saw it coming, right? The NCAA, coaches and administrators have had a fear of the 19 and 20-year-olds that make them all their money for a while now. It’s odd. The NCAA made $1.1 billion dollars in revenue, and it’s most important employees go unpaid. Except for scholarships and free meals and what have you.
Now, the question arises: What other occupation in a capitalist country pays its employees with only benefits? How many top flight commercial aircraft pilots are paid in health benefits and free hotel stays? How many plumbers are paid in free tools and unlimited education?
The answer is none. But when it comes to student-athletes, they don’t see a dime of what they earn.
The University of Arizona recently promised to fine basketball coach Sean Miller $1 million if he’s convicted of any rule breaking in alleged illegal recruiting of star center DeAndre Ayton. But where will that $1 million go? To Ayton’s family? To the engineering program?
No. It’ll go right back into Arizona’s pocket to spend on the athletic department.
The whole idea of amateurism is inherently corrupt and unsettling, but the good thing is that the NCAA is planning to actually make changes this time. And all it took was a few letters from the FBI and some arrests.
The NCAA is, “poised to act with efficiency in a nimble and quick way,” said Eric Kaler, chairman of the Division I board of directors.
One of the ideas to lessen the immoral illegality that is paying players is taking control of shoe brand-sponsored AAU tournaments where sneaker brands establish contact with high school stars. The NCAA is also considering allowing athletes to be approached by and sign with agents to represent them while student-athletes are still in school. This is already allowed in college baseball and hockey, and would (hopefully) protect players from shady money seekers and would prevent players from reaching for the first greasy hand that is extended to them. I really like this idea because then they can get advice from agents actually invested in their success and not just in making a quick buck.
There are also rumors of athletes potentially being paid for use of their likenesses and maybe even shoe deals. Those things seem less likely, but a player can dream.
This FBI report, released April 25, also brought about a discussion on the transferring of student-athletes.
When a student-athlete transfers from a Division I school to another, they have to sit out a full year before they are eligible to play in the sport. This rule was made to prevent athletes from bouncing around too much and creating super teams during every off-season. It’s also another rule designed to keep the power in the hands of the coaches and administrators. On the other hand, every “normal” student in the country is free to transfer from school to school without any penalty, and without being restricted from participating in extracurricular activities. So, the idea is to transfer some of this power back to the student-athletes and allow them to transfer without penalty. This is a cool idea.
However, many fear that students will be more likely to jump ship to preseason favorites, but the fact is that universities only have a certain number of scholarships available, and only a portion can be applied to each class. Coaches are playing the angle that they will spend more time recruiting than mentoring the student-athletes they already have in their programs. Unless they’re heartless enough to run athletes out of the program just to free up a scholarship for a new transfer student, then there won’t be that many more transfer students than there already is.
The NCAA is also considering adding the stipulation that student-athletes looking to transfer will need to have a GPA of at least 3.1 or higher in order to be eligible to transfer without sitting. That’s a good motivation for student-athletes to get to class and apply themselves. Or maybe to forge classes and transcripts to boost GPAs (see: underwater basket weaving). Sure, there would be more movement by student-athletes, but it wouldn’t create the mayhem that coaches fear.
So when it all comes down to it, not much is going to happen. Unfortunately, the NCAA seems more concerned with appearing as a moral standard than actually doing what’s right. The issue is that in this case, there’s far too much wrong to just slap a few wrists and fire a few coaches. There needs to be a big change, and that change needs to come from within.
When the commission of college basketball, headed by Condoleezza Rice, released their report, they seemed to do a lot of NCAA defending by mentioning how “privileged” (great word choice here, nope, not bad taste at all) student-athletes are. She also mentioned some weak recommendations about the NBA doing away with the “one and done” rule, the NCAA potentially taking control of AAU tournaments (I mean, the NCAA is doing so great with the power they already have, so let’s give them more power, right?), and even going as far as to threaten to reinstate the freshman ineligibility rule.
Now, this is big talk, but nothing is going to happen because these recommendations are like a new paint job on a rusted out car. The issues are systemic and not just surface level, and they call for fixes that are systemic and not just surface level.