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Better Think Twice Before Cheering On The O’Bannon Lawsuit

gfx - honest opinionWhen it comes to many college sports fans, the NCAA is Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, and Ivan Drago all rolled into one.  Evil, scheming, and too darn big and bad for anyone else’s good.

In reality, the NCAA was formed of the nation’s schools by the nation’s schools.  It’s no more corrupt than any other body that’s charged with making and enforcing laws.  What?  You never realized that one guy driving 80 can get hit with reckless driving while another driver doing the exact same speed can dart happily through traffic?  Sorry, but there are no perfectly fair legal systems.

Still, I realize mine is the minority opinion.  Most feel the NCAA needs to be overthrown (as if Mark Emmert and crew landed on Earth and took over college athletics by force).  That hatred for the NCAA has led many to openly root for Ed O’Bannon in his lawsuit against the NCAA.

Many fans want players paid.  Some want them paid if only because the NCAA doesn’t want them paid.  O’Bannon’s team is currently suing in order to force the NCAA to set aside a chunk of its revenue to be paid out to players after their careers are over.  (Hope they’re ready to pay taxes on that.)  By trying to get players paid after their careers are complete, O’Bannon and his co-plaintiffs can say they’re not pushing for a pay-for-play system.

The reality is that it’s a pay-for-previous-play scheme which amounts to the very same thing from an NCAA perspective.

O’Bannon’s suit states that current and former players are entitled to 50% of NCAA and conference television revenue.  What started as a lawsuit over the use of player likenesses in video games has grown — naturally — into a war over billions of dollars in past, current, and future revenue.

Like the wife in a certain R-rated Eddie Murphy standup routine about divorce, O’Bannon and crew have suddenly decided they want “half!”

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany did his cause no favors when he recently declared that a win by the plaintiffs might result in his conference becoming a non-profit, Division III league.  That hyperbole backfired as most realized Delany’s word were rubbish.  An O’Bannon victory won’t force America’s major athletic programs to suddenly start competing at an Ivy League level.

It will only do for some of America’s less-than-major athletic programs.

And that could be a tough break for the schools on the lower end of the SEC’s revenue chart.  Got your attention now?

Southern Cal AD Pat Haden had this to say to SportsIllustrated.com:

 

 

“The context of the lawsuit has changed.  What do we do if we lost?  All of a sudden your television revenue — let’s say it’s $20 million a year (for a school).  Now, if they wain, it’s $10 million a year.  How do you make your 21 sports work on half the revenue?…

What I’m reading is that we have a real chance of losing.  It will work its way through the system, and there we go.”

 

A quick aside to the folks in Indianapolis — just hand the mic to Haden rather than Delany whenever possible.

For those of you who support O’Bannon’s suit because it would hurt the NCAA — and the number of fellow media members championing his cause is mindboggling — you might want to think twice before you throw another coin in the wishing well.  If O’Bannon wins, smaller programs will cease to compete at the top level of collegiate athletics, larger programs will have to radically change the way they do business, and many smaller sports programs at bigger schools will go away entirely.  For those who care only about football and basketball, congrats, those might be the last two sports to survive on the men’s side of the ledger.  Thanks to Title IX you would still have enough women’s sports to equal the 98 scholarships of football and men’s hoops.

If that sounds over the top to you, it shouldn’t.  It’s a real possibility depending on the size of the school.  In the SEC, schools like Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia — which all brought in more than $90 million in athletic revenue in 2011-12 — would tighten their belts and somehow manage to move forward with fewer sports.

But what about schools like Missouri ($61 million), Vanderbilt ($55 million), Mississippi State ($54 million), and Ole Miss ($42 million)?  There are only so many sports you can cut.  And if you think just dropping coaching salaries would fix the issue, think again.  The SEC’s Mississippi schools aren’t exactly handing out Bama-sized contracts as it is.

Also, if you think there’s been chaos on the conference level as revenue has boomed, imagine what types of changes will come should revenue suddenly be chopped in half.  Talk about realignment.

Now, for those who believe players should be paid half of all television revenue because it’s the right thing to do, this post will mean very little to you.  You can say “let it crash” and rest easy knowing that you backed the little guy from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy.

But for those who’ve been cheering for O’Bannon just because you want the NCAA to squirm, it’s time to give some serious thought to what it is you really want.  If you’re a fan of a smaller-revenue sport or a smaller-revenue school, you should probably flip your rooting interests 180 degrees.  Unless you do want to see the end of college sports as we’ve come to know it.

Personally, I hope the larger schools will start offering full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to their players as many have recently discussed.  But I also hope that Team O’Bannon loses its over-the-top, paradigm-busting lawsuit in the courtroom.  That’s because I believe you can fix a system without destroying a system.

But then again, I’m not blinded by a hatred of the NCAA.

 


33 comments
vol66
vol66

I really appreciate the debate AllTideUp and DaveInExile , much respect to you both and Tide, Mal Moore was a great one, sorry for your loss.

vol66
vol66

Dave, I agree that reform is necessary, but I'm also not scared of it. The NCAA was created to figure out how to keep football players from dying on the field. It has morphed into a police force of sorts. They do a good job of putting on championships. Though, I always wonder why the NCAA would farm out the most popular D1 sport to an antiquated bowl system.

In terms of forcing kids to go the 'ol college route, only baseball has a system in place to take kids right out of high school and develop them. In recent memory, a kid like Bryce Brown, who doesn't want a college degree has to flounder about for two years because "The System" doesn't have a place for him. Why would the NFL want to pay to develop a "minor league system"? They already have one, it's college...and the sad thing is, everyone knows it and no one will admit it. Look at basketball and the "one and done" issue, Calipari is preparing them for the NBA with no intentions of getting those kids a degree, and the kids have no intention of getting a degree. Both parties are gaming "The System", but how can you blame them?

 Football coaches, athletic directors, basketball coaches, The NCAA President, conference commissioners all earn tremendous salaries from what the players give in return for the schollies. In fact, all of those folks make more than the university presidents they serve. If Pat Haden was really concerned about money, why does he force non revenue teams to travel further and further with every round of expansion? The answer is TV money, I guess that makes up the travel costs. It's a giant money grab and every college AD and conference commissioner is in on it, so they look a little foolish and very hypocritical when they won't, at least, grant full cost of tuition scholarships.

DaveinExile
DaveinExile

Vol, those are separate issues. Conflating them in the interests of "fairness" is how you end up with a lawsuit like this.

No one forces players to accept an athletic scholarship. They can market their athletic ability on the free market in any way they wish. If they choose to market it by accepting a free education, then that is their choice. If they show themselves to be an elite athlete, then they can translate that ability into a multi-million dollar payday - just like FGCU's coach did in the coaching market.  If the free market were ready to accommodate a structure more "fair" than the "plantation" NCAA, then it would have done so. It hasn't. What does that tell you? That the ability of an 18 year old to play ball at a collegiate level is worth an education. If they want more than that, they can go overseas or switch to tennis or golf.

The system as currently constituted needs reform on so many levels - but all that frustration has somehow been funneled into the least productive issue on the table for all parties. If the O'Bannon lawsuit defines college athletics moving forward, then it will simply benefit revenue sports athletes at the expense of non-revenue athletes. If you consider that a "fair" outcome, go talk to Pat Summit about it. I'm betting she vehemently disagrees.

 


vol66
vol66

Let's put it another way. If Jadeveon Clowney got paid like a song writer got paid for having a radio "hit", ESPN would owe him some "change". Pat Haden just hired the coach from FGCU. He was makin' $157,000 dollars. That's a pretty nice sum for coaching 13 players. He will now make over 1 Million dollars to coach 13 players. Something is wrong with this picture, don't ya think?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

I guarantee the vast majority of people that are cheering for this lawsuit to be successful have no idea what the practical impact will be.  They assume there is plenty of money running through the system and that the players will get a decent payday all the while every other aspect of major college athletics will run just as smoothly as it ever has.  They're in for a rude awakening.

Just watch how much those very people complain when virtually all the olympic sports are cut, when various athletic programs shut down completely, and finally when paying players completely changes the dynamics of the locker room.  They'll still complain and cry out "it's all about the money with these schools!"  They won't even understand they were a part of the problem.

vol66
vol66

"Personally, I hope the larger schools will start offering full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to their players as many have recently discussed.  But I also hope that Team O’Bannon loses its over-the-top, paradigm-busting lawsuit in the courtroom.  That’s because I believe you can fix a system without destroying a system."

The problem with the last sentence is that those who run the system won't fix the problems without being forced to do so. They don't think they are intentionally, artificially deflating the worth of the players. They don't think that the players are employees because it's not in their interest, financially, to do so. The NCAA thinks a player should GIVE the NCAA the right to use, or sell his/her image FOREVER as it sees fit. That is ludicrous and that is at the crux of the case. As for the TV revenue, that seems like every other lawsuit to me...you ask for everything and hope you get something. Public sentiment will not declare the victor in this case, a judge will.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66  

There won't be an NFL minor league system.  College football will survive although some programs won't.  Also, most collegiate programs don't make enough money to turn a profit.  The ones that are already operating at a deficit will have a brand new reason to cut their sports if half their revenues have to go into the student's wallet. 

Beyond that, this isn't just about college football or basketball.  Virtually every sport that exists under the NCAA is a non-revenue sport.  They cost more than they earn.  These sports are paid for by the wealth of revenue that comes from football primarily but basketball as well.  What happens when half the money available disappears?  Just do the math.

This whole idea behind paying the revenue athletes is nothing more than cutting off the nose to spite the face.  If the revenue athletes were getting a raw deal then they are perfectly free to never enter into the agreement in the first place.  They enter into the scholarship agreement because it is beneficial to them.  The only people making big salaries off the kids are ADs and big time coaches.  I really don't see how blowing up the entire system and adversely affecting no telling how many student athletes and others because a few select individuals are getting great paydays is truly a more fair system.

 BTW, I agree with full cost of tuition scholarships, but I don't see who's refusing to give them.  The top schools(the ones who can afford them) are moving in that direction.  It will come sooner than later.  The only schools refusing full cost scholarships are the low level D1 schools that would be most hurt by the O'Bannon ruling.  Also, I agree with the idea that student athletes should be able to get endorsement deals like Olympic athletes do.  That's an NCAA issue though and the O'Bannon suit wouldn't address that.

DaveinExile
DaveinExile

Could not agree more with the original article, just to be clear.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp@vol66

They enter into the scholarship agreement because it is beneficial to them

Many do, some, like Calipari's kids do not, it's their only avenue, the same with football.

What happens when half the money available disappears?  Just do the math.

It's not half of the money, it's half the tv money

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

Yes, they did, but what does that have to do with major college athletic departments cutting sports because they can't afford them anymore?  I used the example of "olympic" sports because those are the ones colleges will cut first.  They don't make money.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

I don't know. But it's pretty easy, until a 17 year old kid, who just signed with the Cowboys gets a DUI and guys like me and you say, Butch Jones or Nick Saban could've prevented this.

I'm not saying any of this is easy...you keep talking about fairness...what is fair to Robert Griffin 3 and Tim Tebow, and Brittney Griner might not be fair to the second string point guard, but the second sting point guard isn't selling officially licensed merchandise for anyone either.

If the lawsuit starts a discussion about it, I think it's good. I'm not for taking it all to the ground, but I think there's room for change and I don't think it will destroy anything or be worse than, for instance, expansion of super conferences.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

All the NFL has to do is say..."We put no age limitations on when we will take an athlete into professional football."

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

My point is what incentive will the NFL ever have to create another option for prospective players?  If it's all about improving options for the college kids then how would this brave new world accomplish that?

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 You've already stated the football won't be going away. It's not going anywhere.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

Sure, everybody wants a better deal in life than what they may have right now.  That doesn't mean the current deal is unfair.  But let's ask a general question.  If college football went away tomorrow does that mean the NFL is going to create a minor league system?  Think of all the cash they would have to shell out to create anything resembling the MLB system.  Most likely they might lower the eligibility age a little or create practice squads for younger draftees.  Meanwhile what happens to the vast majority of would-be collegiate players?...the ones who would have never gone to the NFL in the first place?  They're out of luck.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

I'm not saying it's not a good deal. I'm saying with a little imagination, simple business 101, really, it could be a great deal. Going to Europe for basketball has the same stigma attached to it as going JUCO does...nobody WANTS either one, it's at best where you bide your time before a professional league is willing to take you or at worst where people are considered  not good enough for college or for the pros. I'm all for the Peyton Mannings, they honor their schollies and come back for their senior year because they love their college experience, but I also recognize that not everybody wants that...what's worse is that we ALL know that and we say, "it's our way or this less than our way, that's it...you don't HAVE to sign away on the dotted line, but all of the other avenues suck, what do you want to do?"

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

My mistake on the funding, but half the TV revenue is still a considerable junk.  Some sports will be cut to make up the difference.  And if a lawsuit on TV revenues is successful then a lawsuit pertaining to ticket sales and other revenue generators can't be far behind.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

They all get a benefit, just some more than others.  Again, no one is forcing them to enter college.  They do it for the tangible benefit of training and other forms of preparation for the pro world.  For that matter, the education is a tangible reward as well.  Most kids have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for those classes and the room and board. 

For basketball players, they could sit out a year and prepare before going to the NBA.  Or they can go to Europe for that matter and get paid immediately.  For football players, they could also sit out as well.  But these kids don't do that.  They sign letters of intent at major universities because it's a good deal for them.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

Tennessee is having issues because the former AD was in an arms race to build the latest Taj Mahal of football indoor facilities while paying buyouts for Fulmer, Kiffin, Dooley, Raleigh, Pearl...as an aside, in what world does a coach get a show cause ban and walk away with money...only at UT, lol. Sorry for getting off topic, oh and we gave Pat Summit a cool million, she deserved it...My point is this. A little management, some winning and some conservative book keeping, along with a little imagination regarding who REALLY is bring in the dough...coupled with a desire to do the right thing...could solve this painlessly. Of course, the NCAA and the university presidents are smarter than I, they know this...I think they like it the way it is, who wouldn't?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

Yeah, but we're talking about 2 different sets of economic issues.  Paying players with half the TV money will soak up considerably more revenue than what is currently available.  UT is having issues in the current environment, what happens when the pie continues to shrink by an even greater margin?

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

I just don't agree with that. Our softball team far exceeds our baseball team in attendance with regularly sold out games and more TV time...to go further...our football team has been on a horrendous 5 year run, the money is coming in somehow...your former asst. AD Dave Hart has done in depth interviews regarding how bad off our finances are in comparison to the rest of the league and yet...we've cancelled no games in any sport, the Tennis team is still truckin, just watched a Lady Vol doing some diving. We're in the dumps, probably 12th in the league , if not worse, yet The Games Go On.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

It all depends on the economics and what intangible benefits individual schools place on certain sports.  Baseball would probably survive because it's so mainstream.  A few others might fall in that category as well.  The point is, a lot of other athletes will be sent packing.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

I agree, baseball won't go away, at least in the SEC. Neither will women's softball. I don't thin women's soccer will go away. Track, swimming, diving...depends on the programs. We don't offer gymnastics, but UGA does and that won't go away for them. We don't have Lacrosse, but it won't go away at UNC, Syracuse or Duke...The cream will rise to the top.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

Baseball is one sport.  Most of the collegiate sports funded don't have those opportunities.  Also, if sports start getting cut then baseball is probably not going to be one of them so it's a moot point.  It will hurt fringe sports the most.

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

No, it is not fair. Collegiate baseball players have the opportunity to go pro IF THE MLB thinks that they can make it. They have a system, single A, Dbl A, and Triple A, to bring them along....If the MLB does not draft a player then those players can go to college and they get aid, merit based aid, pell grants if they qualify, etc...that will not change, right?

What does need to change is simple. The football program who pays the coach and his staff far more then they are worth, far more than the revenue the AD collects, who then goes to the fund raising arm and says, "We need to make up this salary differential by raising more funds and telling the parents and the kids that the "Full Ride has gone up from $30,000 dollars/year to $40,000." In other words, rolling the cost of the coaches into the 85 schollies (in football).

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@vol66

That's a fair point and the non-revenue sports would probably continue at the club level, but as it stands most of those students are getting at least partial scholarships.  Is it really fair to put them in a lower class status just because their sports don't generate a lot of money?

vol66
vol66

@AllTideUp @vol66 

I'm saying change happens for all sorts of reasons. I don't know for sure, but I think wrestling is probably one of the oldest Olympic sports, if not the oldest.  Yet, the Olympics decided it was in it's best interest to cut it. Last I checked, rugby is a club sport at most schools. There is no budget, yet many schools still have rugby "clubs". As We Know It. In other words, if your worse case scenario happens, and I do not agree that it will, but if it does, I'll bet most non revenue sports will continue, just not in the way we know it now. I just got done watching my Lady Vols get bounced from the tourney by Louisville. They carry their own weight, they have, if not right now, had huge stars like Holdsclaw and Candace Parker. Like Brittney Griner, like Tim Tebow....folks that could make as much money off their college careers as they could off of their professional one. However, they are denied the opportunity. That is wrong, that's all I'm saying.

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