my final salvo, is this THE guy to lead young men and women of tomorrow?
When 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?
“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.