Guesties: Big-time sports & NCAA incompetence – a love story

Posted: March 11, 2013 by shawnfury in Guesties
Tags: , , , , , ,

A felon, a college president and a mascot walk into a bowling alley…

By Rich Jensen
Guest Blogger

The NCAA wrote a letter to a bankruptcy judge on behalf of convicted felon Nevin Shapiro. In this letter, the NCAA said that they would consider hiring Shapiro in the future.

Predictably, this revelation has drawn outraged commentary and sarcasm.

It has undoubtedly made this woman angry — this woman in ill-fitting clam-diggers ogling a fifty-thousand dollar check in a bowling alley. This woman was a cabinet secretary under Bill Clinton. She holds a Ph.D. from Syracuse. She was the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin. She is now the president of the University of Miami. This is what college athletics has done to her. Here she cavorts with a soon-to-be-convicted felon and accepts $50,000 in stolen funds. Later she will accuse Mark Emmert of failing to act responsibly when the briefest of inquiries into Shapiro’s background and habits would have been sufficient to render him persona-non-grata at any respectable university.

The Miami scandal and the NCAA’s response to it exemplify this truth:

Big-time college athletics need the NCAA, and they need the NCAA to be feckless in practice, and noble and self-aggrandizing in rhetoric.

The NCAA serves as a sort of useful outfit for supervising Title IX mandated women’s sports and an assortment of men’s sports that are thoroughly unprofitable. But that is not their primary purpose.

The NCAA’s primary purpose is to preserve the fiction of ‘amateur competition’ in football and basketball.

They do this by making a big show of enforcing tiny rules while clearly lacking the competence and tools to maintain standards of amateur competition in the real money-makers.

This benefits everyone and it only offends those with an aversion to hypocrisy and deceit:

It benefits universities. They are free to cheat, knowing that the odds of getting caught are minuscule, and that the penalties for getting caught are far smaller than the benefits of cheating. They continue to rake in millions in ticket and TV revenue along with millions in free publicity. They also retain the ability to ask wealthy people to give them money –something that would be much harder to do if they were for-profit entities paying a unionized labor force.

And then there are fans. Fans are able to pretend that big-time college football and basketball are somehow different from professional athletics and not, basically, professional football and basketball of decidedly inferior quality. If the pretense of ‘college’ were stripped from football and basketball, how would you sustain fan interest in what are basically minor league sports? If players on the field are no longer required to even pretend to go to class, what is the connection to the university? And if there’s no meaningful connection to the university, then what’s interesting about the game?

The fiction of amateur athletics also benefits the NCAA. They are an absolutely essential part of this fairy tale. No matter how incompetent they are (and it seems that there is no end to their incompetence), as long as they can present a plausible pretense of caring about ‘amateur student athletes,’ they’re safe.

The problem for Mark Emmert is that his incompetence has surpassed the incredibly high threshold required to disqualify someone for the office of NCAA president. He will be replaced, probably before the year is out. But do not expect any major changes.

The only people with an interest in reforming college athletics are people with principles, and principles are hardly required at any level of big-time college football and basketball, and in fact they’re a severe handicap most places.

About the author: Rich Jensen is a computer guy and a Celtics fan. One of those things should disqualify him from being a frequent contributor to TVFury, but it has not. 

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