Statements like this are why I'm hoping this is the beginning of the end for the NCAA as we know it.
"We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees."
That's what the NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in response to the Chicago District of the National Labor Relations Board ruling Northwestern football players are legally fine to unionize. A perfect representation of the selfish ambition of this notorious organization. The tone of these comments — absence of self-reflection, openness to change, concern for its employees ... sorry ... "student-athletes" — illustrates how uncompromising these filthy rich college presidents can be.
This latest situation just shows that, as an organization, the NCAA cares less about its athletes than it does its bottom line. The Northwestern football players aren't being greedy. They aren't asking to be paid. They're just pining for baseline treatment based on what they provide for the school. What they are asking for is far less than what they deserve.
But the NCAA and its member colleges are more concerned about preserving the cash cow. So much so, it will continue to insult the intelligence of its paying customer by calling its moneymakers "student athletes."
"For so many institutions, the reality is that the time commitment is such that to automatically put the student first isn't necessarily the case," said Mike Gilleran,director of the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE) at Santa Clara University. Gilleran used to serve as a member of the NCAA Enforcement Department and a West Coast Conference commissioner from 1984 to 2008.
"Everyone would love to assume that these young women and young men are primarily students of higher education. It's hard for me to say that with a straight face. ... We all need to accept reality."
Imagine if the NCAA -- just out of sheer appreciation for the free labor it receives -- were more diligent about appeasing and providing for the athletes that make it so profitable. Imagine if it spent as much times figuring out ways to share some of the billions with those who make it for them. This wouldn't be so much of an issue.
Maybe they come up with a trust fund, giving players a small percentage of the money they'd earned for the institution. Heck, even put graduation stipulations on it. Maybe they take a portion of the gazillions and be more diligent about building up the neighborhoods most of their athletes come from -- letting the athletes themselves choose the charities or investing in programs that serve the communities from where student athletes hail. Maybe they put a portion of the money they get on the back of athletes into a universal pot, allowing athletes in need to petition for help on a case-by-case basis, so no one who is part of a system that makes their school millions have to go without basic stuff and they have a place to turn in emergencies.
Instead, it takes lawsuits and immense public pressure to get the NCAA to do the right thing. Taking care of the hands that feed them is not a default. Which is why those Northwestern athletes even had to go to the NLRB in the first place.
And don't give me that "free education" crap. For one, it's not free. If Stanford were giving out free diplomas, that's one thing. But really, Stanford is "giving" athletes the opportunity to undertake even more work. And they have to do it under the most strenuous of circumstances, unlike other students.
And secondly, when is it ever OK to pay people in the product you provide. The day Bay Area News Group stops giving me a check and instead pays me in newspaper subscriptions, I'm out. Where do you work? How would you like to work to make your company a profit, meanwhile they pay you by letting you take advantage of their product?
Even In-N-Out gives its employees money and a few double-doubles. Getting access to the education is a perk, not adequate payment.
Thirdly, its a raw deal for the elite of the college athletes. For example: the 68 teams that made the tournament already got their free education. That came with just making the team. And even if you say that is adequate payment for the proceeds they bring the school during the regular season, that's one thing. But in 2010, the NCAA signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion agreement with Turner for the broadcast rights to the NCAA tournament. Just the tournament. Not the conference tournament. Not the regular season. Just the tournament.
That's more than $770 million a year from Turner. (That doesn't count tickets and hot dog sales and merchandise, etc.). So if you split it up evenly, the 68 teams each earned the NCAA an extra $11.3 million this year.
How is it fair that Stanford's basketball players, which brought in more money, gets the same "payment" as Utah's, which did not make the tournament?
Knowing its the sweetest deal on the planet doesn't seem to make the NCAA even want to do the right thing, or at least fake like it. Knowing that schools, coaches, companies, TV stations, scalpers, everybody, is making money BUT the athletes, you would think the NCAA would at least go out of their way to make sure the players FEEL supported and protected and appreciated.
Instead, they are forced to go to court to get a morsel of their just due. And that's why they need to be put in their place. Here's to hoping the ruling for Northwestern is the first blow.