NCAA: Times They Are A-Changin’

Updated: April 17, 2014

There are times when it feels like something immovable is breaking out of its moorings, like the tectonics plates are going through one of their shifts…a reluctant NCAA is experiencing such a shift. Change is coming, the only question is whether they manage it willingly and with vision, or whether they fight it and suffer a rupture.

  • Exhibit A-The Grambling Walkout: Last October the Grambling football team refused to practice and missed a scheduled game vs. Jackson State over unhealthy facilities, poor treatment and the firing of former head coach Doug Williams. Ultimately with players meeting administrators and pressure from alum’s, conditions were improved and the players returned the following week.
  • Exhibit B-The Northwestern Football Unionization Movement: Most of the recent NCAA news has revolved around the effort by the Northwestern football team to be able to unionize. Now that that has happened the unionization vote is coming in the next week. The outcome of the vote is very uncertain at this point with players being pulled in both directions. What’s certain is that it’s only a matter of time before such unionization occurs somewhere…and then the question of whether this is the genie out of the bottle or the opening of Pandora’s box.
  • Exhibit C-The Minnesota State-Mankato Boycott: In today’s news Mankato players boycotted spring football practice due to the return of suspended Coach Todd Hofner. Hofner had been suspended 20 months ago over allegations of child pornography…tub pics of his own kids on his cellphone…it was a bogus charge that got national attention. The boycott however really has less to do with the charges than the fact that the players prefer interim coach Aaron Keen. One takeaway from this story is the resolve of the players to speak up and attempt to determine the condition of their ‘working environment’; the other takeaway is where this movement is going if players get to choose their coach. Should this really be the prerogative of 20-year old kids on a scholarship?
  • Exhibit D-NCAA says Unionization Not the Way…We’re Already Working On It: In classic NCAA disinformation mode, Prez Mark Emmert called the unionization effort “grossly inappropriate” and they’ve already been working on fixes suggested by the Northwestern players for 3 years. He seems to indicate they were about to announce these NCAA initiatives and the unionization timing is coincidental, the effort unnecessary. Nice try.

Bobby Jones

Fact is that the ideal of amateurism is a bygone concept that has no relevance in today’s world. Amateurism is no longer uttered in Olympic circles, that horse is out of the barn…world-class professional players compete in basketball, hockey, tennis, golf; Olympic athletes have endorsement deals and get award money for earning medals. College football players can be professionals in baseball.

At one time there was an ideal of amateurism that spoke to gentility, nobility and privilege…sport for sport’s sake. Think Bobby Jones, the golfer. In those days, professional golf was the teaching pro at your course…a caddy who graduated to scratching out a living giving lessons. Amateurs were those who could afford to indulge themselves in sport; pro’s tried to eke out a living and there were no big tournaments or leagues spewing megabucks.

Amateurism is an irrelevant concept today. What if college players became “pro’s”? Does it change anything? The NCAA continues to peddle its ‘student-athlete’ theme, for no purpose but to maintain as much of the status quo as possible.

It appears from the statements surrounding Mark Emmert’s rhetoric that big change is coming for the NCAA, some of it caused by the player groundswell. But frankly more has been caused by the big money schools that want to separate themselves from the smaller schools who have impeded their progress, as the little guys can’t financially keep up. It all speaks to money…big money…and if this isn’t professionalism I don’t know what is.

Note to NCAA: change is coming, better get on board.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Player Make Their Voices Heard (What's Up With That?) - Big Dog Sports Blog - Big Dog Sports Blog

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