Wednesday, October 18, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> NCAA makes a mockery of collegiate amateurism

Leader sports editor

NCAA sports are no longer amateur competitions and NCAA athletes are no longer amateurs. That’s the logical outworking of the NCAA’s decision that the University of North Carolina violated no NCAA rules with an 18-year long, incontrovertible academic fraud scandal in which phony classes were set up in a phony department that benefited mostly members of the athletics programs.

The NCAA ruled that, since UNC also allowed some non-athlete students to sign up for the classes and receive passing grades, that it was not a systemic effort to aid the athletes.

This means every major university that brings in most of its revenue from athletics, will set up the same classes.

UNC also had to answer for this systemic fraud before a national accreditation board. In a brazen display of hypocrisy, the (ahem) university acknowledged the fraud and showed deep contrition in an effort not to be sanctioned or even stripped of its accreditation.

But in front of the NCAA, the same UNC representatives argued that no fraud had taken place.

The NCAA, in an even grander show of hypocrisy, knew about the accreditation hearing, knew UNC’s argument there, and still accepted the about face in its own hearing.

Once a longtime proponent for not paying NCAA athletes, that argument is no longer tenable.

Rules are still in place that require athletes to have a certain grade-point average, but all it takes now to conger up a phony GPA is make up fake classes and let a few non-athletes take advantage of it.

This isn’t, any longer, some nefarious scheme practiced only by the most ethically deprave coaches and administrators. It is a bona fide, legitimate way to run a program, according to the NCAA decision on UNC.

The whole thing is absurd.

The ruling means NCAA athletes no longer have to be students, and that means, with the millions of dollars the universities are making, that those players should be getting something in return.

A phony degree won’t mean much in the real world once a potential employer sees the utter lack of training and skill from four years of playing football or basketball and learning nothing else.

There is no excuse, then, for allowing NCAA members to use the labor of these athletes to make millions on top of millions of dollars for four years for basically nothing but room and board.

The only argument for allowing it before the UNC ruling was that the players were getting something – something almost invaluable – tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in scholarship money and an opportunity to earn a college degree – even a masters.

That argument is now gone, and the athletes should be getting a cut of the cash.

One could still argue the opportunity is still there, but that argument should be laughed to scorn. Tell an 18-year old kid he can either take the really challenging courses and earn the degree while juggling the demanding athletics schedule, or he can sign up for the fake classes and get straight A’s without lifting a finger.

That athlete isn’t going to be thinking about the long term, real world implications of that decision.

There is no longer a tenable argument for not paying the athletes; at least the ones that play the sports that bring in the cash.

The best-case scenario is for universities members (and they are members by choice) to leave the NCAA and start another organization with ethics and the will to defend them. But short of that, the next best thing is to make college sports semi pro. Let the teams represent a university, but in name only. Don’t require players to be students and pay them a fair market value.

If you still think that sounds ludicrous, take it up with the NCAA.