It pained me to read this week's 52-page release of a long-anticipated commission report that was supposed to end the NCAA as we know it.
(Spoiler Alert: it did NOT).
Seriously, though, I devoured the entire report whilst lying flat on my back nursing a back-muscle pull that has left me wondering if I’ll ever again tie my own shoe laces.
It could be noted I was injured wearing sneakers manufactured under a longstanding apparel agreement I have with the Adidas clearance rack at Big 5 Sporting Goods.
Adidas, as you may well know, is at the sinister center of the FBI indictments\probe scandal that scared the NCAA straight into thinking last October it needed a commission led by Condoleezza Rice.
The final draft was titled: “Commission on College Basketball: Report and Recommendations to NCAA Board of Governors, Division 1 Board of Directors and NCAA President Emmert.”
Thank goodness editors trimmed Emmert’s first name (Mark) to keep the title succinct and breezy.
I read this report, essentially taking one for the team, because it was either that or stare at my ceiling fan. But I also read the report so you don’t have to.
Part of our job here at TMG is to synthesize complicated reports like these into bite-sized Halloween candies.
Why should you have to waste your afternoon?
Synopsis: the commission report that was supposed to shake the world was a 1.2 on the Richter Scale. It was well-researched and well-prepared but fell Sister Jean short of offering radicalized change for an organization that badly needs it.
After months of gnashing, the commission concluded cheating is wrong, some agents are bad, money remains the root of evil and “One and Done” needs to be abolished. That's great but it also conceded “One and done” has to be changed by the NBA and the NBA players’ association. The NCAA has no control.
The commission never seriously addresses “Pay for play” because, for the NCAA, it is a non-starter (for good reasons, in my opinion).
The NCAA is never going to sign off on paying its "student-athletes" so the commission, in the end, did not advocate for that.
The report reminded me in some parts of a staged home-invasion with the NCAA wanting to get roughed up to make it look real.
The commission report had some no-brainer recommendations, such as allowing players who are not drafted by the NBA to return to college.
A good idea—not a new one. I like the idea of guaranteeing college scholarships for students who leave early. Oh, and that’s already being done.
The report addressed players getting paid for schools licensing their names for money, but ultimately backed off because, you know, the NCAA is tangled up in a lot of lawsuits on this issue.
The commission recommended high school players should be able to talk to agents without risking college eligibility.
But only “good” agents.
To counter the slimy summer-league scene, Condi’s Crew proposed the NCAA, USA Basketball and the NBA form their own summer league for player evaluation.
Good idea and...good luck. The report basically went retro and said it was wrong for schools like North Carolina to skate massive and systemic academic fraud over a bylaw technicality (the bogus courses were offered to all students).
The commission tried, but whiffed ultimately, with coming to terms with the elephant in the room: the growing money gap that has made multi-millionaires of coaches and commissioners, while asking student-athletes to be happy with their smaller pie pieces.
Yes, the argument goes, colleges are making billions of dollars off the backs of their workers, but a college scholarship is still worth the price of a concussion (or 20). The commission says getting a college degree should be a top priority (sound of everyone clapping) by noting someone with a B.A. degree earns an estimated $1 million over the course of a lifetime.
But the numbers just aren’t adding up. The NCAA, only very recently, has become a billions-dollar industry as broadcast money has pumped a river of cash into the system.
"The fundamental problem is the players make more money for the schools than they receive in compensation," David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah, brilliantly summed up to David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times. "As long as that exists, you're always going to have corruption.
While the average scholarship has remained relatively steady, some coaches are now making $10 million a year to coach the same type of players they did in 2008. The Pac 12 commissioner’s salary, way less than a million a year a decade ago, now exceeds $4 million annually.
That's great in a free-enterprise system but the NCAA is certainly not that. It tries to combine socialism and capitalism and that's only led to cronyism. Long before Condi’s commission was formed, conference football commissioners essentially admitted this earnings-dispursment disparity by offering players a “full cost of attendance” stipend to help make ends meet.
That was a positive step, but it’s not enough as the commission report falls short in addressing commensurate compensation.
I actually agree with the commission’s conclusion that paying players will destroy the flawed collegiate construct it wants to maintain. No one in pay-for-play ever answers the next question: how?
In football, do you pay the quarterback but not the left tackle?
How do pay players in sports that don’t produce revenue streams?
More, though, CAN be done. NCAA players should be provided everything short of being handed actual paychecks.
The commission should have announced plans to pool portions of the NCAA's billions into investment retirements funds for NCAA players.
That’s right, a pension that can be tapped by a former varsity player who can start collecting in his 50s. The commission should have also addressed health care and medical costs for players who may have to finance lingering issues related to their playing days.
Wednesday’s report contained some good recommendations but failed to bring the hammer down on a broken system that can't really be fixed on its own. I didn't read anything that would substantially dissuade a major power from cheating to win a national championship.
This report basically read back what the reeling NCAA knew it had to hear in light of an open-ended FBI probe.
The final commission report, correctly, concluded the NCAA needs an independent agency to handle its complicated enforcement cases. It fails to mention, though, that the real power of any investigative arm is the subpoena power agencies like the FBI use to get truthful answers.
The report concluded the NCAA should not be in the business of often badly (perhaps maliciously) policing itself. Good point. It may be too late to help USC in that sanctions over-reach but some of this familial ugliness is going public right now at the Todd McNair vs. NCAA trial in Los Angeles.
Maybe the problem, ultimately, is the NCAA going in-house to clean house.
I'm guessing the FBI's final report, ultimately, will have more sway.
Or maybe the Supreme Court will want to weigh in.