Mazurek: Overhaul the NCAA
Marek Mazurek | Friday, September 29, 2017
How many straws does it take to break a camel’s back?
If we’re talking about a conventional dromedary camel, then 1,320 pounds should do it.
But if we’re talking about the overblown, incompetent, equally authoritarian yet powerless governing body of college sports, it seems that no amount of scandals and stupidity is enough.
Yesterday’s announcement of a full-scale FBI investigation should be the final straw, the final indictment on the NCAA’s broken system.
Yesterday, the FBI revealed it is investigating two related complaints. One in which individuals representing big sportswear brands (specifically Adidas) funneled money to top high school basketball prospects in exchange for them to attend schools that were partnered with those brands.
The second involves professional agents bribing college coaches to get them to direct players to those agents. Overall, 10 people have been arrested, including four assistant coaches: Chuck Person (Auburn), Emanuel Richardson (Arizona), Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State) and Tony Bland (USC).
But the worst part of the whole ordeal is how unsurprised many seem. Commentators and coaches have been quoted as saying they aren’t shocked by the news. It’s just business as usual and a few guys just weren’t careful enough.
But college sports can’t let this be business as usual.
The charges brought forward by the FBI reveals how bankrupt the NCAA is. To be clear, the NCAA did not engage in the alleged bribery and neither did it directly encourage players … sorry, student-athletes, to sign with particular agents. But the system the NCAA has created over the past half century encourages endemic corruption, such as that the FBI has discovered.
The influx of money from TV deals and sportswear contracts in college sports has raised the stakes to such a point where coaches are willing to resort to bribery to lure blue-chip recruits to their school.
Players too, since they can’t make money while in college, are encouraged to engage in shady dealings with agents and advisors who claim to be able to help them get to the NBA.
Now, no system is perfect and even the federal government can’t figure out how to curb the black market of drugs and arms. But the NCAA doesn’t even attempt to address the problem.
Instead, the organization is lost in its fantasy land where it expects every athlete to fully commit themselves to the spirit of amateurism and this ignores the very real pressures star athletes face. In fact, the NCAA is more concerned in cracking down on players making money off their own names, than with thinking of ways to fix a system where athletes can get into serious trouble with shady figures offering representation.
Instead of forcing athletes who want to go pro to deal with agents outside of the rules and behind closed doors, why not allow athletes to retain agents in college? A regulated system is a cleaner system and this way, the NCAA could have some sort of oversight and could impose regulations on what agents could and could not do.
But instead of fixing the billion-dollar shadow economy its misguided system has created, the NCAA will zero in on its misplaced sense of amateurism, hold that sacred and disregard anything else going on.
That’s why the NCAA didn’t break when a Louisville coach hired prostitutes to “convince” recruits to sign on.
It didn’t break on any number of occasions it doled out arbitrarily harsh punishments to schools that self-reported an infraction and less severe ones to schools that never owned up to their mistakes.
And the current FBI investigation is just the latest example of how the NCAA is absolutely powerless when it conducts its own investigations and is left at the mercy of the FBI, the media or schools self-reporting to find anything out about possible infractions.
But this time it isn’t business as usual for the NCAA. This time there are federal charges.
If college sports is to improve, let’s hope this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.