Maybe yesterday was your breaking point with the NCAA and the media enabling its status quo. If so, welcome.
You might’ve noticed that NCAA President Mark Emmert trying to convince you that a $64 lunch for a University of Virginia basketball player is “an affront” and part of a “systematic failure” in college basketball.
You might also recall that college basketball’s postseason tournament earns the NCAA around $900 million annually.
It’s crucial that we examine the language at play here, because the moment you, friendly regular sports consumer, stop reacting to $64 lunches as a crime against humanity, the NCAA loses.
This is not a ‘scandal.’ This is not going to ‘rock’ anyone to their core. This is not a threat to the sanctity of basketball or college sports or anything other than day-to-day human decency.
So: Welcome to the other side. There are two rules.
1. You have to accept one fact: Yes, your rival school or the perennial powerhouse in your favorite college sport is compensating players in some manner that violates the NCAA’s self-created rules.
I can tell you from personal experience that when anyone in the media or college sports tries to talk about the unstoppable efficiency of the college sports black market, the overwhelming reaction from sports fans is, “Not us, but surely them.”
No. Everyone. I promise you one thing: If you believe your rival is finding ways to compensate young athletes for their abilities, so is your team.
Everyone is cheating the NCAA’s rules as much as they absolutely can without getting caught. Because once the NCAA latches on to a suspect, it’s over. The NCAA’s governing body needs to regularly justify its billion dollar existence by punishing member schools for crimes* against the invisible standard of amateurism.
And they do so with self-appointed autonomy in almost total secrecy. You will lose if they want you to.
(*Except not real, actual crime like systemic sexual assault and cover-ups of said crimes. Just the $64 lunches.)
2. You have to believe one thing: As long as a billion dollar industry refuses to pay its labor force, this will never, ever stop. Mark Emmert’s logic is fatally flawed, that “people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports.”
Emmert and the NCAA will never, ever stop even a fraction of violations. They know this. Ply the right college administrator, coach, or even NCAA employee with a few drinks and they’ll cop to the cold reality: Fostering a culture of fandom passionate enough to generate millions in revenue will always feed a black market they claim to so fiercely abhor.
If fans care enough about a sport to make its coaches and school and ADs and executives rich as hell, they’ll also want to give money to its players. If you’re OK with that after today’s news, again, welcome.