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The NCAA is a parasite, and it always has been

Don't half-step by suggesting the NCAA has a positive use. It does not, and never has.

Tyler Kaufman-US PRESSWIRE

It would be nice to just blame the person in charge, because that would make the NCAA something effective, merely a noble franchise misdirected by inept, buttery hands fumbling the controls of a potentially fine machine.

That would be nice. It would be nice to imagine Mark Emmert--the man who earns $1.6 million a year to slap the controls of the NCAA around like an ape frantically smashing the buttons of a nuclear missile silo--as someone competent. It would also be inaccurate, since the NCAA is a cash-spitting brain fluke infecting anyone who touches it, and like most parasitic organisms has more willing hosts than you can count.

Oh, but it's a good kind of parasite, you say, cuddling with it before happily letting it crawl in your ear. It's good to someone: the schools who hide for-profit businesses behind the byzantine code of amateurism, the executives at the NCAA who collect six-figure paychecks for eating lunch for a living, and for the basketball programs taking their cut of the NCAA's sale of March Madness. It's good for people who like binders and large, downloadable PDFs.

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The NCAA is good for anyone who would like to believe college sports is not a business, and still deserves any kind of status as a non-profit entity. It is good for the bowls who hide under that same curtain, and with brain-flukes firmly in place insist on the virtues of funneling money through the tax code into brightly colored jacket pockets. It's not just good for bloggers and journalists in search of a easy pickings--it's great for us, because hunting the NCAA's inconsistencies is a shotgun safari in a sheep pasture. They're so very slow, and so very easy to hit with even the worst weaponry.

But even those who revel in writing about the NCAA happily host the parasite, usually by assuming that the NCAA is a thing at all. There's a slight tickle in the ear, and then some pressure, and then ahhh, there it is: the comfortable assumption that this ever made sense, and that the NCAA should play any role in anything ever.

To date, the only writer fully immune to it is Taylor Branch, who excoriated the NCAA properly in The Shame Of College Athletics. Everyone else, to some degree, is a friend of the cash-spitting mind-slug, and assumes in definition that at one point, somewhere, the NCAA lost its way, and could serve some future use.

It cannot. The NCAA is a perfectly useless entity in every positive sense, and only useful in the negative sense of placing a wall between wages and labor. Emmert has been a brain-damaged, sputtering fartcloud of a bureaucrat in his tenure at the NCAA, but so was Myles Brand, a perfectly intelligent human being who could not define what the NCAA did in Congressional hearings. That's what the NCAA does: writes checks to smart people, who in turn become the drooling replicants of a moralizing hivemind on the make.

The Miami case is embarrassing, but so is the 2012 Penn State case, the Reggie Bush USC sanctions, the separation of agents from their future clients, the random declarations of ineligibility, the year waiting period between transfers, the regulation of student-athlete endorsements and use of their own likenesses in products, the rules governing recruiting at any level, and a hundred other daily absurdities fostered by the need to keep money out of the hands of those who earn it.

The NCAA is an absurd parasite clamped to the cerebrum of college athletics, impairing thought and turning smart people into gibbering zombies intoxicated by false virtue and real dollars. The dignified thing would be for the NCAA to close its own doors and rent its Indianapolis headquarters to a PF Chang's.

Parasites never choose suicide, though, and instead serve only one purpose: self-replication. The more realistic option is a surgical removal from its hosts, an operation of extreme difficulty for those who've come to love the slimy critter nesting comfortably in their otherwise fine brains.