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Here’s why Mark Emmert’s comment on the NCAA embracing the Olympic model of compensation is meaningless

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The proof’s gotta be in the pudding, and Emmert’s got a built-in excuse if it never happens.

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NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On its face, this is a big splash statement from the NCAA president Mark Emmert in an interview about the sweeping corruption college basketball scandal:

“There’s a lot of discussion about the Olympic model and think it’s well deserving of serious consideration inside the context of college sports,” he said.

In a nutshell: the Olympic model Emmert is citing would allow for players to earn money for endorsements while retaining their amateur status. It is a softening of Emmert’s usual rhetoric, which usually runs along these lines:

“I know there’s a lot of debate out there for pay for play,” said Emmert, “but that’s not even open for discussion. It’s so antithetical to what college athletics is.”

While Emmert has always parroted the NCAA’s message about amateurism, he was at the helm of the organization as it instituted full cost of attendance stipends which go above the traditional room and board scholarships. But Emmert’s words about the Olympic model ring hollow because they allow him to look progressive while hiding behind the cocoon of the NCAA’s structure.

Emmert can say he’d personally like to hand every NCAA athlete a million dollars and it won’t matter because the organization won’t act unilaterally to pay college athletes because it can’t. Paying players would most likely look like an agreement starting in Division I from at least the 65 Power 5 schools (and Notre Dame) saying that they’d to do it first, then the Group Of 5 schools following suit to stay competitive. And Emmert knows this because he made these comments just six months ago.

“There’s really not any interest among university leaders to convert student-athletes into employees,” Emmert said during a telephone interview with The Athletic shortly after the NCAA issued the release. “The commission can go wherever it wants to, but I don’t think anybody is interested in pursuing that kind of model.

While an optimist may believe that Emmert’s public comments about an NCAA perestroika would lead you to believe that he might work behind the scenes to lobby for change, there’s little evidence to buy into that notion based on his history.