NCAA president Mark Emmert has a wide-ranging discussion with CBS Sports' Jon Solomon about the future of the NCAA, and some of the pending litigation. There are a lot of metaphorical chickens coming home to roost as soon as this summer, so the NCAA must be prepared to make some decisions, and Emmert intimates that all these matters are high on the docket for discussion.
Q: Increasingly, more people are asking why not let athletes make money off their name? Why not be able to make money off autographs or endorsements and possibly have it regulated in some way by universities? Could you ever support that?
Emmert: I think it’s clearly an active debate and discussion. What the member schools are most concerned about is how do you maintain a competitive balance in a system where schools are in position where they can outbid one another for a paid autograph or car endorsement or pick your model? And doesn’t that simply become pay-for-play under a different name? That’s where the debate always breaks down. It’s an integral part of the O’Bannon case. We’re appealing that, so we’ll see where it winds up.
I think this is right. It’s really easy to say, “Hey, why can’t a guy do endorsements?” The reason is that schools would wind up in bidding wars for players, and the NCAA wants to avoid that, understandably.
I think we can all agree that the “student-athlete” model is no longer what the NCAA envisions for elite athletes at a fair number of schools, but we can’t say it’s invalid — the vast majority of athletes under the NCAA system are student-athletes in the mode of what the NCAA wants. That isn’t to say that the rules aren’t Byzantine and flawed both in conception and execution, but the model, for the vast majority of people who play athletics in college, works.
It does break down in the ultra-competitive money sports of men’s football and basketball, though, and that simply cannot be ignored.
Another interesting, but pretty expected comment:
Q: If the NLRB ruling comes out unfavorably against Northwestern, is there any recourse for the NCAA and Northwestern, or is it your view that it sets the precedent for private universities that athletes are employees and can attempt to unionize?
Emmert: Northwestern could go to the courts and could have recourse through the courts, and every indication is they would do that if the NLRB rules supporting the local NLRB administrator. I’m sure the members would want us to be supportive of Northwestern in that case, and that’s certainly every indication we’ve given. And I’m sure it winds up in the courts. I can’t imagine it not.
I don’t think unions belong in college sports, but that’s just one person’s opinion and doesn’t mean much. Others rationally disagree, so I guess we’re just going to have to wait until it goes through the courts, if that becomes necessary, and see what happens. This very much becomes the interface of politics and college sports, a subject I don’t care to delve in too deeply, because it encourages partisan commentary rather than rational analysis. So please, do try to resist the urge to politicize this.
Hat tip: Oscar Combs