Fair Pay to Play Exposes NCAA Hypocrisy

Fair Pay to Play

There is a fairly big news story involving the Fair Pay to Play bill just passed by the California Legislature. I think there’s a great deal of confusion about the bill which the NCAA and Tim Tebow so virulently oppose. Let me explain it in simple terms. The Fair Pay to Play bill does not force colleges to pay athletes, it simply allows said athletes to sell their autographs, images, and likenesses. That’s it. All the hubbub Tebow and the NCAA are wailing about is simply athletes being allowed to sell their autographs and images.

Let me be even more clear. Right now, those athletes are forbidden from selling their own autograph! They cannot sell a picture of themselves but the NCAA does it all the time. Autographed memorabilia are auctioned off by the schools and the NCAA all the time. The school administrators, coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, and everyone else associated with the games profit off the name, images, and likeness of the players. Everyone except the players themselves.

The NCAA disgusts me and long has done so. I’ve written about this before. Now I’ll add Tebow to the list of people who profit off college football while insisting the players get nothing. I’m not sure how much more hypocritical it can get. How people can justify not allowing anyone to sell their autograph and image is beyond my comprehension. Nothing is more personal. Nothing is a greater natural right. My image is mine to do with as I wish as is yours.

You don’t have to be a die-hard Libertarian like myself to respect the individual’s right to sell her or his own autograph. No one else is prohibited from doing so except so-called amateur athletes. Not only is the bill not unconstitutional, as the NCAA and Tebow claim, it is the rules that prohibit it that are unconstitutional. How the NCAA has gotten away with this for so long is an indictment of our judicial branch and an assault on freedom. How is it that a law needs to be passed to allow people to sell their own autograph? That’s the real question.

Unconstitutional? Unconstitutional? You’re unconstitutional! You’re unconstitutional. The whole trial is unconstitutional. That sick, crazy, and depraved NCAA is stealing from those athletes and they’d like to keep doing it!

Tom Liberman

Does Joe Wickline Call the Plays? It shouldn’t Matter!

joe wicklineI just found out about a situation that’s been brewing in NCAA football for a while now. For once it’s not about screwing over the players, everyone’s favorite whipping boys. This time it’s about a coach.

A fellow by the name of Joe Wickline worked for Oklahoma State as an offensive coach. In that capacity he advised the head coach and the offensive coordinator on what plays to run but did not make the final call. The nonsensical question the court faces is whether Wickline is calling plays for his new school, the University of Texas. Why is this such a crucial question? Because of insane employer contracts.

You see, Wickline was only allowed to leave Oklahoma State without paying a $600,000 penalty if he took a promotion at his new school. If the move was lateral, or technically a demotion, then he would be forced to pay the penalty. Insanity. I will never understand how a business can penalize an employee in the United States of America for taking another job. It’s our right to work where want and when we want as long as an employer is willing to pay us. No one should have any say about that except me and the person who wants to hire me. If I steal company ideas or clients that’s another matter but if I simply want to move from one company to another it’s completely and totally my decision.

You might wonder the point of the clause in the contact. I’ll tell you. It’s a nasty, and in my opinion clearly illegal, way to make other schools pay when they hire someone who works for the first school. In the article I’ve linked the lawyers for Oklahoma State lament the fact that Texas is not paying the fee because everyone does it! Madness. It puts a huge chill on the ability of any employee to actively sell their services. If a potential employer has two candidates but one comes with a half a million dollar fee associated with him or her that clearly effects hiring practices. How this is not illegal mystifies me.

Shame on the anyone who writes such a contract. Shame on any judge who upholds it. Capitalism depends on people being able to sell their services to the highest bidder. It’s not just about making an environment where competition thrives and government doesn’t stifle it. It’s not just for the company, it’s all about the employee as well. Contracts like this stifle capitalism and the free market.

In the immortal words of Mr. Mackey, “m’kay?”

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

NCAA Settles on Player Likeness Used in Video Games

Johnny-Manziel-Ncaa-Football-14I’ve written a number of times about how I think the NCAA is an organization wherein everyone except the athletes make money. One of the points I’ve made is that the NCAA takes money from video game makers like Electronic Arts who use the likeness and mannerisms of players in their games. Until today the NCAA and the game manufacturers have never paid the players a penny for doing this. Until today.

If you purchase EA NCAA Football 2013 and load up, say the Texas A&M v. Missouri game you’ll see #2 leading the Aggies onto the field. The avatar bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Manziel. In the game #2 throws with his right hand and is a bit short for a quarterback. He runs a lot. He plays just like Johnny Manziel. The only real difference is the back of the jersey where you see just the #2, not the name Manziel.

The reason you didn’t see that name is because the video game companies figured if they left it off they wouldn’t owe Manziel, or any of the other players, money for using their likeness in the games. Those self-same video game companies do have pay to someone though, that someone is the NCAA. In fancy legalese designed to keep them from having to give money to the actual players they pay for the right to use the NCAA logo. Tricky, those lawyers. The NCAA has said they will terminate this agreement with the game manufactures once the current contract expires later this year.

Those who disagree with me will argue that the players get a scholarship and signed a contract in which they agreed not to collect money for the use of their likeness. If that is the case then why did EA and the NCAA just agree to pay $60 million to the people whose likeness was used from 2005 or 2003 to the present time. They fought and fought until the moment the case was headed to trial and then paid up.

There is another huge case on the dockets now filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannion and there has been no settlement to date. That case argues the players have the right to sell their likeness directly to the video game makers. It’s a big one to say the least and I’ll be keeping my eye on it. But it’s not the point of today’s column.

Those who rail against today’s settlement argue that it will “ruin” college football. It will drive the game out of existence. I can’t categorically say this is wrong although I’m certain that it is incorrect. There is money to be made. Lots of money. If the NCAA, the media, the stadium builders, the broadcasters, the coaches, and everyone else has to give up a bit of that to pay the players they’ll do it. They might not like it, but they’ll do it. And the games will go on.

Either the doomsayers or right or I’m right. Time will tell.

As far as today’s settlement goes I have only this to say. About time.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Not Enough to Eat for Scholarship Athletes

Follow the MoneyThe true nature of the NCAA was on full display when the president of that organization agreed that certain rules about food were “absurd”.

What I’d like to talk about today is why the NCAA has rules about how much food the student-athlete gets. Before I talk about that I’d like to honestly discuss many of the misconceptions people have about the “full-ride” scholarship that the student-athlete receives.

When I read through the comments on stories like the one above, I find there are many people honestly misinformed. Here are some of the most basic misconceptions.

Assumption

The scholarship entitles the student-athlete to a free college experience including books, classes, food, room, and travel to games.

Reality

An athletic scholarship is based on a certain formula and the average Division I scholarship student-athlete pays $2,951 to attend the school.

Assumption

The student-athlete receives a four-year scholarship.

Reality

Four year scholarships ended in 1973 and all athletic scholarships are for one year. When a student-athlete is injured or sees a performance drop such that they will not be able to compete for the team, they are generally not offered a scholarship for the subsequent year. This is waived if the injury appears to be short-term in nature and the student-athlete will recover to be able to contribute the following season.

Assumption

A four-year education is worth millions of dollars.

Reality

Tuition inflation means that most students do not pay anywhere near the full tuition to attend a university. As an example, my niece attends Case Western University which has a stated total annual expense of $60,129 of which $42,766 is tuition. The reality is that almost 98% of the students receive financial aid that cut costs more than in half. The stated cost of an education in this country is far higher than its real cost.

My Point

What I really want to talk about today is why the NCAA has a rule about whether putting cream cheese on a bagel constitutes a meal. Yes, that’s the rule that the original article is about.

The NCAA argues that they are defending the integrity of the sport by preventing schools from “bidding” on a student athlete’s service. That if the field is anything other than exactly equal those schools with a larger a financial base will get the best players to the detriment of the sport in general.

Thus they have a massive rule book filled with things that define how much food a school is allowed to provide to a student. A school is allowed to feed them three times a day and student-athletes are forbidden to remove any food from the cafeteria to be eaten at a later time (another misconception). Students are allowed to be given snacks although the amount of food is strictly regulated to prevent rule-breakers from sneaking food to the kids.

These kids are young, growing men spending a great part of their day in vigorous physical exercise. I was once a young man who spent hours a day practicing and playing sports. I was hungry constantly. From the time I arrived home from school until I went to bed I was basically eating. I’m 5′ 7″ and weighed 130 at the time (not anymore).

My point is that the NCAA’s stated goal of keeping one school from having a competitive advantage over another school is merely a smokescreen. The reality is that college football and basketball generates huge amounts of revenue from sources that will be a surprise to many of my readers.

Texas A&M auctioned off replica helmets signed by Johnny Manziel and other team stars for $15K each. Johnny Manziel, unlike every other non-student-athlete, is not allowed to sell his signature.

Schools auction off seats at their various alumni dinners for thousands of dollars. The more someone pays the better table they get with the star athletes sitting with them.

Athletic apparel companies give millions to the schools which “redistribute” it to the coaches. This new strategy came into being in 2010 when the nature of Shoe Contracts became public. The athletic companies used to give the money directly to the coaches but the rank hypocrisy turned people off.

Coaches get paid in exclusive country club memberships, “Ask the Coach” media contracts, and a plethora of other non-salary revenue. The President of the NCAA is paid well over seven figures. The entire organization is tax-exempt.

I think it’s important not to lie to ourselves. The NCAA is not in the business of keeping the integrity of the sport intact. They are in the business of ensuring their cash-cow keeps churning dollars.

A lot of people benefit from the way the NCAA currently operates from the fans, to the construction companies building stadium, to politicians sitting for free in luxury boxes, to NCAA employees jetting around the country on private jets provided by the wealthy who want access to the glory of the athletes, to the seven-figure salaried announcers, to the fans who enjoy the game, and to the players who get to go to school.

All I’m asking for is a little equity between all those interested parties.

I don’t begrudge the networks their advertising revenue, the construction companies their profits, the coaches, athletic directors, sideline reporters, and countless others their salaries.

The current system strikes me as grossly unfair to the student-athletes who are the underpinnings upon which all other profits are based. It’s strikes me as anti-American. It hits me in my Libertarian guts.

The value of a NCAA Division I football and basketball player has increased by an almost astronomical amount in the last twenty years and their remuneration remains unchanged.

I don’t like it and I don’t like the lie the NCAA tells to justify it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Marcus Smart and the Fan who said Something

marcus-smart-shoveOne of the top non-Olympic (yawn) stories today is about a basketball player for Oklahoma State who gave a fairly mild shove to a fan at the tail end of the game between OSU and Texas Tech.

Smart fell into the stands after rushing down court to block a shot and something was said that infuriated him enough to get first into a shouting match with the fan and then shove him.

It’s a bad situation all the way around. It’s my opinion that fans are becoming increasingly crude, vile, and nasty towards not only opposing players but their own team. That they feel because they paid for their tickets they can say and do just about anything they want. I wrote about it in a blog after I had a pretty bad experience at a Rams game.

The fan who raised the ire of Smart, Jeff Orr, is apparently well-known to the Texas Tech Athletic Department. He travels to many away games and roots for the Red Raiders. I don’t know what he said. It could have been anything. Smart and the Cowboys have been struggling lately and that can lead to frustration. Smart is a 19-year-old young man, a kid from my perspective. I remember being pretty volatile at that age as well.

Maybe what was said was innocuous and Smart overreacted.

Maybe the fan made an incredibly vile comment and deserved to have his teeth knocked down his throat. I don’t know.

I do know that the situation is dangerous, particularly where the fans are very close to the athletes and basketball is probably the prime example of this. Players spill off the court into the stands fairly regularly and this is not the first such interaction of this nature. The NBA had an extremely high-profile incident a few years back and others since. The NHL has had incidents.

In college sports these are very young men and women who perhaps are not mentally mature.

What’s the solution? A little decency is all it takes. If you’re a fan and want to express your unhappiness with an opposing player or a player on your team, do it with a little control. Boo all you want. Call them a bum. Don’t talk about their race, their religion, their mother or sisters, or the fact that they have a DUI on their record. I’m not just talking of sparing the opposing player, I’m talking about showing a little respect for the fans next to you, they paid for their seats also.

If you are a fan and someone is behaving in a disgusting fashion say something. Don’t be rude like them, that is what they want. Just ask politely if they could not use disgusting language, racial slurs, religious slurs, or some human failing of the athlete involved. Remind them that you paid for your ticket also. If they continue then it’s probably time to get security involved.

Don’t we all just want to have a good time at the game? Root for our team, boo the best player on the opponent’s squad while recognizing their athletic ability, enjoy a beer without getting sloppy drunk, and then go home and have the memories?

If you’re yelling vile things during a largely meaningless sporting event, what does that say about you as a human being? As a father? As a role-model?

Again, I’m not saying Orr is guilty in all of this, it’s possible he didn’t say anything wrong. I think Smart was absolutely wrong to even acknowledge the fan, let alone shove him. I’m just suggesting that incidents like this can be avoided if people choose to show a little something called personal responsibility.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Why I’m Against College Football Playoffs

BCS National ChampionshipI saw an article this morning about how Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, didn’t like the Bowl Championship Series in college football and would prefer a sixteen team playoff. I think he is likely in the majority. Most people would prefer to see a playoff and we’re going to get one starting next year when the top four teams will playoff for the NCAA National Championship.

The arguments for a playoff center around the possibility that the eventual NCAA football champion generally has not proven itself to be the best team on the field. There are often multiple teams with equal records and the champion is picked through a series of formulas and human driven polls. This leads to a murky picture when it comes to a single champion.

In many forms of college sports there is a championship at the end the year with the most notable being basketball with March Madness. It is the same in wrestling, baseball, swimming, and other sports so it seems perfectly reasonable to expect the same with football.

I’m not going to say that people who want a playoff, be it sixteen teams or just four teams, are wrong. I’m just saying that I prefer the Bowl Games.

My rational is simple. It’s better for the kids playing the game. The vast majority of the seniors will be playing their last organized football game. Most of them won’t be going on to a professional career. These Bowl Games give those seniors one last memory, and for half of them, one last win.

As an example; the college team I most identify with is the University of Missouri and they lost in the SEC Championship match against Auburn. If there had been an eight team playoff it’s likely Missouri would have been invited. That means that they probably would have lost the last game of their season although it’s possible they would have emerged as the National Champion.

What happened is they got a great trip down to Arlington, Texas for the Cotton Bowl and managed to win a hard-fought battle against Oklahoma State. Those kids ended their college football career on an amazing high. Many of them were playing their last game of football, as I mentioned before. I think this is a good thing. I think it’s great that a young athlete can go out with a win, a memory. It think it outweighs the public’s desire for an outright National Champion.

I realize that most people disagree with me. I realize there is a lot of money to be made in a playoff system. I realize people find the current system unsatisfying.

My reasoning boils down to the rather simple idea that the game is for the players; not the fans, not the networks, not the college presidents, not the highly paid broadcasters and sideline reporters, not the NCAA enforcement bureau, not the stadium contractors, and not for me.

Maybe the Aaron Rodgers of the world disagree with me but I’d like to think that there are a lot of guys out there, sitting in an office, who won their last game and cherish the memory and the trophy.

I guess about some things I’m just hopelessly naive.

I doubt I will make many converts with this blog and I’m certain I won’t bring about any change, but I wrote it anyway.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Blowout Week in College Football

Blowout Week in the NCAAFor those of you who are college football fans, this was a grim week. There were very few games of much interest and there is a reason for that. Money. Money for everyone except the players but I’ve written about that inequity enough. Today’s blog explores the reasons we have college football games that are not competitive around this time of year.

Why in the third week of the college football season do scores like 76 – 0, 72 – 0, 54 – 6, 77 – 7, and 56 – 0 occur more frequently? Why are the third and fourth week of the college football season largely not entertaining for fans of the game?

The top college football teams are increasingly moving into what are called super-conferences. These are powerhouse conferences with the best teams. The other conferences cannot and largely do not care to compete. The only way to compete in these super-conferences is to generate revenue. Bigger stadiums, better locker rooms, and more television exposure gives players a greater opportunity to showcase their talents for an eventually payday in the National Football League. It also generates huge revenues for the schools involved and the NCAA in general. Billions of dollars.

As college football teams and conferences settle into this model their schedules become all the more important. The conference schedule is when the teams in these new super conferences play games against one another. Generally this starts to happen around the fourth and fifth week of the college football season.

Many of these super-conferences are split into two divisions with the winner of each division playing in a massively lucrative championship game. As the stadiums get bigger, as the television contracts get larger, and as the luxury boxes get more expensive; the revenue rises. The schools want more revenue and this is quite natural.

After the conference championship game comes the Bowl Season. To determine who plays in what Bowl Game a series of six mathematical formulas are calculated based on team wins, points scored, points opponent scored, strength of schedule, and other factors. These results are averaged with human derived rankings called the USA Today’s Coaches Poll (current coaches) and the Harris Interactive Poll (made up of former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media members).

Starting next year the top four ranked teams will play in what is called the College Football Playoff system which culminates in a Championship Game hosted by the venue that bids the most. More money.

The pursuit of this money means that teams from the super-conferences don’t want their schedules to be too difficult in the non-conference season. They pay teams from smaller conferences to come in and serve as practice dummies. Thus we have a few weeks of largely uninteresting college football.

It’s not completely boring, there are always a few competitive games among those in the super-conferences but it’s generally a poor couple of weeks for the fans.

What’s the solution? Time.

College football with its super-conferences and playoff system is becoming a professional sports league. I think that eventually the polls and ranking system will be removed, the winner of each division within the super-conferences will play a championship game, and the winner of these games will compete in a playoff to determine a National Champion.

When this happens I suspect the schedule will essentially be designed by the NCAA much like it is in the NFL with teams from the super-conferences playing their early season games against other teams from other super-conferences. Schools that cannot generate enough revenue to enter the super-conferences will compete among themselves.

Is this a good thing? Do we need a junior NFL or should college football be for the kids? These are largely irrelevant questions. The lure of money is too strong.

Those colleges that don’t want to participate will continue on in the traditional way and those of us who appreciate the noble nature of athletics played for the sheer joy of it will turn to the Army-Navy game and the Harvard-Yale tussle. Personally, I’ll head on down to Francis Field on a cool November day to watch the Washington University Bears take on the Case Western Reserve Spartans.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Craig James fired – why?

Craig JamesThere’s an interesting news story making this rounds about a college football commentator, and former player, named Craig James who was fired from his job after a single day.

If you read the headlines, and to a large degree the story itself, without knowing other facts conveniently ignored you will come to the impression that James was fired for some fairly mild anti-homosexual remarks. That’s certainly the exciting lead that I’m seeing plastered all over the media.

It’s not true. Craig James is being fired for something entirely different.

What I find most interesting about this case is that the story, as it is being currently reported, is generating a lot of controversy within the christian community and the homosexual community. Because the focus is on the one remark that James made during a failed political campaign, that gays, “will answer to the lord for their actions,” that is what is causing the uproar. Christians defend him as do those who decry the politically correct world in which one statement haunts you for the rest of your life.

I’m actually on the side of the Christians and anti-politically correct crowd as far as the one statement goes. People are entitled to their opinion as long as it doesn’t affect their work. But, here’s the problem. James wasn’t fired for that remark. He was fired for a series of incident’s that have alienated him from the powerful college football lobby. They don’t like James, and I’m in agreement with them there, and they put down the hammer when it came to giving him both a voice and a lucrative job.

Why don’t they like him? I’m happy to elaborate but the entire story is here.

Craig James has a son named Adam James. Adam James played football at Texas Tech for a coach named Mike Leach. Leach was very successful at Texas Tech which is in the middle of the football-mad state of Texas. Leach took the Red Raiders to ten consecutive Bowl Games.

Adam James did not play much at Texas Tech and his father spent a lot of time bothering Leach about it. Leach is quoted as saying he had more trouble with Craig James than all the other parent’s combined.

Adam James was demoted to third string and then suffered a mild concussion. When James showed up at practice late the day after the concussion he was put in a trainer’s shed for the duration of the practice and the next day put alone into the media room. Adam James complained to his father. Adam James went into a small closet adjacent to the media room and took a video of himself “imprisoned” in the closet. He sent this video to his father.

Craig James went for the lawyers. He wanted an apology. Leach refused. He wouldn’t apologize when, in his mind, he had done nothing wrong.

Craig James had his public relations firm post the contrived electrical room closet video on YouTube.

Texas Tech fired Leach.

Leach sued Texas Tech but eventually lost on the grounds that basically a University can fire a coach for just about anything.

There are a lot of powerful people in Texas who do not like Craig James. They think he, and his son, are responsible for the firing of an extremely successful coach. Texas has a lot of influence in the NCAA and with the networks that cover it.

So, when you read about the supposedly politically correct move of firing James after one day on the job, keep in mind that there is a lot more to the story.

I’m not attacking James here nor defending Leach. I’m trying to make sure people understand the totality of this story. To keep people from reading the headline and coming to an uniformed opinion.

Although, honestly, I think Leach should not have been fired and James and his son are complainers at best and liars who cost a man his job at worst. That’s not cool.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 and all awesome!)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

NCAA in Violation of their Own Rules

CompensationThe Johnny Manziel situation that I wrote about yesterday continues on and now Texas A&M has hired an attorney to essentially represent the quarterback.

I don’t want to keep reiterating my point that the NCAA runs a corrupt and hypocritical organization but this lawyer hire brought a new angle mind.

The NCAA forbids athletes from receiving any compensation for their services. The athletes are not allowed to have jobs, boosters cannot purchase so much as a lunch for the students without being in violation.

However, the university can hire a lawyer for him? When you think about it, that’s nothing. The university takes profits from ticket sales, luxury booths, television rights, and other revenue streams and spends them on the equipment the players use, the stadium they play in, the laundering of their uniforms, the salary of their coaches, the transportation to various games, and much more.

Isn’t this a violation of their own rules for compensating athletes? If an agent flew an athlete somewhere it would be violation but the team does it multiple times a season. If a booster gave one of the players so much as a baseball cap it would be a violation but their uniform is provided by the school. The only compensation an athlete is supposedly allowed to receive is free room, board, and tuition.

Texas A&M has a huge vested interest in Manziel playing football for them this season. His playing and winning will not only bring immediate financial rewards but help the coaches bring future stars to the team. They recently moved to the highly competitive, and lucrative, Southeastern Conference, and they see dollar signs.

As I said yesterday, I’m not against Texas A&M making money off the player’s efforts. Good for them. They have every right to do so. They have every right to equip, transport, and legally defend a player on their team as well. I’m just saying, unequivocally, that the player also has the right to any and all compensation they can get.

As more and more money pours into the coffers of the NCAA and the universities the situation gets increasingly seedy. It begins to resemble the company store, involuntary servitude. The players have no other reasonable choice. If they want to pursue their chosen profession they must forego monetary compensation, essentially their freedom to make money.

Freedom is an important word to me. I don’t like to see it taken away from people. I will speak out!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Johnny Manziel and the Autograph Scandal

Johnny ManzielI’ve posted about the rank hypocrisy of the NCAA often in the past but there’s another story in the news today and I can’t stop myself from trying to make my point yet again.

There is a young football star who plays for Texas A&M named Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football as he is called has had an eventful career considering he’s just heading into his sophomore season. He’s been kicked out of Peyton Manning’s football camp, he’s made several questionable tweets, and he seems to be a bit of a spoiled kid.

His latest transgression is apparently getting paid to sign autographs. At least there is the appearance of such although nothing has been proven. My argument here isn’t that he shouldn’t be judged until found guilty, my point is that if someone wants to pay him $10,000 to sign a couple of hundred autographs, who is the NCAA or anyone else to tell him he can’t?

If he is found “guilty” of getting paid he will lose his college eligibility and have to turn professional.

Those who support the NCAA in this will say that it’s their organization and they get to make the rules. I think there is some truth to this argument. If a private organization makes a rule that you’re not allowed to say, wear red on Thursdays, and you choose to do so, they can kick you out of the club. They make the rules, you knew the rules going into the situation.

What bothers me about this particular rule is that the NCAA says a player cannot make any money off his name but the University sure can. Texas A&M sold football helmets with Manziel’s signature for $13,000 a helmet. They sold seats at the table where he will sit for $5,000 a seat. They have a plan to improve the stadium to the tune of $450 million dollars with seating for over 100,000 and a large number of luxury suites starting at $64,000 and a top end so high they aren’t saying (sold out by the way).

This is not all because of Manziel but he’s a big part of it, as are his teammates.

The situation is so inequitable it boggles the mind. Libertarians like me will argue that the player’s don’t have to play but this is not really an option. There is no competition. The NCAA is the only game in town. Let’s say one University allowed the players to sell autographs. You can bet they’d immediately get all the top recruits.

The NCAA and the universities are essentially colluding against the players. It’s in their best interest to keep the players from getting any money, so they rig the game to make it impossible to play anywhere else. What would you say if the NFL attempted to pass this rule? What’s amazing is that it doesn’t apply to non-athletes. When Natalie Portman was at Harvard she made a lot of money acting in movies, as have many other young actors who chose the college life. Many students have jobs but athletes are not allowed.

The NCAA mumbles about protecting the game but it’s about protecting their greed. I’m not saying the NCAA and the universities are wrong to make money, more power to them, they provide a great product that people want to see. That’s capitalism. I love it.

I want the players to reap that reward also, it’s the fair thing to do, the right thing to do, the ethical thing to do, and the American thing to do.

In the immortal words of Otter, “We’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

NCAA Provides Riches for Almost Everyone

Pay to PlayMy blog yesterday was about how much money those associated with the NCAA earn. Almost everyone associated with the NCAA, that is. The employees of the NCAA make a good deal of money with the president getting about a $1.6 million annual salary. The University Presidents are basically fund-raisers and sports teams are their main sales pitch.

Game-day announcers make very nice money. Coaches make big money. Assistant coaches make good money. Sports radio personalities make money. Stadium owners make money on ticket sales. Broadcasters earn money in advertising revenue. Advertisers earn money in increased sales. Sports paraphernalia stores sell jerseys. Video game manufacturers make money. Stadium vendors earn money. Construction companies build stadiums and make money. Referees make money. I’m sure you can think of a few more people who benefit either directly or peripherally from college sports.

The people who don’t make money are the student-athletes. They get a scholarship. The perceived value of the scholarship is the cost of a year’s education but this is also false. The scholarships don’t cost the university anything, they gain the university millions of dollars. The money the athletes generate pays for the scholarships many times over. The cost non-athletes pay in tuition is higher in part to cover the scholarship of athletes. Still, there is value in a college education for an athlete although many of them would have gone to college anyway if the athletic scholarship was not available.

There are many reasonable arguments why opening college athletes to direct pay in the form of professional sports is not the best idea. The open competition would create an unsavory atmosphere. College coaches would be bidding for the services of their players and something akin to a draft would be required eventually. That or splitting college athletics into pay and no-pay divisions. The student-athletes would be just athletes with no pretense at going to school. Without  scholarships the athletes for sports other than basketball and football would vanish.

There are a number of proposed methods of paying the players for their services and avoiding these dangers. A system like minor league baseball is one idea. A lump sum payment at the start of their college career is another idea.

I think something akin to a 401(k) is the best solution. Money is put into a fund for each year the student stays in the system. This money is untouchable until the student finishes their eligibility or leaves school. Students in the sports that generate the most money, men’s football and men’s basketball, would be slotted for higher payments while less financially lucrative sports would get smaller amounts or simply the scholarship they currently receive.

The money allotted could be drawn from both the money raised by the school and by the NCAA as a whole. Television contracts, jersey endorsements, ticket sales, etc. I think it would be best if the money was the same for all schools in the same division and sport. Thus Division I men’s basketball players would be slotted a certain amount. This avoids an imbalance where higher paying schools attract better recruits.

A percentage of this money from the NCAA and the schools would be lumped into a fund and divided by the number of players in that sport, with Division I men basketball and football players getting the lion’s share. As an example, there are 13 men on each of the 340 Division I basketball schools giving us a total of 4,420 players. Let’s say we put away $50 million for the players. That’s about $11,000 or so for each player for each year in the league. It’s not a massive amount but it’s not horrible and it’s better than nothing. Personally I think the $50 million is a very low figure.

I think it likely that we would have to redefine the Divisions based on revenue raised. Something akin to the European soccer relegation rules where if a team doesn’t make enough in television revenue and ticket sales they are reduced to the next lowest division. Schools that had no interest in participating in such a scheme, such as the Ivy League, could opt-out in a non-payment division.

It’s not a perfect scheme and there are pitfalls that I’m sure my readers can find but I think it is far more equitable than the current shameful system.

What do you think? Comment away!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for 300+ pages of adventure, excitement, and fun)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

How do you Solve a Problem like … the NCAA?

NCAA HypocrisyThe nuns kicked Maria out of the abbey because she wasn’t an asset. What do we do when the bosses are the problem? That’s the NCAA for you.

For those of you not aware of the facts of the matter, the NCAA runs a big business. The business of college sports. Here’s the page for their Enforcement Arm. It’s filled with gems like Commitment to fair play is a bedrock principle of the NCAA, and The enforcement program is dedicated to creating positive student-athlete experiences by preserving the integrity of the enterprise.

This blogger is committed to calling lying sacks of garbage … wait for it … lying sacks of garbage. They are in it for the money. There is lots of money in college sports for everyone except the men and women providing the entertainment that generates all that money. The do get to go to college for free which is not a bad compensation for many of them. A four-year stint at Duke costs about $200,000.

Not bad although the head coach at Duke earns $1.7 million per year. That’s the football coach. The hoops coach, try $4.7 million. The university itself pulled in a cool $67 million in 2008 thanks to its athletic department. Athletic departments pull in huge amounts of money through television rights, game-day tickets, post-season play, jersey sales, and various other arms of fund-raising. NCAA sports is big business and the regulation arm of the NCAA is primarily concerned with keeping that revenue stream healthy, not creating positive student-athlete experiences. By the way, the term student-athlete was created by the NCAA as a legal dodge.

It’s hard to blame them. People willingly offer up their hard-earned money to wear jerseys of their favorite players, see the game, and watch it on the streaming device of their choice. College serves as a free farm system for the NBA, the NFL, NHL, and increasingly MLB. It’s a place for the stars of the game to hone their skills before the payout finally comes in professional sports. You see, the NCAA runs an amateur organization where the players aren’t tainted by being paid, conveniently forgetting that a scholarship is a form of payment. Tuition, room and board, books, no charge, but that’s not payment because we value the purity of the sport, don’t you see the difference?

The NCAA punishes players who sell game-day jerseys worn in the big game. Kids who want a little money because they aren’t allowed to have jobs while on scholarships. Kids who aren’t allowed to talk to lawyers who could actually offer them some pretty sound financial advice, lawyers called agents. Really, they can’t talk to a lawyer to advise them about their future? Can’t talk to a lawyer!? Seriously? Accused criminals are reminded they have that right. College athletes, nope, rules violation. The team gets endorsement dollars for wearing sneakers, by the team I mean the coach and the university, certainly not the players. Video games of NCAA sports, primarily football and basketball, can’t put the player names on the back of the jersey, any guess why? Is it a commitment to fair play?

Meanwhile announcers, cameramen, referees, beer vendors, radio sports broadcasters, construction companies, and countless other thousands earn a living on the backs of these athletes.

Sports is a strange beast. The draft? Yeah, that’s clearly unconstitutional. That’s not the topic today but boy, once I get started with the madness of sports I can’t stop myself. National Letters of intent that legally bind a seventeen year old to one, and only one, university or he has to forfeit a year from his scholarship? It’s all about money. It’s about collusion, the suppression of constitutional rights in the pursuit of money.

I went to the college of my choice. I could have transferred anytime I wanted. I got a job at the company that offered me the best deal. They didn’t draft me and lock me into a preset dollar amount based on the position of the pick.

What do we do? How do we solve this problem? With this much money at stake it’s not an easy solution. I doubt there is a complete solution that is viable for all parties. That being said the travesty of justice that is coaches, athletic directors, university presidents, announcers and all the rest making millions and the athletes getting a scholarship angers my Libertarian principles. Don’t kid yourself, there are thousands of broken kids, used up in college sports, who never make the pros, tens of thousands of them. They got a college education which isn’t bad, but it’s not fair compensation compared to the money they generate for other people. It’s just not.

Tomorrow I’ll offer some ideas on how to right this wrong. It won’t be ground-breaking. They are all ideas that have been vetted many times. See you then.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery novels with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 a bargain for 300+ pages)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

NCAA – Penn State Sanctions – Justified? Legal?

Penn State Sandusky ScandalI’ve had some time to process the penalties the NCAA meted out to Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno child molestation cover up and I’m going to blog about it now. My question is whether the NCAA has the authority and/or obligation to punish the football program in this instance.

I’m sure most of you don’t need a recap but for the sake of thoroughness I’ll go over the situation quickly. A Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was convicted of child molestation. A subsequent report indicated that people at the top-level of the football program and university hid evidence of these attacks and allowed Sandusky to continue to be associated with the university and assault other young boys for many years.

In full disclosure I will admit that I have a bias against the NCAA governing body and their rank hypocrisy in rulings against student athletes who generate billions in revenue for the various universities and gain a free college education in return. Said students are allowed no financial remuneration and are often suspended or kicked out of school for taking small gifts or selling their game jerseys. There is an excellent South Park episode about this particular topic worth watching.

Back to the topic at hand, does the NCAA have the right to punish Penn State in this case? A perusal of the NCAA Manual seems to indicate the organization has pretty much the right to do whatever it wants, for whatever reason, to any member school.

I can tell you that likely every university in the country has had a sex scandal covered up by someone. Trust me, the list through the link is nothing. I went to college at the University of Idaho and there was sex between coaches and athletes plenty. There was money changing hands under the table plenty. This wasn’t even a major university. I’m sure a few readers can chime in with comments about their own experience. My point isn’t that such activities are normal and fine, my point is where does the NCAA get the right to choose which acts they will punish and which they will ignore?

From the other perspective, the events at Penn State are particularly vile and the cover-up truly disgusting by any standard. If the NCAA is supposed to govern these organizations then don’t they have not only a right, but an absolute duty, to bring down powerful penalties against the school?

The penalty handed down certainly affect most greatly those completely uninvolved in the incident but can the NCAA simply use that as an excuse to not penalize? For the most part the NCAA finds out about violations after the parties involved have moved on. Do they not have to penalize the organization as a whole in order to try to force others to follow the rules?

It’s a difficult question to answer but I’m not one to shy away.

I think the NCAA is out-of-bounds on this one because the activity in question really had nothing to do with their governing authority. The NCAA is not responsible for a coach who commits vehicular manslaughter, rape, or shop-lifting. Those are illegal act and subject to the laws of the state. The NCAA hands down penalties for recruiting violations which are not illegal, just against the NCAA regulations. This is their venue.

Sandusky is in prison where he belongs. Joe Paterno’s legacy is destroyed, which it should be. The others involved in this horrific incident will soon face their day in court. It’s just not the NCAA’s job to punish this crime. By claiming that they have the right to do so they are taking on far more responsibility than to which they are legally entitled, in my opinion at least. A number of entities punished in this ruling might well have legal recourse against the NCAA and we will see how all that plays out over the coming months and years.

I think the NCAA will rue the day they decided to get involved in this case when more criminal misconduct cases arise and they are forced to make rulings on events to which they should not be involved.

I don’t think my opinion will be too popular and I welcome those who would disagree! Tell me in the comments.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire