The NCAA, Part 1

I love college football and college basketball.  In fact, I love all of college sports and everything about them.  The ability to use any of your skills to get a college education is a wonderful thing (the same as if you would use artistic or musical skills).

However, I have issues with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  Unlike others I don’t believe the NCAA to be some evil cabal of college presidents.  Incompetence isn’t malice and having a talent for bureaucratic ass covering isn’t evil intent.

That does not diminish the problems I see with the NCAA.  Others see these problems and they want to change the NCAA at the margins.  There is always talk of reworking the rule book, and making it simpler and more streamlined.  That is mostly the window dressing.  The rules everyone has problems with are the symptoms of a larger cultural problem for the NCAA.  That problem is that it is an organization not built to be the organization it has become.

The NCAA works wonderfully at the lower levels and with the smaller sports.  Division II And III football function well as do the non-revenue/Olympic sports at the Division I level.  There, changing some of the sillier rules would make a difference.

The system is broken at the top two sports, Division I football and basketball, because that is where all the money is, and that is where the problem of the NCAA’s original structure comes into play.

The way those two segments of the NCAA has grown has made the NCAA into a multimedia content provider.  Remember, the NCAA is an organization run by bureaucrats and academics.  Think about the young associate professors teaching intro to chemistry classes to freshman across the country.  In twenty years, that guy is going to be running the university, and if you are talking about a major university in Division I it also means he will be deciding on television contracts and million dollar coaching contracts.  I remember some of my young associate professors and teaching assistants and some of them could barely run a classroom much less a department or a university.

The NCAA as it is constituted is not prepared to run two semi-professional sports leagues, which is what DI football and basketball are.  The NCAA’s adherence to its amateur DNA is completely at odds with the reality of modern athletics.  I think the NCAA’s amateur ideal is noble though very misguided.  However, in saying that, everyone knows what those rules are and until they change if you want to play you have to obey them.

One of two things is going to happen (maybe both will happen).  One, the NFL and NBA will finally pony up the money and create minor league systems to develop players after high school.  I think the NBA is already headed in that direction with a renewed focus on the NBDL.

The second thing that could happen is the complete implosion of the NCAA’s amateurism.  The O’Bannon case is winding its way through the court system and should be resolved in the next couple of years and has the potential to completely change the game the NCAA plays by essentially forcing the NCAA to pay players for the use of their likeness in all forms of media.

Either way, there will be changes to the way the NCAA (or whatever comes after it) does business.


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