UA-59049186-1 Profiles in Sleaziness: The NCAA, Its Member Conferences, and the Various Jabronis in Charge of Things - Good if it Goes

Profiles in Sleaziness: The NCAA, Its Member Conferences, and the Various Jabronis in Charge of Things

Jabroni. (Photo credit: AP)

Recent days in college football have been eventful to say the least. Saturday, the MAC announced that they were postponing fall sports and looking to play in the spring. This is not overly surprising given that multiple Power-5 conferences had announced conference-only schedules already, meaning MAC schools would miss out on those opportunities for paychecks. Saturday was also the beginning of rumblings that an announcement the Big Ten and Pac-12 would be following suit was imminent. That announcement never came Saturday, so we went through the same thing Sunday. The announcement didn’t come Sunday, either, but late Sunday night, a different announcement came:

It’s important to note that while the NLRB ruled a while back that the players at Northwestern could unionize, those same rules don’t apply to public institutions, so we’re not going to see an actual union per se. That said, a college football player’s association could be plenty powerful.

The word of a supposed impending postponement/cancellation was met with pushback from both players and coaches, with Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh putting out the following statement:

Word got out that the Big Ten had voted 12-2 to postpone the season, with Nebraska and Iowa the two opposed, but apparently, upon seeing the backlash from players and coaches, the conference decided to meet again and there was more division than initially reported. However, Tuesday morning, the Big Ten still decided to postpone the season and the Pac-12 did the same that afternoon.

Nebraska and Ohio State are reportedly still looking at ways to play. Michigan is still practicing. I haven’t heard anything about Penn State at this point, but it does seem like that rumor about the four of them playing elsewhere this year, or at least trying to, may have had some basis in reality. Of the four, Nebraska seems the most dedicated to a fall season; Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told them they’d have to find a new conference to be able to do it. Your author wishes the aforementioned quartet would decide to play in the fall and leave the conference altogether. Call Warren’s bluff. Good luck building a TV deal around Wisconsin, Iowa, and whatever’s left of Michigan State. But, hey, you’ll still have Rutgers.

So that brings us here. Now that seasons are postponed, we can start assigning blame, and there’s plenty to assign. Donald Trump and the various bumbling doofuses that make up his administration have been a popular target here. They are, undoubtedly, partially to blame, as an even semi-competent response to the pandemic by the federal government would have made the jobs of the NCAA and its conferences significantly easier. This space is not going to dwell on Trump’s failures in all of this, though, because a) there are no shortage of places already doing that and, as such, this sports blog doesn’t need to be one of them and b) even in spite of all of that, this season could have happened or at least have been attempted if there had been any leadership or planning whatsoever by Mark Emmert or the conference commissioners.

The NBA paused their season on March 11. The NCAA cancelled March Madness and the entire spring sports schedule the next day. Emmert et al had five months to prepare for football with nothing else on their to-do list and didn’t get it done. The NCAA appeared to simply hope that things would be better in the fall and then, as time went on, and things looked more and more grim, the NCAA simply told the individual conferences “Ehh, you guys figure it out,” giving us this patchwork system of everyone just taking their best guess.

The best guess of the Big Ten and Pac-12 was that they think it couldn’t be done safely. The Pac-12 released a document detailing what went into their decision process. You can read it here.  And from the Big Ten…crickets. That’s absolutely appalling. If the conference is going to postpone/delay/cancel/whatever the season and then act tough when Nebraska looks at options to play, you need to be willing to back up your stance. Jim Harbaugh did just that in his statement. What’s Kevin Warren’s problem? And why go through the dog-and-pony show of releasing a schedule on August 5 only to postpone the season on August 11? What did you not know on the 5th that you now know on the 11th? The prognosis for the country didn’t just all of a sudden take a drastic downturn over those six days. The lack of transparency here is flat-out shameful.

Also shameful – this:

Gutless. If you truly think you’re doing the right thing, have the balls to say it directly to the players’ faces, rather than have them read your statement on Twitter. Oh, and speaking of Mark Schlissel’s Twitter account:


Louisville Head Coach Scott Satterfield had a statement of his own:

Amen. The one group of people who were actually proactive and came up with a plan were the coaches. Their anger at the situation is completely justified.

So, what’s Emmert’s response once we’re left with this jumbled mess? “Not my problem.”

“I get that people want simple answers,” [Emmert] said. “I get that it’s frustrating that some conferences are playing and some aren’t right now. That’s just the way it has to be to do this inside college sports. It’s not right or wrong, or better or worse. When people say, well, if we just had a czar to come in and say, ‘We’re going to make a decision, that’ll be it,’ history, if it’s taught us anything, people love the concept of a czar, but they hate czars. Authoritarianism is a really fun concept, it just sucks when people actually have to live under it. Sure, it’s fun to talk about, but nobody who actually advocates for it has actually lived inside it.”

What? So, what’s the point of Mark Emmert, then? Or the NCAA as a whole? If you don’t want to make a blanket decision for the entire country, fine. The geography of America being what it is, it’s only natural that different regions are going to be in different places in regard to the coronavirus. And the NCAA probably doesn’t have the authority to do that anyway. It begs the question “What *do* they have the authority to do?” since, after all, this is the same organization that dropped the hammer on Penn State in the wake of just about the most despicable thing a university can do only to go “ehh, never mind” two years later then shrugged its shoulders when Michigan State had something similar going on. North Carolina straight up made up classes and the NCAA said there was nothing they could do. So, Mark,

Going back to Emmert’s word salad, though, you don’t have to be an authoritarian or czar or whatever to provide some kind of leadership or guidance or really *anything*. He did nothing. He sat on his hands, removing them from beneath his rear end only to pass the buck whenever necessary.

The one part of Emmert’s statement that was true, although not with the implication he intended, was that this is “just the way it has to be to do this inside college sports.” Whether he realizes it or not (he 100% doesn’t), over the course of that bundle of nonsense he unleashed upon the public, he admitted what anybody with any sort of sense has known for years: the NCAA serves no purpose besides ensuring that athletically-talented young adults can’t profit from their own labor.

Even with the totally bungled response to the coronavirus from the federal government, this season could have gone on as normally as sports can get given the circumstances if the NCAA, the conferences, and the jabronis leading everything from the top down could admit the other thing anybody with any sort of sense has known for years: college sports is a professional enterprise. The NCAA’s idea of amateurism is a fantasy that’s dead and gone if it ever even existed at all. Admitting that could have meant that the NCAA could have adopted protocols similar to the NFL and isolated athletes on campus. However, given that this is an organization that refuses to admit they’ve lost the NIL battle and instead prefers to waste time pushing for idiotic bills that have zero chance of ever getting anywhere and pushing for regulations that would be dead certain to lead to lawsuits that they would 100% lose just like they lose all their lawsuits, it’s hardly surprising that they’d prefer to take a tire iron to this season rather than admit what everyone already knows. I mean, for Christ’s sake, this is a punter:

Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes:

I am skeptical this conversation actually took place because that would mean that one of the jabronis actually said that out loud. But that’s the truth and that’s what this all boils down to, regardless of what other factors are brought up. I’m sure the liability factor scared the bejesus out of the university presidents. Yeah, it’s tough managing that if you’re still insistent upon this being called amateur athletics. Call it for what it is and it can work. Case in point: the NFL. Again, none of this is to say everything is going to go 100% smoothly. The nature of this virus being what it is, we’re still learning new things every day and I’m sure there are a bunch we don’t know yet. This is to say that college could be trying across the board the way the NFL is if they were willing to admit that college football is a professional enterprise the way the NFL is. Instead, at least two major conferences are going to set a season on fire because they refuse to give up on something that’s dying anyway. They could have used the opportunity to potentially salvage a season as the impetus to come up with a real solution to the amateurism problem. Instead, we’ll do things the hard way, like we always do when dealing with the collection of numbskulls known as the NCAA. In closing, your author hopes that even though 3 of the Power 5 conferences are going to at least attempt to play, the players’ eyes remain on the prize and they are able to organize and get every last cent that rightfully belongs to them.



Twitter: @KSchroeder_312

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