Tag Archives: NCAA Football

The Supreme Court Rules Against NCAA: An (Overdue) First Step For “Student” Athletes

House members add new elements to NCAA name, image, likneess bill

Certain kinds of progress are so overdue that when it finally happens, even in part, we’re just frustrated that it took so long. That’s certainly how many people felt when it took until 2017 to get a proper “Wonder Woman” movie. Those sentiments aside, we should still celebrate such progress. Overdue or not, it’s still progress.

For the “student” athletes who have been playing under the NCAA for over a century, progress has been harder to come by than most. I put “student” in quotes because in many cases, a “student athlete” is an empty term.

These are not student athletes in the literal sense of the word. These are athletes who go to certain schools to play a sport. They’re just called “students” so they can be compensated with a scholarship rather than actual money. Even if you value higher education, that scholarship rarely translates into a proper study.

See the 2014 UNC scandal that exposed just how little energy is put into the student part of student athlete. Keep in mind, that’s just the scandal that got exposed. There’s a good chance there are far more egregious cases that were better hidden.

I also have some personal experience with student athletes. I went to a college that had a nationally ranked football and basketball program. I met some of these student athletes. I can attest that they were not there for class. They were there to play their sport and that scholarship was the only thing they were getting in return.

I vividly recall classes in which basketball players slept in the back of a lecture hall.

I recall classes that had football players enrolled, but they rarely showed up for any classes.

This is not a fair system. These young athletes are generating millions for the school, but getting little in return beyond their scholarship. On top of that, the value of that scholarship is questionable when you consider some of the classes that athletes take.

That’s why I’m very much in favor of reforming this system, if not completely tossing it aside. It’s basically a quasi-plantation system that’s meant to compensate athletes as little as possible so that their efforts can generate the most amount of money for the schools and the NCAA. There have been past efforts to change this, but they rarely result in anything substantive.

Now, after a long string of legal battles, that might finally change. Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling that opens the door for NCAA athletes to seek greater compensation. It’s not a massive overhaul of the system, but it is a very overdue first step.

NPR: The Supreme Court Sides With NCAA Athletes In A Narrow Ruling

Faced with the prospect of reshaping college athletics, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow but potentially transformative ruling Monday in a case that pitted college athletes against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

At issue in the case were NCAA rules that limit educational benefits for college players as part of their scholarships.

The athletes maintained that the NCAA has, in effect, been operating a system that is a classic restraint of competition — in short, a system that violates the nation’s antitrust laws. The NCAA countered that its rules are largely exempt from antitrust laws because they are aimed at preserving amateurism in college sports and because the rules “widen choices for consumers by distinguishing college sports from professional sports.”

On Monday, however, a unanimous court ruled that the NCAA rules are not reasonably necessary to distinguish between college and professional sports.

Writing for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the NCAA “seeks immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws,” an immunity which Gorsuch said is justified neither by the antitrust law nor the previous opinions of the Supreme Court. Noting that big-time NCAA sports have turned into a multibillion-dollar business, Gorsuch said that a couple of sentences from a 1984 opinion did not declare then or now that there is some sort of immunity based on the concept of amateurism.

Without getting too heavy into the legalistic elements of this case, the court finally told the NCAA that they cannot operate as the sole arbiter of college supports. Doing so puts them at odds with anti-trust laws. Unless they change their practices, those laws will be applied and there’s nothing they can do to avoid them.

Again, it’s frustrating that it took this long for someone to sanction the NCAA in a meaningful way, but it still counts as progress. You don’t have to do much digging to see how the NCAA exploits student athletes. It’s such an open secret that South Park even did a parody of it.

There’s just no getting around it anymore. College sports are making billions off of branding and TV deals every year, but very little of that ever gets to the athletes. They’re the ones putting their bodies on the line to produce the spectacles. They’re more than deserving of fair compensation and a scholarship just isn’t enough.

I don’t claim to know how to structure a better system. Plenty of people far smarter than me have offered some ideas. We won’t know which actually work until we start trying. Until this ruling, the NCAA never had a reason to try. Now, they have to do something.

I sincerely hope that whatever they do benefits these young athletes. Having known more than a few, I can attest that these are wonderful, talented young people. They have a rare gift that allows them to compete at a high level. They should be able to get compensated for that gift in a manner that helps them, as well as their families.

It may take time and any subsequent reforms will also be frustratingly overdue. That still counts as progress and that’s something that college sports desperately needs.

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A Message From Football Heaven

After the spirit-crushing, frustration inducing events of last week, I just want to say this past weekend has been a godsend for football fans. As a lifelong football fan, the past 48 hours have given me a level of football nirvana I usually don’t see outside Super Bowl Sunday.

A big reason for this is the NFL’s new playoff format that it adopted last year. Instead of 12 teams, we now get 14 teams vying to become Super Bowl champion. Now, the NFL doesn’t take change lightly and it’s usually vehemently resisted by football purists.

After this past weekend, though, I imagine those people are just as delighted as I am with the results.

Seriously, how can you not? You get a triple header on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to midnight. Then, you get another triple header of playoff football the next day that goes just as long. These are not forgetful games, either. These are the playoffs. This is the best of the best the NFL produced this season and they’re all pushing for their chance at a Super Bowl.

On top of all that football glory, it’s still not over.

Later tonight, college football will play its national championship game. I don’t follow college football as closely as I do the NFL, but even I don’t doubt that these two schools have teams stacked with NFL talent. Some of these players are very likely to be top draft picks later this spring. As a football fan who doesn’t need many more reasons to watch, this is just icing on the cake.

After a year where so many things went wrong, I just want to take a moment to appreciate everything that went right. There’s still more playoff football to come. This is just the beginning and I’m looking to enjoy every second of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure my cooler is stocked with beer for tonight’s championship game.

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My (Fragile) Hopes For The XFL With The Rock

Earlier this year, I was very excited about the inaugural season of the second iteration of the XFL. Being a lifelong football fan, as well as a proponent of anything that could shake up the NFL/NCAA duopoly, I was genuinely hopeful for the future of this league.

It was doing everything right. It learned from the mistakes of the first version of the XFL. The league took its time. It got the right people. It dared to innovate how the game was played. It also had the beer snake. Who could forget the legendary beer snake?

Then, the pandemic hit and destroyed everything.

That’s not an exaggeration. I know the COVID-19 pandemic has ruined a lot of things this year, but it utterly destroyed the XFL. This was a brand new league trying to forge a new identity. It had a plan, but that plan did not account for the impact of the worst global pandemic in a century. How could it?

Sadly, the league declared bankruptcy in April. I was deeply saddened. I didn’t post anything about it. The thought of trying to put my disappointment into words was just too much. I was content to just swallow my anguish and find another way to endure the ongoing horror that is 2020.

Then, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stepped in and bought the league for $15 million. Suddenly, the slightest glimmer of hope for the XFL and the future in general has emerged.

As part of the bankruptcy procedures, the XFL went up for sale. There aren’t many people who could’ve bought its assets and inspired any hope that it would live again. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them. He’s one of the most successful and beloved entertainers of the past 20 years. Say what you will about his movies, but the man is just one of the most likable guys you’ll find in entertainment these days.

Compare that with Vince McMahon. There just is no comparison worth making.

He’s also former football player, himself. He loves sports. He has a genuine love for the game. Both he and his business partner/ex-wife, Dany Carcia, plan to play games again. How they’ll go about it and how they’ll make it work remains to be seen. We still have to survive 2020 in one piece.

However, this news gives me a genuine, yet fragile hope for the XFL. It’s fragile because after the events of this past year, everything feels more fragile. The XFL did everything right the second time and still got screwed over by forces beyond anyone’s control. Naturally, I’m very reluctant to put my hopes on something that just seems to attract bad luck and bad circumstances at every turn.

Make no mistake. I want the XFL to come back. I want it to succeed. I think it was on the right path to do so before the pandemic hit. Now, with the leadership and brand appeal of The Rock, I think it’s in a good position to emerge from this dystopian stretch with a viable future.

However, I don’t think it can succeed if it just tries to go back to the way things were. It’s way too late for that. Right now, the XFL has a bad reputation of either being trashy, unlucky, or prone to bankruptcy. That’s not a good brand identity, to say the least.

At the same time, the XFL has an opportunity to re-align the entire football world in a good way. The XFL wasn’t the only sports entity to get screwed over by the pandemic. The NCAA is in a state of enormous upheaval right now. It lost nearly a billion dollars when it had to cancel the big basketball tournament this past spring. It’ll lose even more if it has to cancel fall sports, which is already happening.

Now, say what you will about the brand of the XFL. It’s still more admirable than the NCAA. The current system the NCAA uses to exploit college athletes while enriching itself just cannot be justified. The fact they’re fighting so hard get college sports going shows how little they care for the student part in “student athlete.”

That system is utterly untenable. The pandemic is just exposing how flawed and fragile that system always was. This is where the XFL can step in. If the Rock and his business partners are a smart as I hope, they’ll jump at the opportunity to recruit displaced college athletes. If only a handful of big time college schools can still operate, then that means hundreds of skilled players will be left out.

The XFL can help them and help itself. It can offer these aspiring athletes actual money to play a sport they love. That shouldn’t be such a radical concept, but the NCAA has kept it radical for far too long. At some point, it can’t keep justifying the practice of not paying athletes who make millions for their league and their school. If they keep trying, then the XFL is in position to step in.

At some point, this pandemic will end. Sports will return and people will flood football stadiums as they once did. The NFL will always reign supreme in the world of football, but the XFL will greatly improve the sport by supplanting the NCAA. Other sports leagues have developmental leagues for young, aspiring athletes beyond college. The XFL can be that league.

To get to that point, it’ll take hard work and someone with the vision and grit to see it through. There aren’t a lot of people who are up to that challenge. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them.

I hope he succeeds.

I hope the XFL prospers.

The football world needs it.

The XFL already has two strikes against it. This time, hitting a home run won’t be enough. It needs to hit a grand slam. I’m still very hesitant, but I’m also hopeful.

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