It’s time to root for the amateurs to get paid like professionals.
By Kyle Magin
I felt a tiny, cheap thrill when I heard the University of Texas basketball program is under NCAA investigation for academic fraud.
A caveman emotion—suppressed like the urge to laugh when somebody gets kicked in the nuts or a cop steps in shit when he’s trying to write you a ticket—bubbled up in me. Most college sports fans who came of age before the last four or so years will understand.
Used to be a gleeful day when a big name program got caught gaming the NCAA’s system of amateurism. In the old days, before nine-figure TV contracts intensified examinations on the NCAA’s way of doing business (namely cutting its workforce out of the profits), a haughty har-de-har-har went up among fans when somebody skirted the rules.
We were scandalized.
Five years ago, I would have sent my UT-grad cousin a shitty text and the rest of my sports friends hurried missives confirming that they saw the news.
You remember when reports started leaking out of Columbus that Ohio State football players were getting sweetheart deals on cars, clothes and tatts? I was positively ecstatic, refreshing websites with bated breath while awaiting the downfall of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and coach Jim Tressel.
Today, though, a school would need to be found guilty of hiring Jerry Sandusky to run an orphanage or actually murdering someone in order for me, and I suspect many fans, to side with the NCAA.
This is an organization actively defending lawsuits filed in order to get it to share profits from a video game it made with its players’ likenesses. This is an organization that cracked down on Johnny Manziel for selling some autographs—arguing he was not entitled to make money off of his name—while they sold his jersey on their own website.
The NCAA employed a man for 40-plus years who hunted down one of its own coaches and offered to pay for damning testimony along the way. NCAA head man Mark Emmert’s fiefdom makes more than a billion dollars annually on its basketball tournament while its players have hungry nights.
You can watch national title games with home and away announcers and a variety of camera angles when you upgrade to a $130/month cable package.
The players don’t see a cent.
I just can’t work up the outrage to want to see someone put the screws to the Longhorns anymore. The NCAA is right up there with urban policing and cable news as America’s least-credible institution.
How can you take offense to some kids cheating on tests they aren’t academically qualified to take in the first place in order to dress in a game that will pay for their coach and athletic director’s six- or seven-figure contract?
Who is the NCAA to stand in judgement of Texas or a place like North Carolina, where students took ‘paper classes’ that worked on remedial reading so they could participate in a system that finds them completely cut out of its massive financial benefits?
How can you side with an institution that suspends kids for smoking weed when it subjects them to major traumatic brain injuries without guaranteed medical insurance in order for them to earn a degree?
At this point, I don’t know that I could even summon the pure spite to give players from some eminently hate-able place like USC or Michigan shit for having cooked-up SAT scores or a new Malibu appear in the driveway.
Go get yours, kids. The NCAA is getting theirs.