the BigAmateurism monologues

A series of events over the last 18 months—some unforeseeable—have created a perfect storm that will change college sports forever. The NCAA's bait an…
Mar 16th, 2021 | 1:13:12

3. Meet The Circular Firing Squad: What Exactly Is The NCAA?

In this episode we begin an exploration of the stakeholders in BigAmateurism. We’ll begin with primary in-system stakeholder-beneficiaries which include the NCAA, universities, university presidents/chancellors, university governing boards, faculty, students, and alumni. First up is the NCAA. What exactly is the NCAA?
Condoleezza Rice referred to the stake-holder groups in BigAmateurism as a “circular firing squad” – where the problems are always someone else’s fault. The NCAA is the blame-runner-in-chief. How the NCAA describes itself in its constitution, to the IRS, to Congress and in public relations campaigns has enormous market value and enhances its commercial brand. Indeed, the NCAA bases its assertions in antitrust lawsuits on that premise—the benevolent guardian of the amateur ideal, the “student-athlete” and the “collegiate model.” But behind that seductive façade, the NCAA bureaucracy focuses more on self-perpetuation than education and athlete well-being. To survive and advance, the NCAA must placate a Power 5 football behemoth over which the NCAA has no practical power or control due to the US Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Board of Regents. In that antitrust case, the NCAA lost its football empire to what are now the Power 5 conferences. Even before Board of Regents, the big-time football interests flexed their muscle in the beginning wave of a hostile takeover of both the college football marketplace and NCAA governance. In 1973, 1978, 1996, and 2014, the big-time football interests demanded—under threat to leave the NCAA entirely—increasing control of the NCAA governance process and have now achieved a complete take-over of the entire Association. After Board of Regents, the NCAA’s consolation prize was the Division I men’s basketball tournament—March Madness—which funds the entire NCAA administrative state. The NCAA uses its nearly billion dollar a year revenue from that single tournament to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in lavish national office spending and handouts to stakeholder-beneficiaries association-wide, including block grants to Division II and Division III. The overwhelming majority of the elite men’s basketball players that provide the value in the March Madness product are African American. Division I men’s basketball has the highest concentration of African American athletes of any NCAA sport in any NCAA division. The overwhelming majority of the downstream beneficiaries are white. Power 5 football interests do not pay a dime for NCAA overhead—including hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees and expenses incurred by the NCAA to defend to its amateurism-based compensation limits and millions more to pursue its quest for the Iron Throne of college sports regulation. Big-time football keeps for itself the revenue from the College Football Playoff and its major bowl tie-ins worth approximately 800 million dollars each year. Big-time football’s leverage over the NCAA rests in its threats to leave the Association unless the NCAA does football’s bidding. After football-driven conference realignment over the last thirty years and the creation of the Power 5, if the Power 5 left the NCAA, the March Madness tournament would have little commercial value. The NCAA’s tenuous détente with big-time football is premised on preserving the status quo—at any cost. The Perfect Storm has stressed and exposed this Faustian bargain. Resources for this Episode: “Independent Commission on College Basketball Presents Formal Recommendations Remarks (as prepared) by Dr. Condoleezza Rice (April 25th, 2018) Testimony of NCAA President Myles Brand before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 29th, 2003 “Competition in College Bowl Games” (39:20 – 40:30) NCAA Division I Manual 2010-2021, Constitution, Article 4 (Organization) “NCAA Governance – The Football Power Play” (cagerredux blog, March 25th, 2019) “The Ghosts of the College Football Association” (cagerredux blog, August 12th, 2020) McCants v Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 251 F. Supp. 3d 952 (M.D.N.C. 2017