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 27th, 2023 | 1:39:57

146: The Curious Case of Fr. Jenkins’ and Mr. Swarbrick’s NYT Op-ed

On Thursday, March 23, Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins and athletics director Jack Swarbrick published an op-ed in the New York Times titled “College Sports Are a Treasure. Don’t Turn Them into Minor Leagues.” Jenkins and Swarbrick invoked education, integrity, gender equity, the “thrill” of March Madness, and God Almighty to set against a “crisis” in college sports borne of (1) “the growing patchwork of contradictory and confusing state laws”; (2) “the specter of crippling lawsuits”; (3) “dubious name, image, and likeness deals through which to funnel money to recruits”; and (4) “misguided attempts to classify student-athletes as [gasp!] employees.” Fr. Jenkins’ and Mr. Swarbrick’s antidote? The elimination of the athletes’ rights movement. The op-ed had an out-of-the-blue feeling—why now?—and elicited a variety of responses. But nothing is random in the Power 5’s and NCAA’s quest to federalize their amateurism-based compensation limits and eligibility rules. The Jenkins-Swarbrick rant was part of a purposeful lobbying campaign timed to align with America’s annual “One Shining Moment” love affair with college basketball and March Madness. The media and sports commentariat missed an important “tell” in the Jenkins-Swarbrick broadside to athletes’ rights: a hearing scheduled for March 29th in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) chairs the subcommittee and is poised to reprise his noxious, racialized narratives from a September 30, 2021, college sports hearing in the same subcommittee. This episode analyzes the origins of the Power 5/NCAA lobbying campaign, its carefully orchestrated and integrated public relations campaign, the role of the media through the lens of the Jenkins-Swarbrick op-ed, and the Power 5’s renewed congressional campaign in the House. Note: All clips in the opening montage are from a September 30th, 20201 hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce titled "A Level Playing Field: College Athletes' Rights to Their Name, Image, and Likeness." Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) is the speaker in the final clip.