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…
May 24th, 2021 | 1:37:26

Pay for Play (Part VII): 2014 - Power 5 “Autonomy” Unmasks NCAA as Puppet for Power 5 Interests

On July 9th, 2014, NCAA president Mark Emmert testified in the Senate Commerce Committee to unveil “reforms” in the structure of Division I as well as a laundry list of “benefits” for college athletes. Emmert’s testimony suggested that these “historic” changes were his own and reflected the preferences of the full NCAA membership association-wide and also Division I-wide. Yet behind the scenes since November of 2013, the Power 5 conferences—driven by football interests—had demanded these changes under threats to leave the NCAA unless they were granted for the sole benefit of the Power 5. In a confidential memorandum dated November 25, 2013, the Power 5—through the president of the University of Florida and the chancellor of the University of Nebraska—laid out an audacious power grab that would create an independent Power 5 association under the NCAA umbrella. In May 2014, two months after a regional labor relations board found that Northwestern University football players met the definition of “employee” under federal law, Power 5 interests went into full panic mode and Pac-12 presidents sent other Power conference presidents a letter demanding immediate action on an independent legislative and governance classification for the Power 5 that would permit these conferences to get ahead of the wave of revenue-producing athlete-friendly decisions coming from external regulators that threatened to “either do away with college athletics entirely or professionalize them to such an extent as to have the same result.” This pressure from Power 5 interests to steamroll the NCAA into submission on these issues accelerated with the O’Bannon trial (June 9th – 27th, 2014) and the beginning of the Alston suit in earnest (June/July 2014). With the August 2014 NCAA annual legislative meeting looming, the Power 5 pressed Emmert into service to make the case in the Senate for what became the “Autonomy” classification for the Power 5. Emmert’s testimony concealed the true origin of these changes. No Power 5 conference commissioner or Power 5 president/chancellor testified. On August 6th, 2014 at the annual NCAA legislative meeting, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted 16-2 to grant the Power 5 unprecedented authority to pursue their commercial interests independent of the rest of the Association while remaining under the NCAA umbrella. Note: The intro montage for this episode is longer than most (approx. 4 minutes). Each clip comes from the July 9th, 2014 Senate Commerce hearing. The speakers (in chronological order) are: 1. William Bradshaw (former athletics director at Temple University, representative of athletics directors’ interests, and NCAA advocate); 2. Mark Emmert (NCAA president) – Emmert lays out the contours of new “benefits” for athletes and makes no mention of Power 5’s behind the scenes pressure; 3. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) – reinforcing the theme that the changes are Emmert’s/NCAA’s; Coats is NCAA/Power 5 advocate; 4. Emmert on importance of big-time football and men’s basketball revenue to the BigAmateurism business model; channels Myles Brand’s “collegiate model” requiring the diversion of wealth from revenue-producing athletes to non-revenue athletes to increase “participation opportunities;” 5. Coats disingenuously making the case that proposed changes are necessary to protect Title IX and non-revenue interests; 6. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) – takes Emmert to task on transparency and his role as a puppet for Power 5 commercial interests; 7. Taylor Branch (civil rights historian) – observes the irony of looking to Power 5 as agents of change for the benefit of revenue-producing athletes.