Corruption has existed in college athletics long before apparel companies, unscrupulous agents and AAU basketball became forces that exerted influence over coaches, players, players’ caretakers and university administrators. Wealthy boosters have long exercised creative means to provide football and basketball players with money and other enticements.
Which is why it is disingenuous and misleading to portray the current scandals that plague major college athletics as primarily the result of bad actors by and large consisting of the three aforementioned entities. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, a nonprofit organization in name only, is the root cause of the shadiness that permeates Division I college sports.
The NCAA is charged with regulating athletes at its nearly 1,300 member schools. Instead, it oppresses them and denies those living under a democratic, capitalist system the right to financially gain off their talent and hard work. The NCAA resoundingly and steadfastly maintains its stance that scholarships are sufficient compensation, despite student-athletes generating billions of dollars for their respective schools and the organization that is supposed to serve their best interests.
Last Wednesday, the Commission on College Basketball, established by embattled NCAA president Mark Emmert in response to the troubling discoveries by an extensive FBI investigation of criminality taking place in the sport, issued a 60-page report proposing expansive reforms. The Commission, chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was theoretically a sound concept.
Some of the recommendations are enlightened and necessary such as enlisting the apparel companies in transparency and accountability efforts; providing resources to make the promise of a college education real; allowing student-athletes to test their professional prospects and maintain their eligibility if they do not sign a professional contract; allowing and encouraging access to certified agents by high school and college players to help them make more informed decisions; and compelling the NBA to allow high school players to enter the draft, ending the so-called one-and-done rule.
What was conspicuously and disappointingly omitted was creating a system of financial compensation for student-athletes. The NCAA is a monopoly and Emmert is akin to a Russian oligarch. In 2015, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling stating the organization violates antitrust laws by limiting what athletes can receive while participating in college sports but stopped short of requiring the NCAA to pay its athletes or allow them the freedom to profit from sneaker deals or use of their likeness.
Until that changes, the NCAA will continue to wallow in hypocrisy and self-righteousness.