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Today In the NCAA Cartel

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In the wake of a predictably dreary NCAA title game, a couple points. First of all, I’m sure that BCS apologists will see Alabama’s win as a vindication of a broken system, but it’s not — the Tide should not have been in that game. If actual competition isn’t going to determine who plays if your championship game, and given the rarity of interconference games between elite teams (Alabama played exactly none) there should be a very strong presumption against intraconference rematches in a title game. And that goes double when the alleged #2 team lost at home. And leaving all that aside, Oklahoma State had the same record as Alabama against a tougher schedule; they should have been in that game, and their presence might have made it mildly interesting.

On a more important subject, Nocera has two good columns about the NCAA Cartel. On the most recent, if Nocera’s reporting accurately represents the facts it’s a remarkable story; apparently, in giving students suggestions about how their papers might be improved by NCAA standards I’ve been suborning academic misconduct. And while I’m sure many actual abuses exist within the tutoring system, the lack of due process is disturbing.

His broader column about the NCAA cartel has a revealing story:

Recently, Mark Emmert, the president of the N.C.A.A., tried to make the rules a tad less onerous. He got the N.C.A.A. board of directors to approve an optional $2,000 stipend as well as a four-year scholarship instead of the current one-year deal for players.

And how did the cartel react to these modest changes? It rose up in revolt. Enough universities signed an override petition to temporarily ice the new stipend. The same thing happened with the four-year scholarship.

A lawyer in Fort Worth, Christian Dennie, who specializes in sports law, got ahold of an internal N.C.A.A. document outlining some of the objections. One is especially worth repeating: “The new coach may have a completely different style of offense/defense that the student athlete no longer fits into,” wrote Indiana State. Four-year scholarships might mean that the school would be stuck with “someone that is of no ‘athletic’ usefulness to the program.” Thus does at least one school show how it truly views its “student athletes.” (Andy Staples at Sports Illustrated first reported on this document.)

Are you telling me that schools want to be able to abandon academic support for their “student”-athletes if they fail to fit into a coach’s plans? Why, this kind of having-it-all-ways is almost enough to make me question the validity of the Noble Ideal of Amateurism.

Besides, everyone knows that if players were allowed to be fairly compensated this would prevent “amateur” sports from giving grotesquely over-market compensation to laughably inept buffoons. Although it must be said that the Weis hiring produced what might be the funniest headline in history. (And applicable throughout history!  “Matt Morris’s salary structure shows that the Pirates are committed to winning.”)

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