Jay Bilas Exposes The Great NCAA Amateur Scam

The NCAA recently announced it would end its longstanding practice of selling NCAA team merchandise. This was in response to Jay Bilas who, earlier this week, took to Twitter to blow the top off the NCAA’s absurd claim that it does not profit from the name, likeness of image of “student-athletes.”

At NCAAShop, fans could purchase jerseys and tshirts bearing the number of their favorite “amateur” athletes.
In the O’Bannon case, one of the NCAA’s central defenses is that the numbers on the back of jerseys do not represent actual college players.

NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert’s response is fascinating: “[Selling school merchandise has] been done for a long time, so I can’t tell you when and [how] long it’s been doing it. I don’t believe [the NCAA] should have been in this business.”

Dr. Emmert also said, “We recognize why that could be seen as hypocritical. We’re going to exit that business immediately.” The NCAA has a long history of reflexively lashing out at critics, so kudos to Dr. Emmert for admitting that the NCAA profits directly from athlete jersey/tshirt sales and for just saying the word, “hypocritical” in a sentence.

Of course, Dr. Emmert still needs to grapple with the fact that the NCAA’s entire business model is a variation of what he characterized as hypocritical, but with more zeroes.

Here’s the NCAA’s entire amateur scheme, in case you’re wondering: Convince the public that amateurism is noble, win legal battles, maintain the tax dodge, claim poverty, cite Title IX, keep government from interfering, generate billions of dollars, don’t share money with athletes. Rinse, then repeat.

Consider the words of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”

No, I do not think the NCAA is a bunch of Nazis, but Goebbels provides a blueprint for what has kept amateurism alive. But it appears the NCAA’s “shield” of amateurism is being lifted, even as Dr. Mark Emmert perpetuates the big amateur lie.

“If we move toward a pay-for-play model—if we were to convert our student athletes to employees of the university—that would be the death of college athletics.”

Dead and gone?

More laughable is what Dr. Emmert says might be the outcome if college athletes received more than a full athletic scholarship: “Then [athletes] are subcontractors. Why would you even want them to be students? Why would you care about their graduation rates? Why would you care about their behavior?”

Dr. Emmert then offers no proof that paying college athletes would, in fact, kill college athletics, nor does back up his claim that it might cause athletes to not care about school and engage in bad behavior. This is a NCAA’s big lie wrapped in a conspiracy inside an enigma. And keep in mind, Dr. Emmert is a Ph.D who works at an institution allegedly connected to academia.

I only have my MBA, but I believe I am qualified to talk about what might happen should the NCAA abandon its rigid amateur principles and paid revenue-producing athletes in the form of a trust fund after they graduate.

Economic theory suggests that athletes would stay in school longer, graduate and even behave better. And what about the NCAA and its members? College athletes would thrive. So would the NCAA and its members. Just like the Major League Baseball did after free agency was supposed to kill the game.

Let’s return to the name and likeness issue. NCAA General Counsel Donald Remy argues, “the NCAA does not obtain waivers from student-athletes related to the EA games because it neither authorizes nor permits those games to use the names, images or likenesses of current student-athletes.”

And this, from NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson: “Discovery and the plaintiffs’ own depositions clearly indicate that the NCAA never marketed student-athlete likeness nor prohibited student-athletes from profiting from their likeness when their eligibility was completed.”

Another doozy from Mr. Christianson: “…the NCAA does not license student-athlete likenesses or prevent former student-athletes from attempting to do so. Likewise, to claim the N.C.A.A. profits off student-athlete likenesses is also pure fiction.”

Claiming the NCAA never marketed-student athlete likeness is complete fantasy, although the NCAA’s survival hinges on deception.

So, what is really taking place with these EA Sports licenses? In a July 2003 internal email, NCAA Director of Corporate Alliances Peter Davis wrote: “We don’t actually use player names but we do use all the attributes and jersey numbers of the players.”

Precisely. The NCAA earns money based on the attributes and jersey numbers of collegiate players. As a few of us have argued for eons. Thanks to Jay Bilas, a much larger public is taking notice.

Endnotes
Let’s Start Paying College Athletes

NCAA knew EA Sports video games used real players, e-mails from Ed O’Bannon lawsuit show

NCAA files new pleadings, responds to misleading reports

Challenges for change in the NCAA

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Marc Isenberg

Marc Isenberg

Nationally-recognized athlete advocate for high school, college and pro athletes. A national columnist for Basketball Times, Marc is a frequent speaker at elite basketball camps and athletic programs and teams, including UCLA, RbkU and the Orlando Magic. In 2012, Marc, with Nolan Smith of the Portland Trail Blazers, founded Hoops Family , an organization devoted to educating and mentoring basketball players—and advocating on their behalf.