What If George Costanza Ran the NCAA?

If you are a Seinfeld fan you might remember episode in which the down-on-his-luck George Costanza wonders:

“Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable. I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It all became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat…It’s often wrong.”

Jerry Seinfeld offered a helpful solution for Costanza to help correct his poor decision making: “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

Brilliant. In fact, the NCAA should adopt this same strategy for virtually all of its decisions.

It would have saved the NCAA a lot of grief this week. The NCAA suspended Steven Rhodes, a football walk-on at MTSU who participated in “organized” football while on active duty in the Marines. For an entire year! The NCAA examined the situation, applied the NCAA rulebook and determined Rhodes must be banned from playing for one year.

Then pause.

Every decision we’ve ever made has been wrong. Our organization is the complete opposite of everything we want it to be.

Therefore, the NCAA should not suspend Rhodes.

Even U.S. Senator John McCain, himself a war hero, weighed in:

The NCAA’s system is perverted: Alleged rules violators are declared ineligible, then required to prove their innocence. Yesterday, the NCAA reversed course and declared Rhodes eligible, effective immediately.

The NCAA’s overarching problem is that it mired in an absurd rulebook overseen by career bureaucrats who view NCAA rules like Inspector Javert viewed a stolen loaf of bread.

Maybe it is time for the fictional George Costanza to run the NCAA. Far fetched? Well, Costanza worked for the Yankees. Despite his lowly title as Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, he was able to handle George Steinbrenner, a notoriously difficult boss.


Think about how Costanza might help the NCAA get on track with his “opposite approach.”

Make 18-year olds sign a legally binding, one-sided letter of intent. Great idea. On second thought, maybe not so good. Cap scholarships at tuition, room and board. No, let NCAA member schools decide. Let’s fight to keep amateurism because it is what makes college sports so special. No, we are just deluding ourselves. Banish agents and lobby for state agent laws. Yes. Wait, no. Blame the “incorrigible cynics” from the media for treating the NCAA so unfairly. Shooting the messenger never works.

Whatever the NCAA thinks is right, do the opposite. It works every time. Viva George Costanza!

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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.