Busting Brackets

Mark Emmert Blames Others, Says “No” to Paying Student-Athletes


Apr 4, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks at a press conference in preparation for the men

NCAA commissioner, Mark Emmert, is in an interesting position. With the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, student-athletes rebelling on nationally televised games and an open discourse being, you know, talked about nearly every day, Emmert needed to make a stand one way or another about paying student-athletes.

The thing is, we already know where he stands. Emmert is the head of the NCAA. For those unaware, the NCAA oversees collegiate athletics and represents all that is sanctimonious about amateur athletics. Emmert — as well as the like-minded — have long used amateurism as an excuse as to why paying student-athletes is the devil. Truth be told, while even using the amateur model the Olympics use, amateurism is not only dead, but probably never existed as the definition the NCAA would like you to believe.

Still, some are against paying student-athletes. Even regular, non-invested people. They cite the scholarships that the athletes receive as payment or as it being enough to warrant not giving any more financial backing. Sadly, it’s not “free” education, as the players have to play to keep the scholarship. There is also the whole argument about how much a scholarship is actually worth these days. Granted, some players’ (offensive linemen, third string defensive tackle, 12th guy on the bench) market value doesn’t even equal the scholarship, but some players far exceed them. It’s a tough, tricky topic to discuss.

Regardless of where you stand on the pay-for-play debate, chances are you have a logical foundation for your argument. I mean, you wouldn’t blame, say, Lebron James, would you? Mark Emmert



ESPN’s Darren Rovell has an article up quoting many things which Emmert said Wednesday. First, let’s start where he blames the NBA for, you know, acting like a business and acknowledging they are one:

"“It’s illogical to force someone to go to college when they want to do something else,” Emmert said."

The logic by Emmert is sound. Even with that, though, he is wrong to look towards the NBA as the reason things are wrong. The NBA has every right to do what they want — no matter how it may alter the NCAA. It’s not the NBA’s responsibility to worry about the NCAA. There is an underlying issue about how the NCAA and NBA should help each other, work with each other and the like, to help grow each brand and use each entity as a marketing partner, but it has nothing to do with paying student-athletes. If the NBA does not want players right out of high school, well, the NCAA has to deal with it.

When asked about the one-and-done rule helping the marketing of college basketball Emmert, again, blamed others:

"“When LeBron went (to the league), we still had a Final Four and it was pretty good and people showed up and we had good numbers,” Emmert said. “And nobody said college basketball sucked because Kobe went.”"

What? Listen, having better players is going to mean better basketball. Better basketball means more people want to watch. Having more people wanting to watch makes the sport more marketable. I am not sure what Emmert’s point was supposed to be, but it seems like he was just using big names to avoid an actual conversation from being had.

Then Emmert went to talk about how (he was apparently baffled) the player likeness lawsuit has become about paying student-athletes:

"“The case was originally about previous student-athletes and it completely shifted to current student-athletes,” Emmert said. “It was about issues of trademark and right of publicity and it is now blatantly about pay-for-play.”"

Well, yeah Mark. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The reason the former players want their money is because they weren’t compensated while they were being taken advantage of originally. To act like those two things can’t be connected is mind-boggling. It either means he truly believes those two things shouldn’t be intertwined (which means he’s not too bright) or he is looking to talk his way out of discussing the matter in an honest way (more likely). Either way, however, this just highlights how poorly the NCAA is at having an honest discourse over paying student-athletes.

Lastly, here are Emmert’s thoughts on how paying student-athletes would change the way recruiting is handled:

"“I think the key issue for the members is, how would you have such a model that doesn’t become a recruiting debate?” Emmert asked."

He brings up recruiting as a way to bring up having a fair and balanced playing field (which is a part of the NCAA’s definition of amateurism). Here is the thing, there has never been a level playing field at the college level. How else would you explain how only the power conferences have had automatic bids to the BCS Bowls? How is that fair to the other hundred-ish programs who don’t have an automatic bid? Those conferences are guaranteed BCS Bowl money, which is far more than the Busting Brackets Bowl. More money to those conferences, to the schools in those leagues, while the smaller schools are left holding the bag — but you’re worried about an even playing field as far as recruiting goes. I mean, it’s not like schools with huge boosters don’t already have a huge edge or anything, right?

The argument about the complexity of paying student-athletes is valid. There are a ton of issues that would need to be dealt with. However, just because it’s going to be tough doesn’t mean it should be avoided. All things worth having are hard to obtain or some cliche. Still, this is college level stuff, man. I can only assume there are a ton of smart people at the NCAA’s disposal to figure this thing out.

If they don’t, well, there is nothing in the by-laws of university-brotherhood-law that says that they have to say under the weathered umbrella of the NCAA. If the NCAA refuses to adapt, adjust to the times or acknowledge that there are issues within their government body, they might not need to change — because there might not be anyone of consequence left to govern.

All of this because the NCAA refuses to acknowledge that big time college sports is big business, won’t share the wealth with athletes who deserve it and all in the name of amateurism — which is, I think, code for greed.