National media feasted on comfort food for the week of Nov. 8, with familiar fare of media deals, eligibility and potential infractions dominating newspapers, blogs and websites. Commentators also revisted the familiar territory of pay-for-play:
Horns o’ plenty?: A website that exclusively follows the University of Texas athletics program reported Monday that Texas will receive $12 million per year in a deal with ESPN for distribution rights to a Longhorn Network starting in fall 2011.
Orangebloods.com reported that the agreement would include an up-front $10 million payment. USA Today said that with the addition of an anticipated $20 million from the Big 12, Texas would become the nation’s top revenue-producer for television rights, earning close to $30 million next year and more than $32 million beginning in 2012-13.
It’s a big deal, in every sense of the expression. As they say on the Texas promos, “What starts here changes the world.”
Pay-for-play brigade: The Cam Newton episode at Auburn this week set off an outburst of commentary to pay student-athletes in revenue-producing sports (the thinking apparently being that the Newton story, with an as-of-now uncertain set of facts, demonstrates the hopelessness and hypocrisy of the current system). The PPP proponents ranged from Ben Watanabe at LehighValley.com to National Public Radio’s Frank Deford, a perennial NCAA basher. Unrelated to Newton, a fresh round of opinion from Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams about athlete compensation showed up Wednesday on a basketball blog on About.com.
A personal observation: Writers should be more careful about what they mean when they say they want to “pay” student-athletes (Wantanbe deserves credit for making this distinction, even if we disagree about his conclusion). Do they mean market-based pay, as we do with the traditional notion of compensation, or do they mean provision of a stipend? They are entirely different concepts, and yet they too frequently are used interchangeably.
It’s worth noting that NCAA President Mark Emmert has raised the possibility of changing Division I financial aid packages so that they reflect the full cost-of-attendance. If the cost of attendance were covered, would that satisfy the provide-a-stipend crowd?
Kanter decision: The NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff Thursday ruled that Kentucky basketball student-athlete Enes Kanter is permanently ineligible, based on payments above actual and necessary expenses when he played professional basketball in Turkey.
Whether people agree or disagree with the Kanter decision, they should remember that amateurism regulations have been shaped over the years through votes of NCAA member colleges and universities. The membership also has shaped the eligibility-review process, including the appeal to which Kanter remains entitled.
For those who are interested, NCAA.org’s Michelle Brutlag Hosick provides an overview of eligibility certification.
Conference realignment: The aftershocks: The official slogan of Fort Worth, Texas, is “Where the West Begins,” so it is more than a little ironic that the latest conference realignment chatter has hometown school TCU possibly considering membership in the Big East Conference.
North Dakota State and the Big Sky Conference also appear to be discussing a relationship.
There was actual action Thursday when the Western Athletic Conference, which was been repeatedly affected by Division I conference realignment, invited Texas State and UTSA as new members in all sports and Denver as a member in all sports but football. That action created buzz in the Northwest, where Seattle University had hoped to hook up with the WAC. Montana also had been reported to be in the WAC mix, but the Grizzlies remained with the Football Championship Subdivision’s Big Sky Conference.
Plus or minus $79 million: You’ll have to pay ESPN Insider to see Shaun Assael’s five lawsuits that could change the NCAA. However, the teaser to the story contains some serious misinformation when it states that the NCAA paid $84 million in legal fees last year. The most recent set of NCAA tax documents shows the Association paid about $5.1 million in legal fees in 2008-09. The same $84 million figure showed up two weeks ago on the SportsBizBlog.
Emmert faces the faculty: NCAA President Mark Emmert used the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association Fall Forum as the platform Thursday to deliver one of his first public speeches. The Chronicle of Higher Education captured several of his thoughts.
Call ’em as they are: Charleston (S.C.) Daily Mail columnist Jack Bogaczyk produced a good column Thursday on efforts to make basketball officiating more consistent nationwide.
“The idea,” prominent official Curtis Shaw told Bogaczyk, “is to referee the game the way the rules are written … call the game according to the rulebook. If a shooter’s elbow is hit, no matter the clock, it’s a foul. If you get into this ‘allow the players to decide the game’ stuff, the guy who committed the foul is deciding it.
“It’s not the job of the referees to choreograph the game. It’s their job to officiate the game. We’re going to hold officials accountable. The ones that are will be rewarded with big games and postseason tournaments. The ones that don’t, won’t.”
Recommended reading: The Nov. 8 issue of Sporting News contains an excellent interview with Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo. An excerpt (discussing guard Kalin Lucas): “You have to continue to be a better teammate, be a better leader, because he’s quiet. Some people will say, ‘That’s just his personality.’ I get a kick out of those people. When a parent sends a kid to college, they want you to make him a better person, make him a better student. If he’s not a very good dribbler, make him a better dribbler. If he’s not strong enough, change his body. If his jump shot is broke, fix his jump shot. But if his personality is broke, leave it alone? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”