For the week of Dec. 6, sports sections and websites were filled with news and analysis of the Cam Newton episode, along with the holiday tradition of complaints about the football postseason.
Cam Newton episode, continued: By now, everybody who’s interested should understand the prevailing (although not universal) sentiment, which is that the NCAA created a potentially large loophole in its legislation by reinstating the Auburn quarterback’s eligibility.
Opinions abound and have been freely shared:
For a more dispassionate discussion of the matter, readers might turn to John Infante’s Bylaw Blog, which is available on NCAA.org.
Infante’s blog appears on an NCAA platform, but he’s far from an NCAA apologist; his observations about NCAA legislation are widely respected among people in the field. Infante’s conclusion is that the doom and gloom surrounding the Newton case is overstated and that the NCAA is correct in evaluating this problem over the long term.
“The idea of a student-athlete being shopped to colleges by parents, coaches, or anyone else is certainly outrageous, to use (NCAA President Mark) Emmert’s words,” Infante wrote. “And the notion of significant punishment for even attempted violations of the recruiting and amateurism legislation has merit. But just like the July recruiting period in men’s basketball, there are too many moving parts in this area to use a blunt object. Another year-long study with legislation to be voted on over a year from now won’t please many commentators. But it’s the best way to close a loophole without opening another.”
Emmert sounded a similar note Wednesday when he spoke at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York City.
Newspaper and website writers, of course, are not burdened with having to live with the consequences of their proposed solutions. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post spent much of a recent column ridiculing the NCAA and Auburn by mixing dollar signs with fake bylaw citations. The gist was that all parties had a financial stake in assuring that Newton remained eligible.
“So the NCAA can thus say with conviction it has no evidence Cam Newton received any tangible benefit for going to Auburn,” Jenkins wrote. “He wound up there for free. Sure, his father asked for $180,000 from Mississippi State in exchange for his son’s services, but that doesn’t mean he charged Auburn anything. Presumably, Newton went there out of sheer love for the red soil.”
Ugh. You expect more than that from the Washington Post.
The difficulty surrounding the Newton situation clearly involves what is not known or proved. Fortunately, the NCAA is not able to act on assumptions.
Again, Infante provides the cooler perspective: “Case precedent, NCAA or otherwise, extends only as far as its facts. And here, the facts are that no money changed hands, the student-athlete did not know about the activity, and the student-athlete did not enroll at the institution where the solicitation occurred.”
Facts didn’t get in the way of the Wall Street Journal’s analysis.
“Why Mr. Newton was allowed to play against South Carolina and will no doubt be allowed to play in the national championship game is obvious,” wrote Allen Barra. “He is worth millions to the NCAA and to Auburn, and the NCAA isn’t going to kill a cash cow while it can still be milked. But one thing is absolutely certain: Whatever the NCAA finally decides, it isn’t going to refund any of the money generated while Cam Newton was an ‘amateur.’ ”
For what it’s worth, the NCAA does not generate any revenue from Division I FBS television, either regular season or postseason.
It’s good that NCAA policy and philosophy is subject to constant review and criticism; it’s bad when the criticism is ill-informed.
NCAA, BCS and the football postseason: Ray Ratto of CBSSports.com got worked up Tuesday about the state of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision postseason play.
“(T)he NCAA does not give a damn about you,” Ratto wrote, addressing Bowl Championship Series critics. “Never has, never will. It doesn’t even try to shut you up, that’s how much they don’t notice. Two, the NCAA is only about the money, and it always has been. It isn’t about students or education — it uses school names the way the NFL uses team names, for marketing and delineation purposes only. It is as laughable to complain to it that it only cares about money as it is to complain to a bear that it just wrecked your campsite.”
Ratto’s lack of NCAA love is clear enough, but his logic is hard to understand. If the NCAA is all about the money, then why isn’t it clamoring to conduct its own championship? As noted in the previous section, the NCAA does not realize a single penny from the current bowl structure.
It’s been said many times before, but it bears repeating: The NCAA cannot establish any championship without the consent of its membership.
Boise State President Bob Kustra recently suggested that the NCAA should become more involved. After a BCS rankings computation error was revealed, Kustra e-mailed the following message to university presidents and FBS conference commissioners: “How many times have we heard calls for transparency on our campuses and how many times have we shared our governance and communicated with our faculties and other constituencies in transparent fashion? Yet, in intercollegiate athletics, with the NCAA standing silently on the sidelines, we allow the BCS to work its magic with no idea of how accurate its rankings are on a week to week basis.”
Commercial influences in high schools: Whether it’s good or bad is in the eyes of the beholder, but last week brought more confirmation of the increasing commercialization of high school athletics.
Are you sure about that? ESPN’s Gregg Easterbook delivered an extended commentary about what he considers the financial and personnel excesses of major college athletics departments.
Reasonable people can agree or disagree with his observations, but on one point, he staked out some unprovable ground:
“Booster funds not only fail to make collegiate sports self-sustaining,” he wrote, “they may harm the colleges overall − since many alumni and boosters who might donate to the general endowment or the scholarship campaign of Maryland or Miami or Wisconsin donate instead to the booster organizations.”
The belief that donations to college athletics programs necessarily lessen overall institutional donations been postulated before and treated as gospel, but (at least as far as I know) it has never been proven.
Speaking of data….: A couple of important periodic NCAA studies were released this week.
Among other things, the 2009-10 NCAA Student-Athlete Race and Ethnicity Report revealed that, for the first time, African-Americans make up most of the participants in Division I football.
Also, the 2009-10 NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report showed participation in NCAA championship sports for 2009-10 to be a little more than 430,000 – a record.