The NCAA amateurism debate has raged on for some time now, but the heat got cranked all the way up beginning in September when the FBI’s investigation led to the arrest of 10 men in cases involving bribery, fraud and money laundering.
It has only escalated since (Google it if you’d like to catch up), and many are coming to the defense of the players (and in some cases the coaches). After all, a popular stance is that NCAA athletes should be allowed to get paid based on the direct financial benefits institutions get as a result of an athlete’s performance. And yes, I’m on that side of the fence too. But that doesn’t mean schools should be off the hook.
Many are defending coaches like Sean Miller and schools like Arizona simply because they feel the NCAA rule is unjust. And it is. But schools who violated the rules, unjust or not, need to face consequences. If not, those who did things by the book are the real victims.
Sources say as many as 50 programs could be impacted in some way by the FBI’s investigation. That’s a lot. But that also means that some 300 schools won’t be impacted. That doesn’t mean all 300 schools are innocent…maybe some staffs were just better at hiding things. But it does mean that we have 300 schools whom the FBI can’t prove did anything wrong. For those arguing for little or no punishment for the 50 culprits, think about what you’re requesting. You’re basically giving those 50 schools a pass for cheating, which puts the other 300 at a disadvantage. That cannot be condoned.
Think of it like this: You’re attending a concert tonight and your favorite artist is performing. The artist never comes to town, so you’re stoked. The day before the show, the artist’s promoter sends an email to all ticket buyers saying absolutely no photography or videography is allowed, even from cell phones, and those who violate the rule will be ejected immediately. You’re pissed. Your favorite artist is finally coming, and you don’t even get to take a photo! This is dumb. Begrudgingly, you abide by the rule because being kicked out would be worse than not getting a photo. You arrive at the venue and get to your seats. As your favorite artist takes the stage, you look around and notice that a number of people have their phones out and are recording photos and video. You look around and notice security officers pacing the aisles, but they don’t seem to be kicking anyone out. Nevertheless, you don’t want to be the one, so you don’t end up taking any photos.
Yes, the no photo rule may not make sense as times have changed, but it’s still the rule. The solution isn’t to break the rule and not enforce it. It’s to work get the rule changed. Same goes for the NCAA and its amateurism rule.
Encouraging schools and coaches to ignore the rule and work around it isn’t going to make the NCAA change anything. All it does is punish those who follow it, and that isn’t fair for anyone.
We know competitive advantages are happening in the NCAA right now anyway, and that won’t change by getting rid of amateurism. But working to eliminate the black market aspect of it would at least give all schools an opportunity to play by the same rules (and let me take a moment to say that in no way am I naive enough to think all schools will have equal opportunity. That will never happen. The Dukes and Kentuckys and North Carolinas will always have the upper hand on the Western Kentuckys and UNC Ashevilles).
Working to eliminate the “black market” and make paying players transparent should be a common goal. But until then, rules have to be enforced and schools have to be punished for not following them. Otherwise, opportunity is lost and the wrong people will suffer.