NCAA makes big-time athletics morally corrupt

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
September 1, 2013

Years ago my then three-year-old daughter and I were at a college football game. Bethany concluded the pre-game Pledge of Allegiance with, “… with liberty and just a football.”

Smart kid. She could work at the NCAA, where “just a football” replaces “and justice for all.”

Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel violated NCAA rules if he sold his autograph, but the University of Tennessee can charge its fans for Justin Worley’s signature.

The NCAA is currently facing at least two major lawsuits. One relates to licensing the likeness of current and former players to video game manufacturers. A second suit addressed the lasting effects of concussions.

In the 1980s and 1990s the NCAA blatantly flaunted anti-competitive legislation by creating a “restricted earnings coach” position for football and men’s basketball. Even the name of the position proved, prima facie, that the organization colluded to control wages.

NCAA member institutions could teach OPEC and the Russian mafia about collusion.

Part of the reason the NCAA is able to maintain its arrogant air of self-righteous invincibility is that its victims are hardly sympathetic figures. They are both our heroes and at times, societal misfits. Grown men wish their sons could play the game, and lament the fact they didn’t.

The victims are literally larger than life.

The age of the players (most are too young to legally enter into a contract when they sign their initial scholarship papers) their inability to negotiate (either individually or collectively) and the amount of money involved all combine with the hypocritical callousness of the offender to make the NCAA one of the two or three most morally corrupt organizations on earth.

Many or most NCAA institutions, require athletes to sign a disclosure and waiver agreement at the end of their eligibility, limiting the institution’s financial liability for injuries that may have occurred during their time on the field or court.

NCAA member institutions will do almost anything to avoid classifying its collision sports athletes as employees if, for no other reason, to avoid the prospect of worker’s compensation liability.

That would be a game changer.

An NCAA attorney might be able to technically argue that college athletes aren’t “employees.” This sort of argument, however legal, simply doesn’t pass the smell test.

A tuition scholarship is meager compensation in a currency that, for many of the athletes, is unwanted and worthless.

The coaches and administrators know this better than the players.

College athletes are not akin to graduate assistants in the biology department. The business school would find a way to operate capably without student help.

Without players, however, the football team does not exist. Without players, Butch Jones becomes a cost center, rather than a $60 million profit center.

And if football is a cost center, every intercollegiate sport except men’s basketball would either go away or become fully subsidized by tuition and earmarked gifts.

Football may be an amateur activity at Austin Peay, but at Tennessee, football amateurism is simply a set of agreed upon lies between the business and its customers, with only insincere and fraudulent concern for the employees.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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