Thirteen University of North Carolina football players were suspended from the team’s season opener for the unpardonable NCAA sin of selling shoes. These special shoes were given to UNC, and then the players, as part of a $37 million dollar contract between Nike and the school.
Selling shoes doesn’t harm a soul or provide UNC a competitive advantage over any of its opponents.
UNC is the same institution of higher education that admitted 18 years of academic fraud among its athletes, including fake classes that required no attendance in order to receive a passing grade and maintain eligibility. The NCAA assessed no punishment for the fraud, saying it “could not conclude that UNC violated NCAA academic rules.” Among its stated core values, the NCAA claims a commitment to academic excellence.
Decades of academic fraud don’t violate NCAA rules, yet it is a violation for me to buy textbooks for a walk-on long-snapper. I’m glad the NCAA is focused on the important things.
Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer has been accused of ignoring alleged repeated domestic assault by one of his assistant coaches. For his role in the possible cover up, Meyer will be suspended three games, continuing to draw his $146,000 weekly paycheck. He has bills to pay, after all.
Eight years ago, Meyer’s predecessor, Jim Tressel, was fired for his role in the cover up of another horrendous scandal: five Buckeye players received free tattoos. Athletic director Gene Smith explained at the time that a student-athlete could not use his persona to get discounted services.
I guess tattoos, not wife beating, falls under the NCAA’s stated commitment to the highest levels of integrity.
Anyone who argues that an athletic scholarship is fair compensation doesn’t understand the definition of fair. Currently “fair” is the unilateral result of collusion and wage controls among NCAA member institutions. FBS football is not an amateur endeavor. It is a billion-dollar reality TV show, owned by ESPN. It’s hard to convince a grown man who wears the jersey of his favorite college player that the system takes advantage of that 20-year-old student, but the NCAA’s existence depends on it.
The NCAA is living on borrowed time, and appears to realize it. When sued over brain injuries, student expenses, endorsements or almost anything else, the NCAA settles. It never goes to trial, preferring to avoid depositions and lose a little control – one lawsuit at a time – rather than have a judge or jury do something logically radical, like subjecting the NCAA to workers’ compensation or antitrust legislation.
Some of the best people I know, including my own daughter, work for its member institutions, but in practice, the NCAA is one of the three most morally corrupt organizations on earth.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.