Each fall, I welcome the start of college football season by writing about one of the 3 most morally corrupt organizations on earth: the NCAA. This year, I have the unique opportunity to include one of the other two immoral organizations in my annual kickoff column, as the U.S. Congress has decided that college athletics needs the type of well-oiled moral leadership that only a group Washington politicians can provide.
Proposed legislation in Congress would create laws regulating the name image and likeness (NIL) money that college athletes are allowed to earn and receive. Since the U.S. Supreme Court exposed the NCAA’s hypocritical thin guise of amateurism, the association has enlisted politicians to do its dirty work.
Those two groups of people deserve each other.
In addition to institutional controls on student income, federal legislation under consideration would also require college athletes to forfeit 25% of their eligibility if they transferred schools before their final year of eligibility. In a twist of perverted irony that could only happen in Washington, one sponsor of transfer restriction legislation is Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), a completely despicable human being (in my opinion) who, in his previous life as the newly hired head football coach at Auburn, immediately cancelled the scholarships of existing players he wanted to replace. His appropriately mistitled bill includes the phrase “Protecting Athletes.” What a joke. It’s about “protecting the gravy train.”
Congress is only sticking its nose into college athletics because the colleges are begging legislators to do what courts have repeatedly found is illegal for the NCAA to do: collude to restrict trade and illegally manipulate a market.
Legislators now echo the long-time empty refrain of college administrators: “We are doing this to benefit the student athlete!” No one who supports the creation of an athletic conference that stretches from Oregon to New Jersey has the moral authority to claim to care about student athletes.
Athletic departments despise athletes’ ability to earn money from their personal name recognition because it competes with the efforts of their huge fundraising departments. If I have a few thousand dollars that I used to give the UT Athletic Department to buy me a little access to the football program, I now have the option of paying that money directly to a player, rather than the organization.
Well, I have always had that option. The difference now is that no one has to pretend that it isn’t happening.
Polls find that 72% of Americans view Congress unfavorably – the same percentage as those who describe themselves as college football fans. Colleges should be careful about who they enlist to do their dirty work.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.