Welcome to the country of NCAAland.
Maybe you've heard of it.
NCAAland exists right smack dab in the USA, but you wouldn't know it to watch the way it operates.
NCAAland denies basic individual rights and freedoms to its citizens — also known as "student-athletes" (or make that athlete-students). They are denied due process, they are denied the ability to earn a living from their labor, they are denied from making money from their own name or likeness, they are denied the ability to seek better opportunities elsewhere or come and go as they please. Meanwhile, in NCAAland, coaches and schools enjoy those privileges.
There are so many rules that it would make an IRS agent dizzy. But the point of all the rules is pretty much the same thing: Anything that benefits NCAAland is good, anything that benefits athlete-students is bad.
Let's look at some current cases to see how things work in NCAAland.
It has been estimated that Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Texas A&M, brought $37 million worth of media exposure to his school. Not only is he denied a cut of that money, he can't even sell T-shirts with his likeness or name. NCAAland has generously allowed him to sue anyone else who tries to do so, but in the process may have created another mess trying to make their own rules work. Where would the profits from such a lawsuit go since Manziel can't earn money from his name? No one's figured that out yet. Expect several elite college athletes to create copyrights and trademarks, then watch the NCAA rush to cover the loophole.
As a result of the infamous Jerry Sandusky child molestation case, the NCAA levied a $60 million fine against Penn State and a four-year bowl game ban. What does the NCAA have to do with criminal actions? This isn't a recruiting violation or an improper benefits case. Isn't molestation the jurisdiction of the law and courts? That's what Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett thinks. He filed a lawsuit saying the NCAA overstepped its authority and "piled on." No kidding. NCAAland has gotten so full of itself that it thinks it can augment legal remedies and demand a cut of the action.
"A handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system," Corbett said.
Pennsylvania passed a law that agreed to the penalties but restricts use of the $60 million to finance child abuse efforts only in Pennsylvannia. NCAAland, still full of itself, has filed a suit against Pennsylvannia.
Now we go from the serious to the silly. Last fall, BYU posted on the Internet an offer to sell its game jerseys. Simple? No. The laws of NCAAland forbid the school from selling jerseys with the player's name on it. Hence, this caveat on the website offering: "We will contact each fan who is selected to arrange payment. Please be aware that NCAA regulations require the player's name to be removed from these game-worn jerseys."
Translation: Only NCAAland can make money off players.
Joel Bauman is a sophomore wrestler at the University of Minnesota. In his spare time he has recorded songs and music videos designed to inspire youth. He sells them on the Internet. He would like to make a career of it someday, and now seems like a good time to prepare for it.
Instead of encouraging Bauman, NCAAland is trying to shut him down. NCAA rules demand that he remove his name from the songs and videos that he has posted on various websites or use an alias. He refuses, saying he has a message that can't be delivered anonymously. But the rules of NCAAland demand that he either comply or give up his wrestling career. He can either earn spare change with his songs, or keep his scholarship.
It's a reminder of the case of Jeremy Bloom, who was forced to choose between his professional skiing career and his football career, except in this case his other "job" was lucrative. As a result, he gave up the final two years of his college football career to pursue the Olympics. Why should he have to make such a choice? Because NCAAland still embraces the old-school notion of amateurism. Talk about hypocrisy. NCAAland makes millions off the athletes, and denies athletes opportunities to make money even outside of their collegiate sport.
Nowhere is the NCAA hypocrisy on greater display than in the following case. For years NCAAland has profited from video games that use the likenesses of collegiate athletes while the players received nothing. How much money are we talking about? According to Sports Illustrated, EA Sports — the video gamemaker — pays NFL players $35 million a year. A few years ago Ed O'Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, saw his image in an EA video game and filed a lawsuit. The NCAA said O'Bannon gave away such rights by signing a "student-athlete statement," allowing NCAAland to sell his image forever. As Sports Illustrated indicates, how fair is this that an 18-year-old signed such an agreement without legal representation?
NCAAland has tried three times in three years to get the case dismissed and failed each time. The NCAA can either pay out billions in a settlement or take it to the courtroom.
It's the athlete-students v. the NCAAland dictatorship. It's doubtful anyone will be cheering for NCAAland.