Doug Robinson: The walls are closing in on the NCAA

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2014 6:25 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2010 file photo, former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon Jr. sits in his office in Henderson, Nev. His landmark suit demanding college players get some of the hundreds of millions of dollars they generate every year could change the way big time college athletics are operated. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

Isaac Brekken, AP

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The walls are closing in on the NCAA.

The Ed O’Bannon case got the green light from the courts.

So did the case brought by football players at Northwestern University.

Public opinion has turned on the NCAA empire, which is perceived as greedy, hypocritical, arbitrary, unfair, dictatorial — in other words, like Congress, only worse.

And the NCAA deserves all of it. It has no one to blame but itself.

The NCAA is all about the NCAA. NCAA officials are all about preserving and justifying their existence and turning profits. They have completely failed in their role as caretaker and overseer of college athletics and college athletes.

If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have arbitrary penalties with no due process. We wouldn’t have the NCAA punishing athletes for selling jerseys and autographs when the NCAA is doing the same thing. We wouldn’t have the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act introduced to Congress to improve the “health, safety and education” of student-athletes and to mandate due process for those accused of wrongdoing by the NCAA. We wouldn’t have the National College Players Association as an advocacy group for student-athletes. We wouldn’t have the NFL and NBA pillaging the college game for young players, robbing colleges of athletes and robbing athletes of a chance to complete their education.

We wouldn’t have the giant mess that is college football, where championships have been decided by polls and bowls for decades so the NCAA could protect its money-making machine and the good-ole boys network that drove it (the new four-team playoff is too little, too late and will still have blatant inequities and a favored class). We wouldn’t have the O’Bannon case, which seeks to stop the NCAA from using athletes’ images to make millions, while forbidding athletes from doing so themselves. We wouldn’t have the BCS and ESPN and the rest of them hijacking the game. We wouldn’t have Northwestern athletes trying to unionize. We wouldn’t have the NCAA making $3.2 billion in revenues and $1.3 billion in profits while forbidding athletes from accepting free pizza and washing their car with a university hose. We wouldn’t have the NCAA forcing athletes to reimburse $3.83 for a pasta meal because the pasta they ate was “in excess of the permissible amount allowed.”

We wouldn’t even have the term “student-athletes.”

If the pointy-headed people at the NCAA had any brains, they would have fixed the NCAA and corrected all of the above before someone does it for them, which is exactly what is going to happen. Instead, NCAA officials are fighting to the bitter end. They are still all about taking care of themselves.

The entire NCAA system is based on and justified by two flawed, self-serving and outdated terms — student-athlete and amateurism. The NCAA purports to be an advocate for athletes as students first, athletes second, which justifies amateurism; meanwhile, “student-athletes” spend more than 40 hours a week devoted to football, not to mention much of their summers, and the NCAA rakes in billions. The original use of the “student-athlete” term had no such pretensions. It was created for political and legal expediency and not for any of their purported high ideals.

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