It took way too long, but ultimately Mark Emmert is telling the truth. He saw the future, and that doesn’t include him or his NCAA colleagues.
In fact, Emmert doesn’t go that far. He still wants the NCAA to exist, if only to regulate small sports and continue to ride the gravy train that is the NCAA basketball tournament.
“You can lean back and do nothing and then wait and see what happens,” Emmert told a group of reporters this week. “Or you can say, ‘Look, we’re in it. It’s a new era ”. We need to take advantage of it, pivot as much as possible … and embrace this change rather than fight it. “
That in itself is a remarkable statement for the man who, at least for now, is still charged with ensuring that the NCAA remains relevant in an era when many of the things it does are no longer necessary. It’s not quite a concession, but the reflection of the reality that college athletes being allowed to have a few dollars in their pockets has changed everything.
Not so long ago, Emmert was squarely on the other side, arguing that the very future of varsity sport was at stake if the rules against accepting money were erased from the books.
Now he thinks conferences and individual schools should lead the way in finding the way forward. Assuming, of course, that they don’t interfere with the basketball tournament which brings hundreds of millions a year into the NCAA coffers.
“I think it’s a really, really a good time to sit down and look at a lot of basic assumptions and say, ‘You know, if we were to rebuild varsity sport, and in 2020 instead of 1920, what? does that look like? ‘”said Emmert.
The truth is, it is high time to overturn the archaic structure that served college athletes well, if not the athletes themselves. Emmert and his ilk have known for over a decade now that this day is coming, but that hasn’t stopped them from fighting it every step of the way.
I was in the Oakland, Calif., Courtroom in 2014 when the trial unfolded that ultimately changed college sports as we know it. Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and others sued the NCAA to force it to recognize the rights of athletes to own their names, likeness and images, and the NCAA invited Emmert and others to testify to tell the judge what horrors would take place if she ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
Among those who testified was then Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who said the idea of paying players would ruin the college experience and destroy the business model of big college sports. Delany testified that if members of his league paid players they would be kicked out of the conference and that could result in the end of the Rose Bowl as it was then structured.
That, of course, was nonsense back then and it’s nonsense now. There is far too much money involved in college football and basketball for a school to withdraw from the games in order to preserve the mistaken notion of amateurism that has been the norm in major college sports for more than a year. half a century.
Now the questions must be asked: What is the NCAA for any more? Why shouldn’t it just be dissolved?
The answer to the first question is quite simple. Outside of running March Madness, the NCAA oversees championships in a variety of sports, providing a setting to crown national champions in sports such as golf, lacrosse, baseball, softball, golf and tennis. .
But these championships could easily be coordinated through conferences. It’s happened in football before, where the NCAA was ruled out of the championship playoffs by power conferences that decided to do things on their own.
So far, the NCAA has also functioned as a police network to make sure athletes don’t have fancy cars or enough money to take their dates to the movies and dinner. But with the Supreme Court paving the way for athletes to accept money, there is no longer any way – or need – to control athletic programs.
Previously, rich boosters would provide the star quarterback with a $ 75,000 SUV for use around town. Now players will be able to use revenue from endorsements or TikTok videos to purchase their own vehicles, eliminating the middleman.
College athletics evolves and changes rapidly. They no longer need an organization whose main purpose for so many years was to defend itself against these changes.
It’s time to face reality. The NCAA is no longer relevant in the future.