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March 31, 2011
The best journalists in all of sports, in our opinion, are Bryant Gumble, Bernie Goldberg, and the others on the cast of HBO’s Real Sports. They just aired a special on corruption in big time college football and basketball. Star players are routinely given cash, and many say the NCAA and coaches look the other way.
The NCAA, the universities, and the coaches feed off of the billions in revenue made possible from television rights and sports apparel deals. The players that drive it all get paid a few thousand under the table. They are banned from any sort of outside financial deal with local business. Also, players cannot hold part-time jobs or sell any personal memorabilia.
As the revenue grows, each punishment handed out to the small players becomes more hypocritical. For example, during the 2010-2011 football season, the NCAA declined to punish Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Doing so would have taken away lucrative money from Auburn, tarnished a memorable year good for the entire sport, and hurt a good individual.
Where does the NCAA go from here? Currently, money talks. The top teams in the NCAA are significant sources of tax revenue and jobs for the small towns such as Auburn, Ann Arbor, Lincoln, etc. If Wall Street can seemingly function without real reform as too-big-to-fail entities after bringing down the world economy, can we expect reform at the NCAA?
Ivy League Athletics Commissioner Jeff Orleans and Billy Packer made the most poignant comments. The NCAA 2010 revenue was at least $760 Million, yet it pays no taxes masquerading as a non-profit. Likewise, the cash to players goes untaxed. If lawsuits challenge that, it will be a whole different ballgame for the NCAA.