The End Of The NCAA
June 21, 2021 11:10 AM   Subscribe

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court has upheld the the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the NCAA's restrictions on paid educational benefits violate antitrust law.

Directly, this ruling will have only moderate impact as it only affects payments tied to an educational benefit (say, the school providing athletes with a laptop, or paid internships.) The bigger impact came from the decisions, where even the conservative wing of the Court took the NCAA to task - Gorsuch outright called the amateurism rules "horizontal price fixing in a market where the defendants exercise monopoly control", while Kavanaugh noted that the NCAA's model would be clearly illegal in any other industry in the US. With both this ruling as well as several states such as Texas to have name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation become active on July 1st, the NCAA's fiscal model is facing heavy legal challenge.
posted by NoxAeternum (95 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good. The business model of getting rich off of someone else's free labor should have been crushed back in 1865.
posted by Gelatin at 11:16 AM on June 21, 2021 [74 favorites]


I'll take good news where I can get it with this court. This is very good news.
posted by ourobouros at 11:19 AM on June 21, 2021 [11 favorites]


This is good news. I wonder how this will impact the university emphasis on funding sports teams relatively more than other areas and paying their coaches the highest salaries of all faculty. If a significant part of the profits are going to be diverted to the athletes, as they should, it will be interesting to see how institutions have to re-balance that funding equilibrium.

Or maybe they’ll just charge more for the licensing.
posted by darkstar at 11:19 AM on June 21, 2021 [8 favorites]


But someone with standing still has to sue them, right, to change the rules that tie the athletes' hands? Shouldn't it be as simple as a star whose likeness is being used without their benefit?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:22 AM on June 21, 2021




Finally, Harvard's ridiculously large endowment can make them the Yankees of NCAA sports... since they can afford the players.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:28 AM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


It’s also interesting to me that many universities essentially have minimal brand recognition beyond their athletic teams. Most people couldn’t tell you what their local state university is notable for, it’s key areas of research, innovative teaching programs, etc. but they’ve grown up watching and cheering and attending that institution’s athletic events. Athletics is the number one marketing strategy to build brand loyalty among students/alumni.

I wonder how this will be affected by individual athletes having more control over their personal brand.
posted by darkstar at 11:34 AM on June 21, 2021 [18 favorites]


I'm finding myself in the strange and uncomfortable position of being in violent agreement with alleged rapist and all-around horrible human being Brett Kavanaugh, whose concurrence indicates that he, at least, is chomping at the bit for a broader case that would let him strike down the NCAA's compensation restrictions in their entirety.

The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America. All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that “customers prefer” to eat food from low-paid cooks. Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a “love of the law.” Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses’ income in order to create a “purer” form of helping the sick. News organizations cannot join forces to curtail pay to reporters to preserve a “tradition” of public-minded journalism. Movie studios cannot collude to slash benefits to camera crews to kindle a “spirit of amateurism” in Hollywood. Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor ... Businesses like the NCAA cannot avoid the consequences of price-fixing labor by incorporating price-fixed labor into the definition of the product.

Stopped clocks and all that.
posted by firechicago at 11:39 AM on June 21, 2021 [49 favorites]


Athletics is the number one marketing strategy to build brand loyalty among students/alumni.

And for that reason I'm hoping this decision breaks the hold large flagship state universities have over resources and leads to a more equitable distribution for smaller, regional campuses.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:52 AM on June 21, 2021 [16 favorites]


Am I correct to assume that former players can sue their institutions and the NCAA for lost wages and any previous adverse ruling regarding their NCAA eligibility based on these rules? How long before taxpayers end up having to pay for a big bailout for these schools? I can see why the idea of a bailout would be pretty upsetting, but so many American's are fans of these programs and cheered on while the athletes were denied their basic rights. Does this confer some collective responsibility.
posted by interogative mood at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


Finally, Harvard's ridiculously large endowment can make them the Yankees of NCAA sports... since they can afford the players.
That's not going to happen unless the Supreme Court does something about the league rule that disallows the Ivies from offering athletic scholarships.

I don't care if it comes from a bunch of right-wing zealots who probably don't give a flying fuck about the athletes: the NCAA is a nightmare, and if we're going to have big-time college athletics, then players should be compensated for their work.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:03 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


This ruling is good. Maybe now we can stop reading stories about the absurdly underhanded ways that big schools find to funnel money to their student-athletes without running afoul of the NCAA.

Also, the feeling of dread and horror I get in the pit of my stomach when I read sentences like "Kavanaugh, concurring with chief justice Roberts" is one that I'm really looking forward to enduring for the next thirty years.
posted by Mayor West at 12:13 PM on June 21, 2021 [11 favorites]


You could tell this was going to happen from listening to the oral arguments. Kavanaugh gets particularly excited whenever he gets to talk about sports.
posted by all about eevee at 12:17 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


I bet Kavanaugh was getting giddy thinking about the sports betting implications. He probably should have recused himself but I bet that isn’t what his bookie wanted.

(Yes, what I’m writing is borderline libelous but I still wonder how his six-figure sports and sports betting debts disappeared)
posted by Big Al 8000 at 12:23 PM on June 21, 2021 [24 favorites]


It seems like Kavanaugh's concurrence is an open invitation for a much broader restraint-of-trade suit, and honestly, there doesn't seem to be any way for the Plantation League to survive. Good riddance.
posted by tftio at 12:24 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


Coach K loves sports.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:30 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


I can't help but wonder whether this could mean an end to the MLB antitrust exemption as well. With Kavanaugh's opinion here, and given that Gorsuch once called the exemption "a precedential island [that] manage[s] to survive indefinitely even when surrounded by a sea of contrary law", it seems pretty plausible to me.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:32 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


MLB’s antitrust exemption is codified in the statute. The NCAA basically admitted they were a monopoly but suggested that the Sherman Act shouldn’t apply to them anyway, which did not work out for them.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:37 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


He also LOVED oral arguments on the case where the cheerleader sent the Snapchats cussing out her coaches for something that happened at practice. He's just jazzed about sports. I am assuming we will have endless athletics related cases every term for the foreseeable future.
posted by all about eevee at 1:28 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


The court did say that the proper way for the NCAA to make this go away is via Congress, i.e. exactly the same way that MLB did. I'm sure the lobbyists are gearing up as I type this.
posted by clawsoon at 1:31 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]


And for that reason I'm hoping this decision breaks the hold large flagship state universities have over resources and leads to a more equitable distribution for smaller, regional campuses.

If anything it seems like this plus the pandemic driven distance learning will push unis towards seeking (more) economies of scale; for example, most flagship uni IT isn't anywhere close to stressing their resources and could likely accommodate a doubling of enrollment without doubling IT spend. It's not clear to me that students will settle for Zoom learning over the long term, but it's a pretty straight forward calculus when choosing between say, University of Oregon at distance vs a comparatively unknown Southern Oregon University.

IMO, the strongest constraint on flagship enrollment growth is regional housing policy -- many flagship unis are located away from population centers and the uni is often far and away the biggest game in town. Which leads to a political dynamic where the permanent residents set housing policy for the massive cohort of temporary residents, and inevitably favors tight housing. On the margins at least, distance education reduces this constraint.

On the research side, the small regionals are even more doomed. The more staff in your research labs, the bigger the grants you can pursue for roughly the same overhead. And overhead is key -- I wish I could find the article I read years ago on how the ivies have a grandfathered overhead cost that lets them outperform in research.
posted by pwnguin at 1:33 PM on June 21, 2021 [10 favorites]


Fortunately for the NCAA they haven’t spent the past century antagonizing sports fans from sea to shining sea so they… oh.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


chalk this one up to calling capital's bluff. if we are really operating under the fiction that corporations are people and everyone has equal opportunity in a free market and money is all that matters, then, uh, it sort of follows that you actually have to PAY people for their work. if we have to live with the shitty end of capitalism, we damn well ought to get the good parts, at least.

that is, i mean, NCAA bars on salary should be lifted altogether. this decision doesnt go far enough, per the concurrence.
posted by wibari at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


I would rather we went in the other direction. Let's say that student athletics should be TRULY amateur hourly only and get rid of all this garbage once and for all.
posted by bleep at 1:39 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]


I would rather we went in the other direction. Let's say that student athletics should be TRULY amateur hourly only and get rid of all this garbage once and for all.

This is the sort of attitude that has empowered the NCAA till now. As I've pointed out in prior threads on this, college athletics in the US has never been "amateur". Trying to pretend otherwise has only served to screw over college athletes.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2021 [21 favorites]


Let's say that student athletics should be TRULY amateur hourly only and get rid of all this garbage once and for all.

Athletes should be randomly drafted from the student body at large.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:48 PM on June 21, 2021 [21 favorites]


No but I mean do it for real.
posted by bleep at 1:48 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


Do what for real? Draft athletes from the student body at large? I'm unclear what that would achieve, other than injuries and presumably lawsuits.
posted by sagc at 1:52 PM on June 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


I prefer the real other direction: eliminate the "student-athlete" moniker entirely by removing sports from universities. Universities can have physical education without having a NCAA Div I FBS College Football team. This has been clearly demonstrated by the rest of the world.

If there's really that much demand for minor-league or junior-league football, then the NFL or some other organization can start building a minor league.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:03 PM on June 21, 2021 [55 favorites]


I prefer the real other direction: eliminate the "student-athlete" moniker entirely by removing sports from universities. Universities can have physical education without having a NCAA Div I FBS College Football team. This has been clearly demonstrated by the rest of the world.


This is what I meant except it's coherent.
posted by bleep at 2:11 PM on June 21, 2021 [30 favorites]


It will be interesting to see how this changes the progression to the NBA, where there are more and more top draftees from Australia, Europe, and the G-League each year. It turns out you don't actually have to participate in some sort of weird play-acting of attending a US university to be good at basketball, and there are definitely players who realized that.
posted by sagc at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2021


Draft athletes from the student body? That's completely insane. College should be for learning and growing. Sports can be a part of that but it shouldn't be the entire point.
posted by bleep at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


I prefer the real other direction: eliminate the "student-athlete" moniker entirely by removing sports from universities. Universities can have physical education without having a NCAA Div I FBS College Football team.

Why? Who does it serve to try to appease an academic ideal that has never been the case since Jonathan Swift? I am done with the argument that pops up every time properly paying players is brought up that the "proper" answer is to remove sports from the academy as if they were a stain besmirching the ivory tower - an attitude that has some serious issues with race, given the makeup of the body of marquee athletes. Not to mention that in the case of football, the college game predates the pros by several decades, so the argument is ahistoric as well.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:13 PM on June 21, 2021 [16 favorites]


bleep Well, you did say "but for real" immediately after someone proposed it, so...
posted by sagc at 2:13 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


If anything it seems like this plus the pandemic driven distance learning will push unis towards seeking (more) economies of scale

I agree although I stress that the relative lack of adequate funding for public higher education, like the lack of funding for public health care, is a political decision and not an inevitability. Few if any faculty and administrators want or like large classes (or poorly paid adjuncts and grad students filling the role that full-time faculty should fill); we do it because we're trying to balance educational access and quality.

for example, most flagship uni IT isn't anywhere close to stressing their resources and could likely accommodate a doubling of enrollment without doubling IT spend.

I'm not so sure about that. I got out of the higher education IT world several years ago so I'm not at all conversant with data (e.g., it's been years since I dug into the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service) but I'm skeptical of this claim, especially if you include faculty pedagogical support e.g., instructional designers. At my university, a large research flagship university, we more than doubled our instructional design staff over the past 9 months not just to help us get through the pandemic's emergency remote teaching but also because we're anticipating a continued high level of online and hybrid teaching even once the campus fully opens. (I was on the hiring committee and it was really strange to be hiring people at a time when the university was cutting budgets significantly and laying off people at the nadir of the pandemic!) My recollection of the broader literature around online teaching is that when it's done well it costs about the same as teaching face-to-face so it's not really a cost savings measure.
posted by ElKevbo at 2:18 PM on June 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


Also, let's not forget that the only reason "student-athlete" exists is as an excuse not to pay players (or their families) workman's comp when they are hurt - or worse - on the field.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:18 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


In Canada we have junior hockey leagues instead of NCAA/university hockey for anyone dreaming of going to the NHL. If you're a part of the vast majority of players that don't make it it means that at the end of your hockey career when you're 19 or so you better have some backup plans in place otherwise you've got a high school diploma and not much else. I think its a similar situation for soccer players in Europe and South America. At the very least the NCAA going through universities means that the players get a degree, or at least a better chance of getting one. And that will help them in their search for employment later on for the 99% that don't make it to the major leagues.

Professional sports as a whole does a pretty bad job of taking care of the vast majority of players that are necessary to the system but never make it. A fix for the NCAA seems relatively easy, maybe make the bulk of the profits/revenues go back to the players instead of the institutions, and then what's left doesn't seem all that bad.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:23 PM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]


I mean, 19 is a pretty normal age to start university, and I don't imagine it's any better than the education that one-and-done NBA players get, either.
posted by sagc at 2:30 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


The most corrupt sports body in the US finally gets what has long been due. Now if there were only a way to disembowel various gymnastic and skating federations, FIFA, and the pinnacle of greed, the IOC.
posted by Ber at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


I am done with the argument that pops up every time properly paying players is brought up that the "proper" answer is to remove sports from the academy as if they were a stain besmirching the ivory tower

Thank you for putting it eloquently: College athletics are a stain besmirching universities in the US. For the majority of universities, these sports are a cost and the boosters don't make up the difference. That money is then directed away from the majority of students to promote amateur athletics. Not to mention the untold amount of money being shuffled around from TV networks, athletics directors, coaches (typically the highest paid employees of the state), a myriad of contractors, bowl directors, etc. Just because people enjoy the games on a Saturday doesn't suddenly make the rest of the enterprise any less dirty.

At the very least the NCAA going through universities means that the players get a degree

Which might be worth nothing when your future employer finds out it wasn't a real degree anyhow.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2021 [23 favorites]


Thank you for putting it eloquently: College athletics are a stain besmirching universities in the US.

Care to explain how? Because from where I'm sitting, the problem with college athletics is and has always been the dishonesty around them, fueled by the attitude that the academy would never do anything so uncouth as profit while making ever more money in a variety of deals while only giving a pittance to the people whose labor generates the money. The only reason the enterprise is "dirty" is because of the attitude of people like yourself that treating college athletics as a business is uncouth,resulting in all the under the table dealings that solely exist to maintain the facade. And now that said facade is finally crumbling under its own weight, it is the height of arrogance to argue that the problem was sports as business, and not academia trying to have their cake and eat it too. Not to mention how this attitude looks when we have largely minority players demanding to be properly paid for their labor.

As for finances, the reality is that college athletics accounting puts Hollywood to shame, again because of the distorting effect that literally taking the labor of others without recompense has. Again, the answer is to bring things above the board so that they can be fairly assessed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:21 PM on June 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


The obvious solution is to make it illegal to profit from sports, in any context.
posted by signal at 3:26 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


Don't see that becoming a thing, signal...

EDIT: Southern Oregon University represent!
(Was Southern Oregon State College when I attended for a few years)
posted by Windopaene at 3:33 PM on June 21, 2021


Thought about it a bit more, and remembered all of the recent scandals thanks to college sports. And I don't mean the minor stuff like players getting paid on the side. I mean Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, Baylor's sex scandals, Michigan State and the gymnastics program, Ohio State and Jim Jordan, UNC's fake degree program, and so on. I know professional sports aren't innocent, but I also don't remember anything this systemically heinous from other US sports leagues. The NCAA and FIFA are always in competition for "most corrupt".

It's not like awful scandals in college athletics are new, but it seems more out of control than ever. The SMU scandal in the 1980s might have resulted in their program getting cut for four years, but it directly led to less penalties and sanctions other schools for even worse crimes.

Posted while writing the above: Again, the answer is to bring things above the board so that they can be fairly assessed.

I agree things should be above the board. I believe athletes should be paid. I just fundamentally don't believe the way forward is with college athletics. I believe the current system of college sports to be an anachronism. Those in charge (university presidents, athletic directors, coaches) are incentivized to keep the current system. Expecting college athletics to change is much like expecting bad policing to change. I'm done with ineffective reforms. There isn't reforming a lot of this. I'd rather see new systems be created than pretend we can change this one.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:36 PM on June 21, 2021 [18 favorites]


If we had to choose between capitalism and college football we’d teach the marching band the Internationale. That’s how much people like college football.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:37 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


In addition to its significance to the many athletes who (IMO) have been exploited by the NCAA, this opinion is another fascinating decision from an unpredictable Supreme Court. While most would have expected the three liberal justices to be on the losing side of most decisions, Roberts is managing to cobble together decisions with weird majorities of himself, the liberals, and one or two of the Trump appointees.
posted by lumpy at 3:42 PM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]


But people don't love it because it's COLLEGE, people love it because it's FOOTBALL. Spin off the Crimson Tide and the Cornhuskers and whoever as local/regional/state teams that are run for profit and pay their atheletes. The mission of universities and the mission of NCAA sports don't really overlap at all.

It also means American universities should recruit and give scholarships to Black students as reparations and in the interest of having a diverse student body, not for sports performance, paid or unpaid.
posted by rikschell at 3:47 PM on June 21, 2021 [24 favorites]


the problem with college athletics is and has always been the dishonesty around them, fueled by the attitude that the academy would never do anything so uncouth as profit while making ever more money in a variety of deals while only giving a pittance to the people whose labor generates the money. The only reason the enterprise is "dirty" is because of the attitude of people like yourself that treating college athletics as a business is uncouth,resulting in all the under the table dealings that solely exist to maintain the facade.

I agree with this, except for the "attitude of people like yourself" piece. I think you misunderstand my attitude. I have no problem with sports existing, or young adults being paid to play them. In fact, quite the opposite, I believe they should be paid whatever the market will bear. Clearly there is a market for a second-tier football league given the billion dollar contracts. I think the next move is that 50% of TV money should go to the players, a la the major sports contracts.

But people don't love it because it's COLLEGE, people love it because it's FOOTBALL. Spin off the Crimson Tide and the Cornhuskers and whoever as local/regional/state teams that are run for profit and pay their atheletes. The mission of universities and the mission of NCAA sports don't really overlap at all.

In my experience, many of the fans don't/didn't attend the university, either. They are literally rooting for the home team. Fine! Give them a home team! Let universities be universities and not double as minor-league sports.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:56 PM on June 21, 2021 [18 favorites]


Professional sports as a whole does a pretty bad job of taking care of the vast majority of players that are necessary to the system but never make it.

I'm not going to defend the system as presently constituted, but that is literally one of the things the boosters do for the people who play the prestige sports. Certainly not everyone gets the same treatment, but a lot of the athletes end up working for and/or getting seed capital from said boosters if they don't end up going pro. That's how it works in the South, anyway.

That's kinda how recruitment works. It used to be giving a kid a car and some walking around money or taking care of his family, but too many scandals made people gun shy about breaking the NCAA rules quite that blatantly, so they settled on post-graduation jobs that may or may not require actual work to draw a paycheck.

The biggest problem to my mind is that things didn't change for the athletes as the finances changed around them. Teams have seen an explosion in revenue from media licensing that simply didn't exist 30 or 40 years ago, but the players are stuck with the same shit they got before the schools were making media money and still taking in mounds of cash from donors to pay the AD and (certain) coaches lavish salaries.
posted by wierdo at 4:26 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


I also don't remember anything this systemically heinous from other US sports leagues

The NFL has been a hotbed of racism and brain injury.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:47 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]


as if they were a stain besmirching the ivory tower - an attitude that has some serious issues with race, given the makeup of the body of marquee athletes.

There are plenty of ways to recruit and retain Black students that do not involve putting their bodies and brains on the line. Student athletics run counter to the stated mission of universities: to build knowledge. Someone explain to me why a sport like football, which causes brain damage, should be housed within an institution that is supposed to be making people more intelligent. It's not that it's uncouth. Everyone knows that the modern university is just a business. It's that it is completely illogical and runs counter to the very purpose of a university. It's not a stain on the university, it just does not make any sense.

Also, sports always come first, so students will often miss class to attend games and sometimes even practice. The undergrad students in my classroom who struggle the most often do so because they are trying to balance having a full-time, physically demanding job that requires travel with their undergraduate education. Of course their education suffers. And we spend so much money on sports and athletics at the school, which means that there's less money for research and less money to hire faculty members to teach students. College athletics should not be a part of higher education, but if they're going to be, students should be able to be compensated for sacrificing their bodies (and often brains) so that the university can make a buck.
posted by twelve cent archie at 5:03 PM on June 21, 2021 [26 favorites]


On one hand, I’m all about kicking the shit out of the NCAA. Fuck them. On the other, I’m thinking this is going to eventually prove to be college sports’ Citizens United.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:19 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


Student athletics run counter to the stated mission of universities: to build knowledge.

If we're going to use this as the standard of "does this activity belong on campus", I daresay you're not going to like what should be booted. Institutions like universities can have several purposes, and in the US, a historical purpose of the university is to serve as a community hub, which is where athletics come in.

Also, sports always come first, so students will often miss class to attend games and sometimes even practice.

And the issue here is that the current system demands athletes treat their sport as a job without giving the athlete the protections of being an employee - again, this was the purpose of the "student-athlete" designation. If you want to fix this, the best thing to do is to get all of this above the board, so that athletes can be treated fairly and have the legal protections that the academy stripped from them. (Remember, Alston didn't just sue the NCAA - he sued the Power 5 as well, meaning he sued the schools.)

And we spend so much money on sports and athletics at the school, which means that there's less money for research and less money to hire faculty members to teach students.

Two of the major scandals we've seen in recent years - Penn State and Michigan State - revolved around coverups instituted in part to protect efforts by the schools to use sports to bootstrap their research and faculty. This was the whole point of Paterno's infamous "Grand Experiment". So the argument that athletics are starving schools isn't the whole story at least.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:32 PM on June 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


...in the US, a historical purpose of the university is to serve as a community hub...

I don't think that is true for the vast majority of institutions, including public colleges and universities. There are certainly many narrow, specific times and locations where colleges and universities have invited the public onto campus but it has almost been on their (the institution's) terms. Many libraries are, of course, an exception and I think if you talk with academic librarians they can tell you the many ways that public patrons are excluded, inconvenienced, shut out, and generally made to feel very unwelcome. Ag extension programs are another exception but those are typically limited to land-grant universities and, in my experience, they're frequently housed far from central campus (presumably because they require lots of land for their experiments) and much of their efforts are focused throughout the state (by design). But in general the story of most college and university relationships with their surrounding community is one of tension; "town and gown" relationships are typically fraught for many reasons too numerous and off-topic to describe here.

Two of the major scandals we've seen in recent years - Penn State and Michigan State - revolved around coverups instituted in part to protect efforts by the schools to use sports to bootstrap their research and faculty. This was the whole point of Paterno's infamous "Grand Experiment". So the argument that athletics are starving schools isn't the whole story at least.

The empirical evidence is that for nearly all colleges and universities the athletic programs cost more than they make. In most cases, tuition and fees - often a specific, dedicated fee - are required to support the athletic program.
posted by ElKevbo at 7:04 PM on June 21, 2021 [17 favorites]


Student athletics run counter to the stated mission of universities: to build knowledge. Someone explain to me why a sport like football, which causes brain damage, should be housed within an institution that is supposed to be making people more intelligent.

I find it grimly amusing that my university's (newly renovated) football stadium is literally across the street from our health sciences complex, a complex that houses among other things a lab that researches brain injuries and our (excellent) physical therapy program. I suppose it's a macabre kind of efficiency...
posted by ElKevbo at 7:07 PM on June 21, 2021 [17 favorites]


Metafilter: This is what I meant except it's coherent.
posted by medusa at 7:20 PM on June 21, 2021 [14 favorites]


I think this is clearly the right decision, but I also have very mixed feelings about it. Like, for example, baseball has an actual minor league separate from college baseball. College baseball athletes get a much BETTER deal than minor leaguers; in the minor league, players get $6,000/season in single A and $15,000/season in triple A (and the baseball season is lonnnnnnnnng). They often sleep in guest rooms or on floors of local fans/volunteers (often families with HS baseball athletes). College baseball players who get scholarships? They get a freaking college degree, and FOOD, while playing baseball and taking their shot at the majors afterwards. (Not all that many of them make it, because the wunderkinder go right into the majors or AAA minors from high school. But they have degrees and can get jobs!)

The current NCAA system is corrupt and execrable and incredibly racist. But I'm seriously concerned that the NCAA won't create a more equitable system, or even create a less equitable system where they pay their athletes and non-athletes are treated even more as second-class citizens. My concern is that the NFL creates a real minor league, and 18-year-old kids either go into the NFL when they're WAY too small, or they play in minor leagues that pay them a scant $20,000/year for their brain damage, instead of getting scholarships to Division I universities where they at least have an option to wind up with a degree, and the tuition payments are worth more than $20,000/year.

I mean, quick, name one player on the Sacramento River Cats or the Memphis Redbirds or the Durham Bulls (last 3 AAA champs). Tell me you even knew what Sacramento's minor league baseball team was named, if you've never lived in Sacramento! What major league team are they affiliated with? And that bifurcated baseball system -- with the minor leagues and the colleges -- was created when baseball was by far the most popular and profitable team sport in the US. So when people say, "Sure, but there's so much money in college football --" I'm always like, "Well there is now ..." but baseball didn't work out that way, and I'm not confident football would.

I also have some knock-on concerns. Like, Title IX has been an incredibly powerful engine of equality in the United States. Part of the reason for that is that to have mass quantities of football scholarships, Division I schools have to affirmatively create opportunities for female athletes to be in compliance with Title IX. They are also not allowed to use revenue or cost projections to favor men's athletics over women's (although they obviously do). This decision is going to massively complicate universities' decisions about men's and women's athletics and Title IX sports compliance, and I worry about how it will affect women's scholarship opportunities at flagship universities.

I went to one of the few Division I schools where football draws in substantially more than it costs -- Notre Dame; $72 million in PROFIT as an independent, a huge chunk of which is funneled to scholarships in women's sports and men's non-revenue sports, and another big chunk of which funds graduate student stipends. Notre Dame also continually tops the NCAA's graduation rate rankings -- it's been in first place for 15 straight years across all sports, with 98% of athletes graduating; and graduates 91% of its football players, which sets it to perpetually jostling with Stanford for highest graduation rate among D1 football players. (Honestly the football teams pulls the stats down tremendously -- 100% of female ND athletes graduate, but only 98% of male athletes, and it's totally that 91% football rate yanking them down.)

But I also know how much football dominates campus life. I know the rape and assault stories that come from football (and, to a slightly lesser extent, male basketball) players. And I know that ND is an outlier in insisting D1 football players take regular classes, and I know how that exhausts the players (or rather, how football exhausts the students), especially during the football season. (One of my good friends who's an astrophysicist roomed with a football player starting freshman year, and GOD his roommate was exhausted literally all the time from taking 15 hours of demanding academic credits while playing football. His spring grades were always way higher than his fall grades, and he tried to stack his tough classes for spring.) And gosh I have a lot of stories about the shitty effects of D1 football on campus life, on students, and on players.

AND YET, on my third hand: My grandfather grew up in a Catholic immigrant family in poor areas of Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s. And he would listen to Notre Dame games on the radio, and hear kids with names like his who went to college playing football, and beating Army. Beating Navy! Winning national championships! At a time when Ivy Leagues had quotas to keep Catholics OUT. (And Jews, and other non-WASP groups.) He didn't know ANYONE who'd gone to college -- even priests mostly went from junior high or high school right into seminary -- but he became determined that while college was totally out of reach for him, his own kids would go, and they'd go to Notre Dame. And he busted his butt, working three jobs at a time, so his kids could work only part-time HS jobs and keep their grades up, and my dad became the first in his family to go to college -- at Notre Dame, on a full academic scholarship. Only three people in my dad's graduating HS class went on to four-year colleges. So while 2021 Eyebrows thinks "Jesus it's dumb to say 'but alumni won't donate if there's no football, and students won't apply!'", 1935 not-yet-born Eyebrows knows that college football on the radio changed her family's life forever. So I can't as easily discount the PR value of college football as many of my peers can; College football absolutely changed my family's life, even though nobody in my family played football, and that is very difficult to discount.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:49 PM on June 21, 2021 [25 favorites]


I, too, believe that "stain besmirching the ivory tower" is unironically an apt description of the role popular athletics has come into in our educational, taxpayer-subsidized institutions of public education and academic research. It's not an uncommon view.

In reality I have no problem with treating athletics as a business; my problem is with the multistage money-laundering scheme that makes it almost impossible to tell whether any given giant football program makes or loses money for academia -- though I have my suspicions seeing my alma mater's huge tax-free stadium get another expansion while it sits empty all but a few days out of the year. In that light, bringing the athletes' compensations aboveboard does nothing but slightly alter one stage of that legalized grift system.

On a more personal note, I think looking at this just through the lens of Nittany Lion football players and their ilk is a mistake -- I think of the student athletes I know, Olympic Team Nordic Skiiers who are in contention for medals but will still probably end up living off their sports medicine degrees at a local PT clinic because even at the top end biathlon doesn't get you a living. That both groups (and the vast bulk of student athletes who play for the love of the sport and are equally removed from a profitable spectator sport and an olympic event) all fall under the same regs is a massive tragedy that I don't think this ruling comes close to addressing.
posted by traveler_ at 8:05 PM on June 21, 2021 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I've had one son who played, and another who wants to play, in college, in a non-revenue sport, (Water Polo). I fear that even in two years, this will make all non-revenue sports eliminated. Women's sports are also going to get devastated if the revenue sport(s), aren't making the revenue they used to. So while I agree with the decision, it's going to trash everything but football and basketball.
posted by Windopaene at 8:09 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


I don't know that it will; look literally any other country than the US. The biggest sport at my school, if I remember correctly, was probably volleyball, and most of the people playing were able to focus far, far more on their academics.
posted by sagc at 8:15 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


The empirical evidence is that for nearly all colleges and universities the athletic programs cost more than they make. In most cases, tuition and fees - often a specific, dedicated fee - are required to support the athletic program.

This is a half-truth. Yes, college athletic programs as a whole wind up in the red - but the marquee sports - football, men's basketball (and sometimes women's basketball) - tend to be cash positive. Which is part of the issue - you have the labor of marquee athletes siphoned off to fund non-marquee sports which are for the most part cash negative, and this is further compounded by the fact that marquee sports tend to have higher minority populations than the non-marquee sports for a number of reasons. Beyond that, access to the fruits of uncompensated labor has caused mass wage inflation among coaches - we have hit the point where schools are paying more to staff than they are paying in scholarships.

There was a reason that the Power 5 forced the 2020 football and men's basketball seasons to happen - without doing that, their entire budgets would collapse - and these are the schools who have programs that are overall in the green.

In reality I have no problem with treating athletics as a business; my problem is with the multistage money-laundering scheme that makes it almost impossible to tell whether any given giant football program makes or loses money for academia -- though I have my suspicions seeing my alma mater's huge tax-free stadium get another expansion while it sits empty all but a few days out of the year. In that light, bringing the athletes' compensations aboveboard does nothing but slightly alter one stage of that legalized grift system.

The system you are so contemptuous of exists because college athletes are not properly compensated - the money that fuels it is literally generated on the backs of marquee sports players who receive compensation valued far, far less than the value they generate on the field or the court. Allowing them to claw back that value would starve the grift machine of the money fueling it - which is why the system has been apoplectic about these changes.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:22 PM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


"I don't know that it will; look literally any other country than the US."

I mean, Title IX created opportunities for massive quantities of female students to enroll at flagship US schools considerably in advance of many of their G7 counterparts. Traditional university systems in Europe are awesome, and I exchanged to one, but they have their own underlying and limiting traditions. And I def like the part where the US kicks butt at women's soccer and women's hockey because of Title IX. :) But it's not possible to look at college sports in the US and not consider the massive opportunities they've created for women because of Title IX, the huge moneymaking machines of men's football and basketball, and the demands from the federal government that women's sports equalize that behemoth. I mean, I can think of more direct and equitable ways to do that -- but the fact remains that it was a hugely powerful force for women's equality in tertiary education in the US, and I don't know that I can think of a more direct way to accomplish that in the United States with all our backwards lawmaking.

"This is a half-truth. Yes, college athletic programs as a whole wind up in the red - but the marquee sports - football, men's basketball (and sometimes women's basketball) - tend to be cash positive."

You are incorrect; the NCAA itself reports that "In total, only 25 athletics departments’ generated revenues exceeded their expenses in 2018-19 — all were in autonomy five conferences — and the median surplus at those schools was $7.9 million. While 29 athletics departments reported positive generated net revenue in fiscal year 2018, the median number of schools to do so in a given fiscal year from 2005 to 2019 is 24." That's of 130 schools in Division 1. More is spent on coaches than athletes in those D1 revenue sports. Only 25 of those 130 schools recorded a net positive income in 2019. And there's a lot more coverage of irresponsible spending by D1 programs to eat up any illusory "profits" they earn with marquee sports, especially at the top programs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:51 PM on June 21, 2021 [6 favorites]


Yes, college athletic programs as a whole wind up in the red - but the marquee sports - football, men's basketball (and sometimes women's basketball) - tend to be cash positive.

This is not true. Per NCAA Research, Division I Revenues and Expenses 2004 - 2016 [pdf] in 2016 only 54% of football programs, 47% of men's basketball programs, and none of women's basketball programs in D1-FBS* schools were profitable.

Yes, you can cherry pick and say that almost all of the football programs of the Power 5 conference schools are profitable, but they only represent 64 football programs. Outside of the Power 5, virtually all of the rest of the FBS and the FCS are unprofitable. Men's basketball is similar, except even a smaller fraction of the elite programs are profitable.

And outside Division 1 forget about it. They're all money losers.

* For those not familiar, the FBS is the more elite part of Division I. The Power 5 conference schools are the elite of that elite.
posted by jedicus at 8:55 PM on June 21, 2021 [7 favorites]


Other countries have varsity and intramural sports without having a public audience. I went to university in Canada - we had a football team, track and field, basketball, etc. But it wasn't on tv and, okay, at my uni not many cared and I couldn't have told you where the stadium was. But I was told that there was one - and I even met a track and field runner on a sports scholarship, once.

It doesn't have to dominate the university to exist.
posted by jb at 9:36 PM on June 21, 2021 [13 favorites]


I seem to recall the highest-paid public employee in almost every state is some sort of athletic coach. Rather than a great teacher, public health official, or anyone who contributes to the public good. Perhaps that era is ending.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:11 PM on June 21, 2021 [8 favorites]


People have always played sports and will always play sports, including as college students. Sometimes that means you just play pickup games against other people at your school, in whatever sport is commonly played and doesn't require much in the way of equipment. Sometimes it means that you play against other schools in your area. Sometimes it means you develop an abusive multi-million dollar industry on the backs of under-compensated minority student-athletes.

The ruling seems like a good one. I'm largely unqualified to comment on the dynamics of for-profit sports at large universities, being neither a fan or someone who went to a school like that. So I have no idea how it will play out, but the death of the NCAA and an end to all sports scholarships (to pick an extreme outcome) would not mean the end of college athletics, unless you define the phrase to mean something fairly specific which only exists at some institutions to begin with.

The comments about how title IX plays into this are very interesting, and an aspect I hadn't considered.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:27 PM on June 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


I would love to see the post from the parallel universe where something completely different from junior sports became wrapped up with college for no particularly strong reason.

Imagine the main source of fine dining was at colleges, and UConn just put $15 million into its cafeteria to try to get their second Michelin star, and the top paid state employee in 47 states was a chef de cuisine at a major school. And the system works because most of the kitchen staff are unpaid students, but what can you do? Lots of people like fine dining, and everybody at college has to eat; it's an important part of the culture of college.

Sure, there's half a dozen rape scandals involving student-chefs at prominent schools every year, but Menu IX means that lots of young women with good knife skills also get the opportunity to cook for free on campus. And so many kids (disproportionately minority kids) get valuable scholarships by working for free in the cafeteria -- who cares if many fail out and many more barely get an education because they spend 10 hours a day working the line.

And sure, it would be a good reform in this parallel universe if the kids working the cafeterias were paid for the value they created. But it would be a better reform if, you know, restaurants were in charge of producing fine dining and colleges were only responsible for educating the people and advancing our knowledge.
posted by Superilla at 11:28 PM on June 21, 2021 [36 favorites]


It’s also interesting to me that many universities essentially have minimal brand recognition beyond their athletic teams. Most people couldn’t tell you what their local state university is notable for, it’s key areas of research, innovative teaching programs, etc. but they’ve grown up watching and cheering and attending that institution’s athletic events.

I think I have to disagree with this. The locals, the people that live with the local university, they know. They know because they see the type of students that come. They definitely know if its an engineering school, if there's a special graduate program, anything that is particular about that university over others.

(I would even argue that its actually pretty common for people in the state, but that probably varies by state, I think alot of Texans generally know what the big Texas universities are famous for)

"I also don't remember anything this systemically heinous from other US sports leagues"

The NFL has been a hotbed of racism and brain injury.


At least the NFL pays their players! But, the salary cap itself is more price-fixing of labor (I do see the reason for the salary cap, to keep the teams more competitive, but interesting that to be more competitive, the most commercialized of all the sports needs a socialist intervention).

--
I am very happy for these athletes that they are finally getting compensation for the work they do. I am most happy that this means that they can get endorsement deals as well as compensation for their likenesses. That means every year EA puts out a new NCAA Football game, every one of those players gets something for being in that game. Everytime someone buys a specific jersey, that athlete gets compensation for that. People above also mentioned the TV contracts. Those are all good things that the players should definitely be a getting a cut of.


I do worry about the non-major sports. I mean, part of the reason that the US is so dominate at the Olympics is that the universities essentially provide the funding and training for all the sports, even the rare unpopular ones. I think that maybe the way Title IX was written is now too vague. I think we'd probably need to ignore equality in income. It isn't right to pay all the athletes the same just as it isnt right to pay all the athletes nothing. But I think there can still be equality in the number of student athletes (thereby continuing to provide the demand for women's athletics) and maybe in the university funding per athletes (i.e. not direct payments to the players, but equipment, coaching salaries, travel budgets, etc.).
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:13 AM on June 22, 2021


I mean, part of the reason that the US is so dominate at the Olympics is that the universities essentially provide the funding and training for all the sports, even the rare unpopular ones.

This was never the case. We have a number of major Olympians getting chased out of college athletics because of the NCAA prohibiting their ability to exploit their NIL rights to fund training at the elite level - Katie Ledecky being one of the most prominent examples of recent note. This is also why it was a major scandal several years back when it came out that the Ohio State AD at the time received a significant (five figures as I recall) bonus when one of the school's wrestlers won his weight class at the NCAA championship - those of us who knew the sport knew that most of the work to get there had been put in by the wrestler and his support system. And then you have sports like women's gymnastics, where for decades the "top" competitors were seen as being well under college age (thankfully, this is changing.)

The reality is that for many Olympic sports, college athletics served as a finishing school at best, and many competitors had to make the choice between competing in the NCAA and funding training at the elite level necessary to compete at the global level. Which is why it was offensive when the NCAA's defenders brought up Olympic athletes as an argument to continue allowing the NCAA to prohibit athletes to make money in several ways. And that is also worth noting as well - while most of the discussion centers around the direct payment of athletes by schools (for good reason), the reality is that the NCAA's rules made it near impossible for athletes to make money period - they are unable to exploit their NIL rights (and prior to O'Bannon had to surrender them to the NCAA and the school) and have a cap on how much money an athlete can make just working (when I was looking at colleges, and debating continuing to wrestle in college, this was a laughable $2k/year.) This is why July 1st is so important - in several states, athletes on that day will finally be able to make money on their own likenesses - just like their coaches can.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:58 AM on June 22, 2021 [8 favorites]


My concern is that the NFL creates a real minor league, and 18-year-old kids either go into the NFL when they're WAY too small, or they play in minor leagues that pay them a scant $20,000/year for their brain damage, instead of getting scholarships to Division I universities where they at least have an option to wind up with a degree, and the tuition payments are worth more than $20,000/year.

College football already acts as the NFL's defacto minor league system, on its own dime. I can't see this ruling changing that. If anything, this ruling clears the way for the schools to drop any pretense that they aren't minor league teams and start getting the NFL (as well as the NBA) to throw big money their way. In an odd way, this could actually help college finances by bringing pro-team money into their marquee programs, possibly freeing-up budgets for the smaller, less popular college athletic programs.

This being capitalist america, though, I doubt that will happen. More likely, the marquee programs will end up keeping their school-provided money flow and go swimming in the new river of cash from the pro leagues.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 AM on June 22, 2021


I've seen a claim that sports are much saner if they're limited to intramural. I can't see any hope for that happening any time soon for college sports.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 7:33 AM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


As a Canadian, I am compelled to respond in a slightly condescending manner - it's just what we do.

College sports don't register with the average student here. In five years I didn't attend a single sporting event and I participated in a bunch of intramural sports, so it's not like sports were irrelevant to me. Our national championships in 'big time' college sports probably top out at 10,000 attendees.

From my Northern perspective, the whole notion of high-level athletes giving a shit about their degree when they have a seven figure contract awaiting them is preposterous. For instance, one-and-done athletes are replete in basketball. College is just the required waypoint for these folks. Between practices, video sessions and 'the big game', how are they able to even pay attention to their classes?

Here in Canada, the best hockey players play junior hockey - not college. And for every year of hockey (at least in western Canada), they receive a year of free tuition.

Folks here have made many good points about the downsides of losing the revenue that big time sports brings in, but I also think it will create an important discussion about the proper role of higher education in society.
posted by Phreesh at 8:17 AM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]



From my Northern perspective, the whole notion of high-level athletes giving a shit about their degree when they have a seven figure contract awaiting them is preposterous.


You know not everybody who plays professional sports has a super long career and gets $20m a year? So yeah, for the top few it probably is preposterous. But I personally currently work with 2 former NFL players and my high school football coach played too. At some point, people stop being professional athletes and that's when the degree matters.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:31 AM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


Sure, but the system is built so that the degree is much, much, much less important than it would be otherwise, and actively harms the academic performance of students. And, again, in places where there aren't college sports like this, there are still professional athletes, and still athletes who go to school and play while getting a degree. But the incentives are much, much less perverse.
posted by sagc at 8:42 AM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


But the incentives are much, much less perverse.

The perverse incentives of the NCAA are because they and the schools want to have it both ways - they want to be able to enforce professionalism when it benefits them, while appealing to amateurism when that will benefit them. They have been clinging to Stevens' paean to amateurism in Board of Regents to justify their behavior since 84, and one of the biggest blows the ruling dealt to the NCAA was to pull that away.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2021


Yes? I think it's good, but I'm trying to respond to arguments that the education that student athletes get in high-value NCAA sports is equal to the education that student athletes get in other countries, or even sports without the crazy amount of money sloshing around.
posted by sagc at 9:05 AM on June 22, 2021


There are 350 division 1 men’s basketball teams, each of which has 13 scholarships. A dozen or so one-and-done guys matter for the tournament and for the draft, but not for the overall numbers.

(There are 85 football scholarships per team and about 120 teams in division 1 FBS.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:06 AM on June 22, 2021


I think it's good, but I'm trying to respond to arguments that the education that student athletes get in high-value NCAA sports is equal to the education that student athletes get in other countries, or even sports without the crazy amount of money sloshing around.

And the point is that this argument is actually a shitty one. As was pointed out, the number of "one and done" players (which only happens in men's basketball) is very low, so most marquee sport athletes are there for the long haul and most do take their education seriously. The issues and scandals regarding educational quality stem from the institutional side, and illustrate why college athletes need professional protections like actual formal contracts that define the obligations the schools have to the players - as opposed to today's system where coaches hold all the power and use that to their benefit at the expense of players and their education.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:26 AM on June 22, 2021


I guess I'm confused by the idea that professional sports performance doesn't, at all, impact athletic performance. People get their degrees, but as described above, a lot of them have to dedicate far, far more time to their sport than their studies, and I can't imagine that's a neutral thing.

(I don't think it's an inherently shitty argument just because you say so, surprisingly!)
posted by sagc at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2021


People get their degrees, but as described above, a lot of them have to dedicate far, far more time to their sport than their studies, and I can't imagine that's a neutral thing.

So, are you concerned when any student has issues that eclipse their ability to study, or is this specific to college athletes? Because there are issues with academia not handling students with extensive outside obligations well, whether it be sports, other sorts of work, family obligations, etc. That particular discussion may not be within the scope of this thread, however.

With regards to college athletics, the problem with regards to balance is less about the sports themselves, and more that the players have few protections to allow them to effectively balance their studies with athletics, thanks to the NCAA basically making coaches into tyrants. There are some schools, such as Notre Dame, that do implement some institutional controls (hence why the school does have the graduation rate they do), but there are other schools and coaches that use that control to their benefit and the players' detriment. Again, having basic employment protections would do a lot to fix that imbalance - it's telling that many college coaches fail upon making the leap to the pros, and suddenly finding out that they can't treat their players the way they're used to because players have some power there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2021


Again, I totally agree that this ruling is a good thing. I'm trying to figure out how these metastasized athletics programs actually benefit the students, as opposed to, again, countries without the highest paid employee in most states being a college coach.
posted by sagc at 11:01 AM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


@Eyebrows Mcgee's description of one of the better programs that's trying to do right by the student athletes exposes the inherent inequality of the system as is. The football team is funding the rest of the sports edifice; with men's basketball contributing a small bit I am sure.

But even at a place like ND: with it's emphasis on doing right by it's football players; the graduation rate is significantly lower than the regular student population. So it can be said that the football players ARE getting a raw deal here. If this is the case at one of the good schools; imagine what's going on at Alabama and LSU and Ohio State etc. I am not going to derail this by focusing on the racial aspects of this; but Taylor Branch calling the NCAA a plantation is the right call.
posted by indianbadger1 at 11:06 AM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out how these metastasized athletics programs actually benefit the students, as opposed to, again, countries without the highest paid employee in most states being a college coach.

The problem isn't athletics - the problem is how the NCAA has warped the system by demanding that athletes be controlled to ridiculous levels, especially in the marquee sports. College coaches making seven figures a year is completely a product of a system that basically puts them in charge and grants them ridiculous levels of control over their players, such as being able to block a player who has graduated from going on to graduate school elsewhere. (Yes, this is real, and has happened several times.) But at the same time, I'm not buying the argument that sports themselves are the problem here, especially when that argument is made from academia, which has its own massive issues with racism, sexism, et al. (That was my point with the "stain on the ivory tower" comment - the reality is that the ivory tower is fucking filthy with the sins of academia, so arguing that sports are "dirty" is the pot denouncing the insufficient albedo of the kettle.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:19 AM on June 22, 2021


They're not dirty, but you really, really haven't provided a reason that they have to be concomitant with a degree that the students will fail at a higher-than-average rate. Like, do you have a problem with players going to Europe/Australia/the G-League because they think it's a better choice for them not to go to university?

And your attitude reads as very USA-centric, just in terms of not believing that sports in other countries... exist? Are rewarding?
posted by sagc at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


They're not dirty, but you really, really haven't provided a reason that they have to be concomitant with a degree that the students will fail at a higher-than-average rate.

Dude, my whole point has been that we don't have to have college athletics that chew up and spit out athletes - and that the reason we do is because of the system enforced by the NCAA and the schools, where the schools have all the power, and the players can (and routinely are) discarded at a whim. I've been trying to explain that the things that you are so angered about are because the NCAA has set up asinine rules demanding that players never make any money whatsoever while surrendering control of basically their lives to the schools and coaches. And since 1984, they have argued that because one Supreme Court justice opined that the supposed amateur nature of college athletics made them different from minor league baseball, this was the court granting them special protection.

The greatest impact of Alston may be very well the Supreme Court saying "no, Board of Regents was not the Court granting the NCAA antitrust protection", as that pulls away the threadbare legal blanket the NCAA has been clinging to. And given that they are facing other antitrust cases in the lower courts - cases that I would imagine have been amended in light of Alston - the legal reckoning that the NCAA so richly deserves is finally here.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:50 AM on June 22, 2021


I am not going to derail this by focusing on the racial aspects of this

I don't think that would be a derail at all; in fact, it appears to be one of the central issues or at least a critical one for many college sports teams.
posted by ElKevbo at 11:53 AM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


...and that's when the degree matters.

Beyond this, the reason to go to college is NOT just to get a degree so you can get a job. It's to learn to be a better citizen and that's relevant to everyone.
posted by VTX at 12:36 PM on June 22, 2021


Not only citizen, but also a better person. Being a part of a team has benefits. Empathy for your teammates who are playing bad, or having issues. Celebrating when you are all kicking ass.

My over 40 soccer team starts up in 2 weeks. Going with some of them to a Mariners game tomorrow afternoon. Camaraderie is a thing. And all of the empathy I developed came in college and beyond.

Think some of these same realizations come to other college athletes. The one's going pro for a few years, might take a bit longer.

But. my son got to go to a school he wasn't particularly academically qualified for, but eventually graduated with a degree in Physics, and has gotten some cool jobs, because having a degree from there is good .

College athletics helps more people than just the "minor league" aspect of Men's football and basketball.
posted by Windopaene at 12:50 PM on June 22, 2021


I would definitely be on board with separating the two. There isn't anything you learned participating in college athletics that you couldn't have learned without NCAA athletics. You don't need to play in the final four tournament to learn the value of teamwork.

I'm sure TONS of athletes end up going to schools that are a good fit for them athletically and a terrible fit academically.

I also don't just mean the athletics is where you learn to be a better person, I mean college generally whether you participate in athletics or not. I use the stuff I learned in my many various elective courses a LOT more than I use the stuff I learned in the courses I needed for my finance degree.

Just have minor leagues. The really gifted athletes that aren't yet ready to go pro can play there while they go to college.
posted by VTX at 1:02 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


students with extensive outside obligations well, whether it be sports

The time scholarship student-athletes spend on university sports workouts, practices, and competition is an obligation imposed directly by the university, not an outside obligation the university can't control.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:55 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


I was recently contacted by an speciality archive run by an SEC school who wanted me to donate a film I made, as well as the materials I collected while researching the film, to their collection. I said I would like to, but I can't do it for free, mostly for various licensing reasons, but also because this project has consumed years of my life. They said they had no money, but would throw a nice event in my honor. I asked if they could ask for funding from the university, or perhaps write a grant to help pay the modest amount I needed. They said they couldn't see any such money forthcoming. I asked them how much their college football coach was paid. They didn't know, so we Googled it together. It was $4 million a year.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:37 PM on June 22, 2021 [9 favorites]


...and that's when the degree matters.

Beyond this, the reason to go to college is NOT just to get a degree so you can get a job. It's to learn to be a better citizen and that's relevant to everyone.


I say this as someone who has worked at a university: absolutely not.

Tertiary education never has been about being a better citizen or better person - I have no idea when that mythos began. Originally, universities were founded to collect together theologians and church lawyers and organize their teaching and research - and ultimately the production of yet more theologians and lawyers. One could argue that universities have joint missions for education and research (pushing the boundaries of knowledge), but it was never general citizenship or personhood. Universities have expanded beyond theology and law - I think medicine may have been the next that was formally added, but feel free to correct me. But the purpose has always been education with an eye to various professions (including academia itself). Land grant colleges - the origin of a huge number of colleges in the US - were founded to train professionals like teachers, and also to do agricultural science and improve productivity.

The liberal arts, lacking a direct connection to a profession, like to sell themselves as "character/citizen building", but if that were their purpose, how could any society with a conscience not make that education available to every citizen free of charge? We don't - because that isn't the purpose. Even the liberal arts serve a purpose related to careers: one is supposed to gain skills (in critical thinking, reading, research, argument, writing, etc.) -- but also credentials which open up opportunities that aren't open to others. If the credentials weren't equally important, then any autodidact would have just as much of a chance in the job market -- and we all know that they don't. (Heck, even people who have been doing a job for years can have trouble finding another if they don't have a BA.)

Maybe some people who go to elite universities can conceive of their bachelor education as something to help them grow and not just a credential; ironic, because a degree from an elite university is the ultimate credential for opening doors, regardless of how thoughtful the person is, what kind of citizen they are. But the vast majority of people who attend tertiary education are investing money in a future which will be linked to a career -- because they know that if they do not have that credential, they will not be hired into a job that pays a living wage.

/this comment brought to you by a first-generation degree-holder, and someone who knows extremely bright people trapped in minimum wage work by their lack of a degree; they are just fine citizens and people and didn't need to go to university to learn that. But they really could have used the writing skills and credentials to get a better job.
posted by jb at 4:14 PM on June 22, 2021 [6 favorites]


> but if that were their purpose, how could any society with a conscience not make that education available to every citizen free of charge?

Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence - that we are a society with a conscience.

Which is flip, but I do have a broader point: to wit, is it not equally arguable that tertiary education is a way to broaden and enrich the mind, creating a well-rounded citizen, and the reasons that we a) do not use it for that and b) do not provide it free gratis are entirely that we are a society without a conscience.

Perhaps, if we take that perspective, this is but one small and valuable step towards becoming such a society.

These young people are performing labor for the financial and social benefit of others. Let them be paid for it in accordance with their actual value.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 5:25 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


It is July 1st, and college athletes are finally able to make money off of their name, image, and likeness. The NCAA had planned on a set of restrictive NIL regulations - then Alston put the fear of liability into them, resulting instead in the NCAA effectively tearing up their NIL rules.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:52 AM on July 1, 2021


Also, fuck Sports Illustrated for their offensive cover art attacking players for asserting their NIL rights. The editor who signed off on that rather dogwhistlely image should be fired.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:33 PM on July 1, 2021


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