California Tells the N.C.A.A. to Share, and It Pitches a Fit


Schlissel’s candor mortified alumni, and he soon stopped his lips from flapping.

Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks coach and once a bowl-winning coach at the University of Southern California, can evince a refreshing irreverence about the football-industrial complex. Alas, he showed no self-awareness in talking about the California bill.

“I’ve never been the guy that feels players need to be paid to play,” Carroll said recently. “I’ve felt like their scholarships and all the advantages that the guys got was always a pretty darn good deal. To me it sounds like an adult situation trying to make sense of a kid’s experience.”

Where to start? These are not kids but adults, old enough to vote and serve in wars and so old enough to get paid for their labor.

Carroll’s teams at U.S.C. quickly doubled the revenues pouring into university coffers, adding nearly $40 million in his first season. Carroll pulled a salary of $4.4 million, or more than four times that of his university’s president. When Carroll decamped back to the N.F.L., an N.C.A.A. investigation found all sorts of violations and vacated all of U.S.C.’s victories from one season, not to mention a Bowl Championship win in another season.

Que sera, baby. No one demanded that U.S.C. give back the lucre.

This California bill is more in the nature of a few tentative steps down a path rather than an ascent to the mountaintop. It benefits those players high profile enough to market themselves. The use of the athlete’s name cannot refer to the university, and payments must be consistent with standard payments for comparable commercial activities.

It does not require or allow universities to pay all players a reasonable wage. Please spare me the but-these-college-athletes-get-scholarships talk. The top teams produce tens and tens of millions of dollars for their universities, not to mention dollar baths for ESPN and regional network on-air talkers and executives, and they pay their coaches millions of dollars a year.

“Prepare for a flood of utter nonsense coming from self-interested N.C.A.A. athletic directors,” said Ted Tatos, who has analyzed the baroque economics of “amateurism” in college sports. These “acolytes live in fear that the wealth they’ve extracted from college athletes will soon rightfully accrue to the labor that generated them.”



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