The NCAA, Like Nurse Ratched, Likes a Rigged Game — and So, Apparently, do Arne Duncan and His Knight Commission


You really have to watch Mark Emmert, and the other blow-dry guys who run his NCAA — out of Porsches and ‘first cabin’ quarters — very closely. And, just one layer below, you need to keep your eye on the Knight Commission, which has, for a quarter- century, purported to be a force for good in college sports, while functioning as a solid, dependable force for the status quo. Knight Commission’s CEO Amy Perko, and even its most prominent board member, Arne Duncan, continue to operate as if they were NCAA employees, “just helpin’ out.” And keep your eye on all the other gold-plated conference heads and athletics directors. All the cloth-napkin guys and girls.

All of them are now sprinting to the U.S. Congress, clutching their pearls, and tip-toe-ing through the roiling puddles of distasteful upset caused by the plebian swell which has now inundated state legislatures, derived from common-sense pressures to finally, somehow, someway, get a little NIL-related cash for the Promo-Tainment giants the NCAA euphemistically calls ‘Student-Athletes.

Why the need to keep an eye on them?

The NCAA Likes a Rigged Game

The NCAA, as Randall Patrick McMurphy said, about Nurse Ratched, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, likes a “rigged game.”

Watch Emmert gesticulate, and ooze earnestness, as he explains the NCAA’s position at the December 17 ‘Future of College Sports: Government’s Role in Athlete Pay.“‘ forum. You’d know that Emmert is in the midst of boot-licking members of the U.S. Congress, to get federal legislation which is favorable to the NCAA, because he, more or less, admits it.  What you would not understand, from this presentation, is that Emmert is deceiving the public about the NCAA’s position. Emmert suggests that the NCAA supports the “tethered to education” benchmark laid down by Judge Bybee in the O’Bannon case, for determining appropriate ‘benefits’ which might flow to a player under NCAA “amateurism.” That’s just plain false.

First, they’ve appealed the recent Alston decision, which depended upon that “tethered” standard. They hate it. Second, look at NCAA bylaw 12, which fails to include it. The NCAA could’ve easily amended bylaw 12, after the original 2015 O’Bannon decision — it’s been four years, now — to fold into it that “tethered to education” standard. But they didn’t. They hate it: how dare, after all, the federal courts impinge upon the NCAA’s jurisdiction?

Emmert fails to tell the audience that the NCAA is pushing to preserve its “Amateurism-is-Whatever-We-Say-It-Is” Doctrine [AIWWSII], embodied in NCAA bylaw 12.

AIWWSII: Any Pay or Benefit is Fine, if Approved by NCAA Legislation

Under bylaw 12, any pay or benefit is allowed, if approved by NCAA legislation.  “Pay,” that bylaw says, “is the receipt of funds, awards or benefits not permitted by the governing legislation,” and bylaw 12.02.9 defines the “professional athlete” as “one who receives any kind of payment, directly or indirectly, for athletics participation except as permitted by the governing legislation of the Association.” Finally, bylaw 16.02.3 declares that an ‘extra benefit,’ is “any special arrangement by an institutional employee or representative of the institution’s athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete family member or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation.i The key phrases here — “except as permitted by the governing legislation of the Association,” and “not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation,” together reflect the de facto line of demarcation: any player pay or benefit approved by NCAA legislation is perfectly fine. This is the cardinal NCAA rule concerning player pay or benefits: Amateurism-is-Whatever-We-Say-It-Is.

And, starting with the NCAA’s 1956 vote to allow Athletic-Pay (labeled “scholarships”), the list of payments or benefits permitted by this provision is long. Tennis players are permitted up to $10,000 in annual prize earnings, and can receive additional money, as long as it does not exceed their expenses for the event. Olympic medal-winners can receive USOC payment-awards, and the USOC can pay for an athlete’s training, equipment, apparel, travel and even health insurance costs. Like Kyler Murray, whose receipt of a $4.7 million signing bonus from baseball’s Oakland Athletics did not bar him from playing quarterback for Oklahoma, two-sport athletes have long been allowed to be paid professionals in one sport, while competing in another. Football bowl game participants are allowed to receive ‘swag’ gifts from bowl sponsors, valued at no more than $550, and most schools now maintain Student Assistance Funds or Academic Enhancement Funds, to reimburse players for unique expenses, which can even include new suits worn by players or, sometimes, travel costs associated with family-member attendance at Final-Four and College Football Playoff events.ii In Alston, in fact, the District Court’s Judge Wilken cited seventeen examples of such NCAA-sanctioned player pay.iii Player benefits and pay are, according to this rule, limited only by the imaginations of NCAA members who, unencumbered by logic or, even, any tradition of amateurism, can vote to allow any pay, fund, benefit, or arrangement. The latitude which the NCAA seizes with this rule is not just ample: it is unfettered.

The NCAA Wants the Same Ole Thing: Continuing Unfettered Discretion

The reality is that NCAA is pressing Congress for no controls at all: continuing Unfettered Discretion. The NCAA wants to give nothing to the player. Nothing. Not even benefits which Judge Bybee called, “tethered to education.”

And take a quick look at Arne Duncan, and Amy Perko at Knight Commission. Major-league fail. They’ve decided — willy-nilly, within in a quick two-week turnaround in December (realizing that their entire organization was, well, just WAY off the curve) — to support going to get a Congressional bill!  Might they have first asked the NCAA a quick simple question?: ‘Hey, why have you not enacted the “tethered to education” standard which the federal courts told you to? What’s so bad about that?’

Knight Foundation’s Free Money is Always Spent on Big-Foot, Big-Dollar Schools

But no, both Duncan and Perko have round heels, and forgot their roots, which are what I call Free Money Roots.  Knight is one of those odd entities: operating costs (including those for an executive director’s salary) keep magically getting covered every single year! By a non-profit foundation! It’s ALL FREE MONEY!

Player’s Bill? NCAA Bill? — Knight Just Doesn’t Really Know

But Duncan and Perko — as Perko made plain at the December 17 conference — appear to still be debating as to whether they will support a “NCAA Bill” — or a “Player’s Bill”!

The NCAA likes a rigged game, and, like Nurse Ratched, is in a snit because the crazies in the asylum have gotten cranky. This — however degraded, if not perverse — does not come close to the Knight Commission’s failure: Duncan and Perko, of Knight Commission, actually think that their endless pot of Knight family money might reasonably be employed to support the behemoth schools — hundreds of them — with billions and billions of dollars of athletic and academic resources – rather than the, perhaps, 20,000 basketball and football ‘Revenue’ players who fund the raging athletic businesses at their schools.

Knight Commission Likes a Rigged Game

Duncan and Perko, and Knight need to take a closer look, to check whether they might be wasting their money on these issues. I’d expect Mark Emmert and the NCAA to like a rigged game. But Duncan and Perko: do you really want to prop up a rigged game? With your annually recurring — free money?

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Bowl Game Football Player? Keep Notes, File a Claim for Services Rendered


For any collegiate football players who plan to participate in one of the season’s many bowl games, consider the following:

1. in 1937, the Pitt football team voted not to go to the bowl game which the athletic department had scheduled for them. The team wanted advance payment (about $3,000, in today’s dollars), and the bowl and athletic department refused. So they didn’t go.

2. Doing that now is too complicated. (It should be done, it’s just too hard to get there.) But you have a simple remedy, especially if you are a senior, or ‘final-year’ player.

3. Keep precise track of all your hours invested, as a part of the bowl ‘trip’ and game. Include notes about travel time, whether on a plane, or travelling to sites around the bowl-area. Anything and everything you do. KEEP TRACK OF EVERY HOUR.

4. Download and keep all memos or written instructions, from the school’s athletic department, coaches, or the bowl, having anything to do with your expected duties, schedule, and arrangements.

Why bother?

Bowls Games are Cruise Ships, Only on Land

There are a number of reasons. Bowls games are Cruise Ships, only on land. And bowl game operators are like cruise ship owner/operators: they hire all the help and entertainment for the football-ship, and then they walk away with big bucks. And you, dear player, are the entertainment. The head of the College Football Bowl Association, apparently one of the greater fluffernutters in a so-called ‘industry’ of fluffernutters, makes more than $200,000 for doing very little. Many of the bowl game CEOs are paid more than $1 million. And, oftentimes, your school is killing it, too. And your labor, dear player, is funding all of this bloat.

And they line you players up for all kinds of duties. There is always a charity event which mandates that the players all show up with either poor kids, or disabled kids, with alot of photographers around. This is all just pandering to the press, to build the bowl game’s name and brand. ‘Appearances,’ they make you do. Some give you a trip to a mall. Treating you like pubescent summer campers, they all give you a little swag.

Here’s the rub: Let’s say you’re a senior or ‘final-year’ player. Maybe you’re someone who is planning to leave school in January (or has already finished.) So you’re no longer a student, and maybe weren’t a student when you played in the bowl game. Or maybe you plan to stay in school for a final, spring semester. Either way, your football career at the school, under the thumb of NCAA, is done. (Any player, senior or otherwise, can send this letter, and make this claim, for services rendered, it’s just that, if you are an underclassman who intends to return to play the following year, the NCAA and the coaches will start endlessly flogging your backside with that thick NCAA Manual.)

Send a Letter Which Contains a Claim for Services Rendered

Basically, when you’re at the bowl game, you’re just a guy, doing stuff — for hire — in a setting where everyone else gets paid for doing stuff, for hire.

So sometime after the game (it doesn’t have to be right away, but it can), file a written claim, in simple letter form. Summarize your services rendered (based upon your careful notes). If you want, attach the documents you’ve collected, which show all your bowl-related assignments. (You don’t have to, you can do it later.) Put it in the mail, certified mail, to the Bowl Game CEO.

What’s your claim? You don’t really need to know too much, and I’m not going to bore you too much. It’s Quantum Meruit or Unjust Enrichment. Both are, more or less, actions for the value of services rendered, and they vary by state. Services you rendered for the Bowl Game Cruise-Ship Operator. Quantum Meruit can be based upon a contract, and sometimes requires a (pre-performance) expectation of payment — so the Bowl guys will all say there never was any such expectation, no contract, whatever. Don’t worry about that — that’s down the road. Unjust Enrichment generally doesn’t require that expectation; you’re just saying that somebody got unjustly rich — because it sure wasn’t you, even though you did alot of work. Don’t worry about the details. Your letter doesn’t need any fancy words.

Just Say This: I am Demanding Reasonable Payment for My Services Rendered

Just say you want reasonable payment for services rendered, and here’s a list of what I did for services. And say that if you don’t hear back within 30 days, you’ll take other action. Don’t worry about the amount now, it might be hourly payment (based, for example, upon market-based standards set in the NFL or elsewhere.) Just say you want reasonable payment for services rendered.

It’ll rock ’em. And, believe me, these bowl game cruise ship guys are all just the kind of flim-flam artists who need a hard hit. A bowl game ain’t no amateurism: it’s a cruise ship.

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LEAD1’s Tom McMillen, Listed in Pedophile Jeff Epstein’s Black Book, Has Some ‘Me-Too’ Issues

Back in 1997, according to the Washington Post, LEAD1 Executive Director Tom McMillen was arrested at 2:45 a.m., on a weekend night in D.C., after his female friend told police that he had pushed her down some stairs as a part of an argument. According to a the Post, “a D.C. police spokesman, Sgt. Joe Gentile, said the woman, whom the arrest report identifies as Judy Niemyer, of Capitol Hill, said that McMillen assaulted her during an argument.” According to the Post, a law enforcement source said the woman said she was pushed down stairs. When law enforcement arrived, according to the Post, they “found a 37-year-old woman “bleeding and bruised.” McMillen apparently was held for “about 12 hours,” and was then released.


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LEAD1’s Tom McMillen Listed in Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s Black Book



Today billionaire Jeffrey Epstein pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to charges that, between 2002 and 2005, he sexually abused a number of underage girls at New York and Florida locations. In a raid of his New York property (one of his many homes, in Florida, on a private Caribbean Island, and other locations), authorities seized new lewd photos of underage girls, some labeled with names of both the girl involved, and the male also pictured. Epstein remains incarcerated.

Epstein is an old friend of Donald Trump’s. In a New York magazine profile, Trump said about Epstein: “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Also released today was a copy of Epstein’s ‘Little Black Book,‘ containing a book containing of many of his Epstein’s key contacts, with whom he would pal around in New York and Florida. (This apparently surfaced because one of Epstein’s former aides had given to authorities.) Within that black book were listed the names of a number prominent people. Included, at page 80, is C. Thomas McMillen, current CEO of LEAD1, a private trade group consisting of 129 athletics directors at NCAA Division 1 schools in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). (Just below that entry is also one for a Thomas C. McMillen, which might be the same person.)

Trump and McMillen go way back, although McMillen has given conflicting accounts as to how long. In January 2019, Trump told Maryland Matters, that “I’ve known him about 40 years.” But McMillen had told the Post in 2017 that it had been 30 years – a version given as McMillen booked Trump’s Washington hotel for a posh LEAD1 gala. It’s a great venue,” McMillen had said, about the Trump hotel. “It’s large, it’s got capacity and obviously I’ve had relations with the president-elect for 30 years.”

According to the post, “McMillen said he saw nothing wrong with booking Trump’s ­hotel at a time when his group is seeking to build political relationships.” “I’m sure [George]Washington had conflicts, too,” McMillen offered.” Washington had “tons of land in the western frontier, so he had tons of conflicts,” McMillen explained.“It was an interesting time. Real estate is a tough thing because you can’t sell it, and I think back to presidents that had great wealth.” (Full video is here.)


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Call It What It Is: NCAA Anti-Transfer Rule is a Player’s Personal Death Penalty

 The Player’s Ever-Looming Death Penalty

Families, players, fans, and the NCAA all celebrate the recruit’s signing of the NLI, but few recognize that the NLI ‘sit-out’ penalty for transfer will immediately and daily loom over that player as a personalized potential Death Penalty — almost identical to, and just as savage as, the Death Penalty the NCAA can use to shut-down a sport at a member school.

But the stark differences between the two Death Penalties show that the Player’s Penalty is more burdensome. The School Death Penalty is once-in-a-generation’ (not imposed for, now, more than three decades); the Player’s is imposed upon hundreds, if not thousands of ‘student-athletes’ – every year. (According to NCAA data, for example, 40% of D-1 basketball players leave their original school by their sophomore year.) And the last School Death Penalty, imposed upon SMU in 1987, was based upon repeated, knowing, intentional, and egregious bad conduct (including large under-the-table payments to players); in contrast, the Player’s Death Penalty is imposed for doing what hundreds of thousands of U.S. students do every year: transfer to another school. (Only in the wacky NCAA world could anyone argue that transfer is really bad.) And, because football and basketball careers are precarious and short, the player’s mandated two-year sit-out (one year out of competition, combined with a loss of one year of eligibility) inflicts upon him a whopping, long-term economic disadvantage: as one year of a dog’s life is seven years of a human life, so also might one year of a player’s athletic career be the equivalent of seven years of a more conventional one. The body wears out, and professional opportunities beyond college are relatively rare. (Contrast these athletes with professional golfers, which often have careers spanning forty years.) Using this rough equivalency, a one-year player ‘sit-out’ penalty lasts a walloping seven career-years.

That Ain’t No Letter of Intent

Before explaining the other factors which make this Player’s Death Penalty so outrageously onerous, though, a quick word about the NCAA’s bad faith in designing the Penalty. First, the document which creates it – the National Letter of Intent – fundamentally deceives the player as to its essential function and title. It is not a letter of intent. It is a Non-Compete Agreement, so very valuable to the NCAA and its members, because it works as an immediate Player ‘Lock-Down,’ so that he cannot go elsewhere to immediately compete. And the NCAA’s euphemistic name for the player’s pay — the ‘Athletic Scholarship’ — aims to fundamentally trick him into believing the pure fiction that it is not pay. It is Athletic Scrip-Pay; effectively, a coupon, which he presents at the school’s ‘company-store,’ to purchase academic service.

The power of this player Death Penalty is multiplied because: 1) unlike most Non-Compete Clauses, it takes effect many months before the player even shows up for ‘work,’ or receives any pay; and 2) the unique constraints of the player’s Athletic Scrip-Pay create for him a variant of the old sharecropper’s dilemma: he can leave by transferring but, if he does, his income will immediately cease, after which he will have few assets or savings accumulated from his labors with which, while seeking other arrangements, he can support himself and his family. The sharecropper’s dilemma was, in fact, less onerous because, pockets and accounts empty, he could at least venture down the road to immediately make a new arrangement with another landowner; in contrast, during the player’s sit-out, his school-issued scrip is useless for purchases elsewhere, he has no income, and he must pay out-of-pocket for substantial costs at his new school.

The Threat-of-Player-Death-Penalty is the Coach’s Main Billy Club

And this threat of player Death-Penalty-for-transfer operates as the school’s Big Billy Club, which daily looms over college basketball and football players, and is used by coaches, day-by-day, to impose upon the player the thousands of NCAA and athletic department rules and regulations, and every coach whim. (That coach power is enlarged by the coach’s unfettered discretion to ‘non-renew’ what are still, usually, one-year, ‘renewable’ player athletic scholarships.)

It is as if, when the player signs the NLI, a Billy Club icon is inserted at the margin of each paragraph of the NCAA Manual, the NLI and Student Athlete Statement, the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, and any other athletic department rules, to reflect the reality that the threat-of-Death-Penalty Billy Club will be wielded by coaches and other management, each well aware that the player’s only option, if faced with an objectionable order, instruction, or decision as to playing time, position assignment — or even unsafe practice or directive – will be to transfer, and immediately submit to the NLI’s two-year Death Penalty. “Leave if you don’t like my decision or order,” any coach can be heard to say to the player, “ and we both know you’ll be up a creek, without a paddle.”

(The arbitrariness and power of this Player’s Death Penalty is further illustrated by imagining if school and player roles were reversed, by having no NLI in operation, so that the school would be forced to petition to prove that a particularly valuable player should not be allowed to transfer. Good luck with that one.)

By Itself, the Player Death Penalty Should Establish Employment Status

The NLI’s Lock-Down, and the enforcement Billy-Club which its transfer-bar creates, so significantly suppresses the value of the player’s labor, that it serves as a linchpin of the entire NCAA cartel. And, by itself, the Lock-Down represents such a walloping forfeiture of the player’s right to freely engage in commerce or education as an adult Economic Man, as to form the basis for a finding of player employment status. And because its constraints fall so disproportionately upon: 1) African-Americans; and 2) students below the age of 22, the NLI’s sit-out Death Penalty should serve as a solid foundation for both age and race discrimination actions.

The threat-of-Death-Penalty Billy Club is the coach’s primary tool in his tool box — which explains why the NCAA has just issued more stringent anti-transfer controls, and why the NCAA will never eliminate the tool — without being forced to.

Copyright 2019 Wm Wilson

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How the Knight Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is Like the Ford Foundation, But Alot Worse

The Knight Foundation on Intercollegiate Athletics purports to be an agent for change in college sports. Yes, that college sports which now, after the basketball indictments and trials, has no idea who’s corrupt, and who’s not.

Knight is hardly an agent for change. They are all really nice people. But they don’t get the basic facts about college athletics. They continually assemble fat-cat bureaucrats, to scratch heads together. Everyone at the Knight Foundation is well-paid, and the attendees are well paid — all well into the silk-tie stage of bureaucratic ponderousness which can only persist if everyone has a really good salary and pension.

Back in the ’50’s and ’60’s, the Ford Foundation (at the time, the largest charitable foundation in the world) was alot like Knight Foundation, throwing mountains of money at Milton Friedman and his ‘Chicago School,’ of economists, who were running around South America, encouraging dictators like Chile’s Pinochet, but other autocrats and neo-liberal fascists, who wanted the poor to assume a larger portion of their countries’ debts. And Ford was, with its multi-millions, funding all those dictators and neo-liberals. The figurative and literal carnage was staggering. Corpses everywhere, both human and governmental.

Ford thought they had been doing good, but they finally figured it out, in the 1970′ –, that all the millions of dollars they had so charitably thrown around at these neo-liberals was destroying people and economies, in part because Ford had failed to make their millions flow to anyone other than rich people who held the power.

Knight Foundation is pre-1970’s Ford Foundation. Amy Perko, a great person, with good intentions, and also her employer Knight Foundation, have failed to finally understand that the same kind of radical re-ordering of the Knight Foundations is required. It’s time to end the habit of inviting fat-cat lobbyists like Tom McMillen, or other bureaucrats, to attend meetings. It’s time, just as Ford Foundation did it, to start throwing the money at the sector which is getting screwed: the (primarily black) players who have no agent, no union, no pension, no health coverage, no workers’ comp  — but who are the beasts of burden for the production of what is now something like $8 billion annually.  The little guy needs huge help.

First example? Ramogi Huma, who has been laboring with few resources, and quietly and respectfully, for the interests of the big-time college athlete who gets ripped off by so many of those on the Knight Board, should be a board member. Or try Colin Kaepernick, whose presence might do a whole lot more than some board member from some irrelevant Div 3 school.  Knight should be funding Andy Schwarz’ HBCU effort to set up some alternative to the pathological NCAA big-time sports model, and put Schwarz on its Board. Knight should be funding Ann McKee, and her BU Concussion. Try David Ridpath of the Drake Group, who knows from personal experience how convoluted, if not sinister, the NCAA enforcement process is for those characters who are, unlike big-time coaches and administrators, lacking in any political or financial heft.

In the 1960’s, the Ford Foundation spent a miniscule portion of its budget on human rights, and much of its spending went to funding academics who did studies; by the 70’s and 80’s, Ford did a U-Turn, and decided to spend a mammoth $30 million on grass roots human rights work in Latin America; as Naomi Klein summarized, “in the mid-70’s, Ford transformed itself from a producer of ‘technical expertise’ for the … Third World, to its role as a leading funder of human rights activism.”

Knight’s spending and operational priorities show that the organization fails to understand the central tension in college sports, which is the same one Marvin Miller confronted when he was hired (at zero salary) in 1967, to try to gin-up some union protections for MLB players: the owners have all the power and money. Now, the NCAA school-owners have all the power and money.  And it’s awful easy, if you’re Amy Perko, or other Knight people, to just work with and support all those really nice, and well-dressed bureaucrats who now live off of basketball and football millions generated primarily by black players who have almost zero voice.

And, though the status of current D-1 football and basketball players is probably worse than that of the MLB players who Miller pulled out of the economic gutter after 1967, Knight Foundation has done little to help the underclass in a college sports business model which generates some $8-10 BILLION per year. Yet Knight operates as though the raging riot of commerce which is today’s college sports is not much different that it was back in the early 1990’s.

Knight, right now, wastes its time and money. It needs to be a radical agent for change.

First agenda item?:  SAFETY FIRST.  Long-term health coverage for football players who are stunt men for the public’s pleasure. And: Non-Negotiable.

Knight’s main problem? Nobody there is pissed off.

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Maryland Football Needs a Player-Safety Rep, and Safety Punchlist

Jordan McNair died a year ago. Maryland football had a month to get ready for the practice at which he collapsed (the first practice of the summer), and they screwed it up, by failing to have on premises an ice bath which would have quickly solved McNair’s heat exhaustion symptoms.

Since the McNair investigations were completed, several factors have been left dangling:

New Maryland Statute

The state of Maryland just passed a statute which requires that each university “develop a system whereby their student-athletes can express concerns about what is happening on their team to somebody outside of the athletic department.” The details of such a system are left wide open.

Player Safety Representative

That ‘system’ should include a Player Safety Representative, selected by the Maryland football team, who can represent player interests, and “express concerns about” safety matters, consistent with the statute’s mandate.

 Funding for Player Safety Rep

That system should also, consistent with the statute, include a budget allocation, to provide funding to allow the Maryland Player Safety Rep to: a) have his own paid ‘Safety Quality Control’ advisor, available on a part-time, on-call basis, perhaps drawn from the University’s schools of medicine or kinesiology; and b) retain other independent sources to advise on specific issues. (Such costs are precisely the kind of expenses “tethered to education” which the recent O’Bannon and Alston decisions have encouraged.)

First-Practice Safety Punchlist

There were five — not one, but five — athletic trainers on the field when Jordan McNair collapsed. The subsequent independent report by Trainer Walters was so amateurish and disorganized (no freshman English prof would have accepted its structure and editing) — but also lacking in any background or reference to common industrial risk-prevention procedures —  that it is hard to tell what changes will actually be in effect when Maryland football starts in again, here on this one-year anniversary of McNair’s death.

Walters and Maryland should have devised a simple, step-by-step, brand-new safety paradigm, for use by every Big Ten school.

In the vacuum left by Walters, I will suggest a simple first step: publication and use of a First-Practice Safety Punchlist. This is hardly a novel notion, having long been in use in construction and other high-risk trades: a safety expert reviews every risk, and every risk-reducing action, equipment, or personnel, and signs off on the review. (And the punchlist itself should be devised with input from the Player Safety Rep.)

Just Imagine

The preservation of the student-athlete in higher education adds richness and diversity to intercollegiate athletics and is entirely consistent with the goals of the Sherman Act,” (Regents vs. NCAA, 1984) 

If the five trainers on the field one year ago had been required to consult with a Player Safety Rep, and then use, and sign-off on, a thorough Safety Punchlist, before any practice could be held:

Jordan McNair would still be alive.

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Zion Williamson’s Nike-Shoe Implosion: Scams and Player Safety

Thirty seconds into Duke’s game with UNC last night, Duke freshman star Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury. But this was no run-of-the-mill knee injury: Williamson’s Nike PG 2.5 PE shoe just blew up: the video showed that the right sole separated entirely from the upper.

The incident illustrates a recurring theme in college sports: NCAA amateurism creates, for D-1 football and basketball players, an unacceptable risk to player safety and long-term career earnings. It also highlights the role of NCAA and apparel-supplier scams used to fool the public about the economic realities behind such apparel-supply arrangements.
Why was Williamson, for example — a player with a career earning potential in the $100s of millions — wearing a cheap $110 shoe?

Williamson’s Job as a Nike-Promoter

“Contract Factory Partners” and “Contract Promoter Partners”: Nike makes nothing, and owns no factories. It is a for-profit middleman. Two primary categories of entities produce for Nike: a) “Contract Factory Partners.” [Nike’s own label.] These are the many factories, owned by non-Nike, foreign entities, with whom Nike contracts to produce the shoes and apparel; b) Contract Promoter Partners [my label]. These are the many colleges and universities, publicly or privately owned, with whom Nike contracts to produce the advertising for the shoes and apparel Nike distributes.

Each of these Partners employ their own workforce. Factory Partners tend to employ underpaid foreign workers, so that Nike per-shoe costs remain artificially low; Promoter Partners employ their own workforce, using unpaid ‘amateur’ college players, so that Nike per-shoe advertising costs remain artificially low. (Nike use of these intermediary ‘partners’ also shields the company from liability for employment or product-defect claims.)
Two falsehoods — scams — operate to hide the reality of these commercial arrangements, by fooling the public consumer of shoes and apparel, and college sports commerce.

Scam #1: Nike actually makes the product

Scam #2: Nike Merely ‘Supports’ Duke, with ‘Free’ Product

Scam #2 uses a falsehood upon which both Nike and its Promoter Partners — the universities — heavily rely: that shoes and apparel are provided by Nike to the school for ‘free,’ because Nike merely wants to “support” the school. See, for example, this excerpt from UNC’s 2018 Nike contract. (Duke won’t release its presumably similar contract.):

“Nike desires to support the [UNC] Intercollegiate athletic programs by supplying athletic footwear and other products for use in its Intercollegiate athletic programs.”

This is like telling your friend that you bought a new $50,000 pickup truck because you ‘desire to support’ the truck dealer. Nike purchases, for substantial sums (including both cash and in-kind payment), extraordinarily valuable promotion services offered by each school. This is a purely commercial transaction, and Nike’s shoes and apparel are not ‘free’ to the school, because the school, in return, must provide promotion services.
But there’s more to it than that, because the transaction between Nike and Duke (or other schools) employs two other scams to conceal the essence of the Contract Factory and Contract Promoter commercial arrangements:

Scam #3: The School is Selling its Promotional Services

Duke does not sell its promotional services to Nike. Instead, the school is selling-off a major, cherished piece of its NCAA-defined ‘amateurism’: its Institutional Control over the player. The school doesn’t provide promotional services; the player does. But the school controls that player — and it is that control which Duke sells-off, when it enters into its Promoter-Partner contract with Nike.

Scam #4: The Coach Provides Honest Services for His Nike-Pay

The Coach purports to provide services for the pay he receives from Nike (or the school’s contract with Nike). Sure, his services are ‘fluffed-up’ by both parties to the contract, using lofty terms like “ambassador for the brand,” or “advisor” — or even camp counselor (Nike and coaches run summer camps.) This is nonsense, because the coach is being paid to also sell-off (and get rich from) the same thing which the school sells-off: his control over the player. (The 2014 contract between Adidas and former head coach Pitino, for example, mandated that he “require” his players to wear Adidas; in 2017, the Michigan basketball player was provided with Nike ‘travel’ shoes, only after affirming this statement: “I understand that this is a team-issued travel shoe that I am expected to wear.”) Nike has even built a ‘Coach K’ fitness center at its Oregon headquarters, presumably to insure that Duke and Coach K will stick with Nike — and that Coach K will continue to require that his players wear Nike.
So Zion Williamson is required to wear the Nike shoe handed to him by his ‘employer’ — Duke — which has previously sold its control over him to Nike. And Nike wants him to wear a relatively cheap shoe, which would be worn by the average, non-superstar kid or consumer, so that the average consumer will buy that shoe. This is like requiring Barnum and Bailey’s best trapeze artist to perform on a back-yard swing set. Every shoe worn by Zion Williamson (or other D-1 basketball or football player) should be the best basketball shoe which can be made — and subject to, before use, thorough, relentless — and transparent — product safety-and-fitness testing. Zion’s shoes apparently weren’t.
Duke, Coach K, and Nike have all, without excuse, other than conflicting financial self-interest, failed Zion Williamson — and unnecessarily endangered, once again, the health, safety, and career earning-prospects of the very D-1 basketball or football player who provides the promotion Nike cherishes.

Mandate that Shoe Companies Provide Loss-of-Value Coverage for D-1 Basketball and Football Players

So what can be quickly and easily done? First, remember that, no matter what silliness you’re told, NCAA amateurism is not a purely ‘no-pay’ amateurism. The NCAA bylaws say that any player benefit, pay, or special arrangement is perfectly fine if “expressly authorized by NCAA legislation.” The NCAA can vote to allow each player to be provided with candelabras, or pickup trucks, if it wants.
Zion Williamson got hurt not just while wearing a shoe provided for the commercial profit others enjoyed: the cause of Williamson’s injury was the shoe. He provides the promotion, with no pay; he should not be required to assume all the cost of injury — particularly where Nike’s shoe apparently caused it. NCAA legislation should be immediately passed to require that any D-1 school shoe or apparel contract include a provision mandating that the shoe or apparel provider fund loss-of-value insurance for any basketball or football player. What’s so difficult about that?

Copyright William Wilson 2019

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The Two Unrecognized NCAA Sports Stories of 2018

Big time college athletics are in a state of flux. Judge Wilkens’ decision in the Alston case, which might soon issue, could be game-changing. The federal wire fraud indictments, once all resolved, might cause schools and coaches to more slavishly adhere to the prissy constraints, outlined by NCAA bylaws, which have so commonly been ignored. But some other events cast a new light upon the end result of the Northwestern football organizing effort, in which the regional office deemed the football player an employee, but the Board declined, due to “labor stability” questions, to assert jurisdiction, and dismissed the petition.

Two sets of events might give clues as to how current players can significantly increase their current authority, voice, and power:

In the spring of 2018, a wave of teacher activism erupted out of nowhere. In West Virginia, teachers tired of years without a raise, deteriorating school infrastructure, and deaf ears they had repeatedly encountered at the state legislature, staged a nine-day walkout, and  eventually gained a 5 per cent pay raise. In Oklahoma, teacher agitation led to the state legislature approving a teacher raise, and significant increases in school funding. The movement spread west to Arizona, and Colorado. All in all, there have been six states where teachers have walked-out, or threatened to: Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia. Those are all weak union states.


Two years ago, student workers at Grinnell College, a private school in Grinnell, Iowa, formed their own Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers. By December of 2018, they were faced with a decision-by-ballot, as to whether to strike for better wages and benefits. The vote narrowly failed, but the union committed to push for its aims through negotiation with the college.

The entire body of student dining workers, at campuses across the U.S., is not a weak union. It is no union at all. None. There have been — at least until Grinnell students changed things — no undergraduate student collective bargaining efforts. (Every other union-organizing effort on campus had been either at the faculty or graduate-student level.)


Before you click away from this post: yes, this is about NCAA college sports, because these two scenarios whisper two things to big-time college athletes:

Organizing to gain power does not require a union

The teacher movements were all undertaken without much union representation or action. Some of them required no such union involvement. These were largely completely grassroots, email, or facebook groups of affected employees. The campaigns were at little or no cost. They spread like wildfire. And they had extraordinary impact.

Undergraduate students who perform non-academic work can organize under state or federal statutes.

Private educational institutions are subject to the federal NLRA statute; public entities are subject to state collective bargaining laws. Both can logically be applied to students who happen to do other work on campus — like those student dining hall workers on the Grinnell campus.  Or — like college football and basketball players.

The lesson?: Power 5 ‘revenue’ basketball and football players need to:

Form a facebook or other online group (to which admission is gained by showing bona fide status), to merely exchange information, and bounce questions around. Simple, without administrative infrastructure — just as, for example, a 23-year old teacher in Arizona formed the Arizona Educators United, on Facebook, which exploded into a major vehicle for state-wide communication among Arizona teachers. Power 5 revenue athletes need a similar online forum.

Consider attempts to organize athletes as student workers, just as the Grinnell undergraduate dining workers did.

Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers . . . Union of Power 5 Student Football and Basketball Workers . . .

Arizona Educators United . . . Power 5 Football and Basketball Workers United . . .




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