Player-Sustainability and Duke-Miami: Curb Injuries by Promoting the Forgotten Underhand Pass

The ‘forward pass’ – an over-the-top throw — revolutionized football in 1910, and has dominated it since. During the ensuing centur — the zany Duke-Miami last-minute play reminds us, football has forgotten the other pass — the underhanded lateral.


The ACC suspended the refs for blowing several different calls during that play. Duke coach David Cutcliffe proposes the radical notion that the game outcome be changed, because of those refereeing errors. I’ll leave these issues to others, and focus on the neglected lessons from that game.

First, if the referees were confused and unprepared, I guess I don’t blame them. But, if they were, shouldn’t Duke’s Cutcliffe, one of the brighter, more open-minded college coaches, also recognize that almost any opponent is going to be confused by any repeat-lateral play? — and that his team should begin using those plays on a regular basis?

Second, that play, along with the famous Stanford band play, shows us that:

a) every fan loves the repeat lateral play;

b) those two plays were different, not just because of the laterals, but because the players had to adopt different spacing. To advance with repeat laterals, the players automatically spread out.

c) that spacing then automatically decreases the current need for beefy, blow-away blocks, and increases the need for foot-speed and catching (hand/eye coordination.)
As a ripe example, then, the nasty Ricardo Lockette NFL hit on Sunday might actually have been less likely to have occurred, if the game were tweaked to increase the frequency of lateral plays. Jeff Heath (the Dallas player who hit Lockette) might have been more focussed on positioning to receive a lateral, rather than looking to level an opponent with a block.

The wider spacing which the Miami players automatically adopted on that last play is, I might guess, a phenomenon which both college and pro leagues should encourage, because it will help decrease injuries by opening up the play, encouraging foot speed and catching ability, and decreasing the emphasis on brute-force blocking.

So the leagues need to explore methods to promote such lateral-repeating plays. One way might be to limit substitutions, so that endurance and lighter players become more valuable.

This is an argument that limited substitutions, and promotion of lateral-based plays, should be adopted, not just because ‘speed sells’ (perhaps as much as violent hits), but, more importantly, to decrease injuries and promote safety. Bring back the forgotten underhanded pass.

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How the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Has Jumped the Shark

The Knight Commission has: 1) ignored the”intercollegiate sports” club-sport “student-athlete,” and 2) allocated its time and resources to largely ignore the interests of the big-time “student-athlete.” Both these sectors — the club sport and ‘big-time’ student athlete need representation at, and direct support from the Knight Commission, along with a place in its agenda-setting. 


The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, established in 1989, has a mission explicitly focused on “intercollegiate athletics” and the “student-athlete.”  It’s home web page declares that its goal is to “to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities.”

But the Commission has, in many ways, lost sight of the predominant part of this defined mission, by adopting, whole-cloth, like a captive subsidiary, the NCAA’s primary de facto — and myopic — goal: the “integration” of the big-time Power 5 “student-athlete” with the student body. This narrow goal, which makes manifest the NCAA’s desperation to try to save itself from its own baser impulse to “segregate” that “student-athlete,” runs in only one direction, and ignores the predominant majority of “student-athletes” on campus. The Knight Commission, according to its defined mission, must also spend much of its time and work on “integrating” the “ordinary” non-scholarship student-athlete into athletic pursuits.

Unless the Knight people redefine that mission, they need to immediately re-allocate their manpower and resources to promote and protect “club sports” at every college and university. Club sports — according to every definition, including those generated by Knight — are “intercollegiate athletics,” involving, at every campus, “student-athletes,” and are, therefore, central to the Knight mission — though you could never tell from the Knight Commision’s spending, or their publicly-sponsored events.

It appears that few at Knight understands this. As a result, Knight has been preoccupied with — and its substantial resources have been often wasted on — entertaining and even sponsoring discussions which are dominated by the fabulously-paid colleges sports business managers who run college conferences, and the ‘big-time’ schools of the Power 5 (and other conferences) — all of which dwell in great detail upon how the billions of dollars of gross income ought be spent on all the “scholarship” sports,” to insure that they are properly “integrated.”

But never a word about club sports…

Knight Commission administrators, all of whom are well-intentioned, have missed probably the predominant portion of their assigned task:  to protect and promote those college students who play college ‘club’ sports. The Knight endowment, according to the strict terms of its mission, should be much more actively advocating to promote spending of some fair portion of the mammoth sums received by universities for ‘big-time’ athletic live and TV contests, on club sports. As Tom Farrey has so aptly identified — when he presented at the Knight Commission’s own proceedings in 2014 — youth sports participation has declined; his more nuanced, but spot-on point was that the “chase for athletic scholarships,” in the small, non-revenue sports, at a very early, even elementary school age, has exploded, and has been dominated by (predominantly white) upper-class kids whose parents have the resources to purchase training and access for their children.  This, as Farrey says, does not “necessarily serve the public health,” which therefore might suggest that the “small sports,” which have developed as scholarship avenues for so many upper class white kids, do not serve the Knight mission. By this logic, one might even argue that Knight ought open up their discussion to the question as to whether this “chase for college scholarships” ought to be abandoned, and — as an alternative — universities should stop awarding small sport scholarships, and work to beef up club sports venues, competitions, and participation — none of which require scholarship.

If you need a concrete example, look at former AD David Brandon’s decisions at Michigan: 18 months ago, he endorsed (as did the Regents) a $250 million expansion of “small-sport” stadiums and facilities — all the while requiring that the rehabilitation of the CCRB (the mid-campus student recreational -fitness facility) must be accomplished by a new fee to be paid by all students — in a setting where the ‘big-time’ athletics department grosses $150 millions annually! Should the Knight people be entertaining lively discussions about whether that kind of gross revenue ought to robustly support spending on campus recreation and club sports for the ‘common’ non-scholarship student-athlete?

The Knight Commission has jumped the shark. All these million-dollar-per-year fellows who come speak at their conferences need — if we are to take the Knight mission at face valiue – to be asked more serious questions.

The Knight Commission has fallen victim to the same phenomenon which overtakes many of our institutions: the persons and institutions who have money, status and power dominate the debate. And they also dominate the agenda -setting. The Knight people need  to expand their annual agenda-setting, to include this predominant portion of their constituency as defined by the Knights.. The work and the agendas need to expand to promote the integration of the non-scholarship, ‘ordinary’ student into club sports, which also means that Knight should be at the forefront of advocating that a greater portion of big-time sports’ gross revenues be spent on venues and operations for the non-scholarship student’s athletic activity.

But there is one more fundamental aspect to the Knight Commission’s ‘shark-jumping.’ Their administrators appear oblivious to the 120-year history of ‘sector-based’ labor relations, and how it affects the big-time college athlete. I will not contend here that Power 5 athletes certainly are employees, or that they are entitled, presumptively, to coverage under the NLRB; I need only contend that these are reasonable, tenable propositions. And if they are tenable, then the Knight Commmsion has some duty, if it is supposed to promote the welfare of  the sector which is defined as the “student-athlete” in “intercollegiate athletics,”  to provide both a forum and support for that sector as it advances its interests. student-athlete (and other interested parties) in assessing their viability. If that is true, then the Commision needs to promote the availability of legal and agent assistance for all college athletes, and explore issues which arise as that sector evolves alongside the management-dominated business of college athletics.

Because most of the country’s intercollegiate athletes are not on scholarship, Knight needs to shift its agendas to address and promote the “integration” of club sports with all students. And Knight needs to expand its discussions to insure that its resources and agenda include protecting the “sector-based” (and largely ignored) interests of the ‘big-time’ college athlete.

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What is the First and Most Important First Question Every NCAA Recruit Should Ask, In Writing?

Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffered a season-ending ACL injury during his last collegiate season in the fall of 2014. Until that injury, he had been projected as consensus first-round NFL draft pick.. Because he was eventually drafted in the 7th round, and, as a result, lost millions, he has recently recovered $3 million on a ‘loss-of-value’ insurance policy which he had purchased before the 2014 season. Apparently, Oregon paid for some portion of this policy.

Ekpre-Olomu is allegedly the first player to ever recover on one of these ‘loss-of-value’ policies, but that fact does not suggest that these policies — which are expensive, with premiums ranging between $60,000 and $80,000 — are an unnecessary waste. In fact, the opposite is true: every college player with NFL potential should carefully consider whether such a policy should be retained. (Policies which reimburse for “permanent  disability” are much cheaper, but usually even more difficult to use as a foundation for some future payout for injury.)

Ekpre-Olomu’s payout highlights two related, important issues:

  1. NCAA bureaucrats, and college administrators and coaches typically argue that paying players as employees would be impossible, due to the alleged impossibility of distinguishing pay differentials between players of differing value, or even of different positions. But those same coaches and AD’s are the very ones who are making those very kinds of distinctions when they decide which of their players will receive money from the school to pay for, or help pay for, such loss-of-value policies. (Texas Tech and many other schools have paid the entire cost for one or more of their players..)
  2. More importantly, Ekpre-Olomu’s predicament, coverage, and recovery highlight the completely ignored First Question Every  Recruit Should Ask (of every school, by email, in writing):

    Please send me a thorough written description as to the precise terms of every policy of insurance — along with a sample copy of each such policy —  which the school agrees to provide me, if I choose to attend. 

Recruiting typically emphasizes flashy ‘bling’ factors, and coaches just love to show off the increasingly lavish facilities. But facilities are way down the list of items about which a recruit should be concerned. The Recruit’s #1 concern, particularly in football, should be defining in great detail the nature and extent of insurances offered by — and paid for by — the school — and those coverages vary widely from school to school.

The offer and acceptance of a ‘grant-in-aid’ is a business transaction, and the recruit needs to make the decision based upon carefully evaluating which school will pay (“cover”) him the most.

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What Harbaugh Should’ve Said About MSU Game: Botched Punt Was ‘My Bad’

Blake O’Neil’s botched punt was not the primary, major mistake which led to Michigan’s clock-expired loss to Michigan State. (I’m leaving out of all this, for now, the preposterous targeting call which ejected Michigan Capt. Joe Bolden early in the second quarter — that’s a whole ‘nuther topic.)

I am a huge fan of Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh, but he muffed the post-game press conference by failing — as a matter of decency — to make a more explicit statement of solid support for his punter, Blake O’Neil. Harbaugh’s a Big-Foot in college football now, and he should have used his bully pulpit to help pull O’Neil ‘up’ a bit, with a broad statement of sympathy and support. (Instead, he said that O’Neil should have “fallen on the ball.”)

But Harbaugh’s bigger muff was his failure to manage the clock appropriately as the game wound down. He appropriately ran down the clock by calling his time-outs, after each play, at the last possible second. But he called the wrong plays, which were straight-ahead plunges into the middle of the line. He should’ve called lateral sweeps, to chew up more time. If each of the three plays consumed two more seconds with such sweeps, the last play would’ve started with just two seconds remaining — at which point Harbaugh could’ve instructed QB Rudock to roll four steps to one side and throw a high arcing “bomb” as far — and as high — as he could. The ball would have been caught, or batted down, after the clock ran out.

As a result, Harbaugh should have not just made a statement of sympathetic support for O’Neil; he should have taken the blame himself.

Harbaugh missed his chance, and his mistake was the major cause of the loss.

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Doing It Right: Colts’ Pagano Should’ve Called 2011 UMaine QB Treister About Play Execution

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How SMU BKB Players Can Make NCAA Pay Attention: ‘Committee of Revenue-Sport Student-Athletes’

SMU Players (and all schools) Need a ‘Committee of Revenue-Sport Student-Athletes’

NCAA President Mark Emmert

NCAA President Mark Emmert

SMU’s basketball players (apparently the entire team) have just issued a joint statement expressing their extreme displeasure with the NCAA’s recent sanctions on Coach Larry Brown and the team, including a ban on post-season play.  Their instincts are good, and one more indication that athletes are increasingly willing to “get out of the boat” and speak out concerning their own interests. (Just as Shabazz at UConn, Si Cyanovic at Illinois, and Kain Colter at Northwestern all courageously “got out of the boat” to speak out.) But the SMU players need to consider several other issues:

1) Challenge the Non-Compete in the NLI, Based upon a change of circumstances: The National Letter of Intent which the players signed includes a Non-Compete Agreement, which precludes immediate transfer, by imposing a one-year “sit-out” penalty if any player chooses to transfer. This is an important, basic building-block of the NCAA’s entire college sports business model, without which that model could not persist. (Yes, I know, Non-competes are usually only used to bind employees, but this is the byzantine, fantasyland of NCAA sports.)

The NCAA allows (it claims), the NCA to be waived if the player’s appeal shows  “extenuating circumstances” — though the NCAA refuses to define which specific circumstances are “extenuating”, and never allows waiver of the NCA based merely upon the imposition of sanctions by the NCAA.

It is not unreasonable to conclude that the NCAA penalties here — the post-season ban — are “extenuating” circumstances: after all, doesn’t a young high school player “commit” with the full expectation that the school will play by the rules? The rule-breaking found by the NCAA here is just the kind of material change in circumstances which could cause a court to “void” the NCA contained in the NLI.

(In fact, the absence of such an NCAA bylaw which would immediately void all NCA’s signed by athletes in the that sport, allowing them to all immediately transfer and play, is proof that the NCAA system is not serious about eliminating ‘cheating.  Such an automatic “release” of NCA restrictions would serve as a severe, strong deterrent against “cheating”, and would probably eliminate the need for the silly “show cause” orders which are now often used to sanction offending coaches, and other silly sanctions.)

I suspect the SMU players don’t want to transfer, if they can help it, but creating the threat of such mass-transfer will increase bargaining power as the players push their cause.

2. Absence of ‘Sector-Based” negotiation and representation: The  central defect in the status of the college athlete is the absence of interest-group, ‘sector-based’ representation and negotiation (which is often, but not always provided by union representation.) Every disadvantage foisted upon the college athlete is one where he has almost no larger membership organization to push for his economic or other  interests — in an era when the NCAA and the individual school are powerful, wealthy, and able to obtain top-drawer legal advice. The revenue-sport athletes have zero “heft”, and are always left to bargain on their own. This is particularly true now, since the NLRB’s craven, entirely unprincipled refusal to assert jurisdiction over the Northwestern case. But the SMU basketball players are not without options:

3. Form a “Committee of Revenue-Sport Student-Athletes”: The NCAA and schools have set up the Student-Athlete Advisory Councils with the intent of diluting, if not completely eliminating, the economic (and moral) power of the approximately 100 players on campus — the basketball and football players — whose work generates staggering income for the school. The SAAC’s usually do not adequately represent the interests of the basketball and football players, and those players need to form a separate “Revenue-Sport Athlete Group” to meet and consider their own interests. (An admittedly oversimplified view of the SAAC is that the interests of the  “Revenue” and “Non-revenue” athletes are often in significant conflict, since the latter sports are funded entirely by the former.)

4. The NLRB applies to SMU, since it is a private school, and the SMU basketball players might consider NLRB certification. 

5. The NCAA’s finding of significant violation means that the SMU basketball program is no longer amateur: Hear me out, this is a novel argument, only because the NCAA’s current enforcement structure is not based in the real world. (In fact, if the NCAA actually wanted powerful, effective enforcement which would surely deter chearing, its bylaws would establish that a finding of major violation mandates an immediate loss of amateur status. Stop and think: does not the NCAA revoke the ‘amateur’ status of the player who is found in significant violation of some bylaw? Why should there not be a parallel sanction for a violating school?)  But, even without such a common-sense NCAA bylaw, SMU players still have a legal argument that they are employees, because the finding of SMU violations caused SMU basketball to lose amateur status, and that, without that ‘amateurism’ protection, the SMU players were employees of SMU, for many purposes, including Social Security, Unemployment, FICA, wage and hour laws, and workers’ compensation.

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How Draymond Green’s Largesse, and the NLRB’s Cowardice, Fail the College Black Athlete

Though I am a die-hard Michigan fan, I am a big believer in Tom Izzo at Michigan State. And I am a huge fan of Draymond Green, a Saginaw native, now of the Golden State Warriors, who has great grit, and is completely down-to-earth. But I’m disappointed in Draymond, who has just announced that he will be donating $3.1 million to MSU athletics. This is not unlike the sharecropper, having left the property some years earlier, where he toiled with no guarantee, no wage, and no accumulated assets, walking back down the road to announce to his former landowner/lessor that he would want to give him, gratis, some of the millions which he has accumulated since he last departed. Draymond does not recognize that he has already, through the course of his four years of service at MSU, donated millions to that school.

But here’s how Draymond’s good-hearted, misguided charitable instincts are related to the NLRB’s recent stunning, cowardly refusal to ‘exercise jurisdiction’ regarding the Northwestern football player’s unionizing efforts. They both reveal the central defect in the entire college football business model: in terms of sector-based bargaining and power, the players are, once again, bereft: left with not just no power, but no basis for aggregating as a sector, or group, to advance and protect their interests. So the ‘little guy’ at the heart of the entire college sports business model continues to grovel at the feet of the new academic/aristocrats who rule the business.

Draymond should take his money, and gather with other wealthy (primarily black) athlete-celebrities, to donate to a non-profit fund which will be used to allow current college athletes to get access to legal counsel which will protect their interests.  (Some of the black Michigan sports giants should join in to found this non-profit: Jalen Rose, Magic, Jeter, Chris Webber, etc. )

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Wrong-Way Goodell: Where I Rate Goodell’s Post-Deflategate Fate

Roger Goodell is like wrong way Roy Riegels, the Cal linebacker/center who picked up a Georgia Tech fumble in the 1929 Rose Bowl, and ran the ball in the wrong direction — toward his own goal line — which he failed to cross only because his own teammate corralled him at the 1-yard line.


Goodell, like Riegels, has similarly set back the NFL’s labor relations field position, in advance of the negotiation of the next CBA, by about 50 or 60 yards, as follows:

1. An ‘Independent’ Investigator is Not an Employee or the Corporation’s Existing Law Firm: The long hard glare of talk show and other publicity has thoroughly exposed for public view the silly trickery associated with the appointment of an “independent” investigation which is, actually, not at all independent, but just conducted by someone who is not an everyday employee. Ted Wells’ investigation was not only completely lacking in independence (since his firm represents the NFL), but was as much of a put-up job as the notorious (and widely ridiculed) “independent” UNC academic investigation conducted by former Governor Bob Martin. This is all to the general good, because it might encourage pro and college sports business managers to stop this trickery, but Goodell has run the NFL backward on this one.

2. A ‘Gate’ as a Lesson-Maker: –– This is Better Than Judge Judy: The NFL has just succeeded in thoroughly convincing the great unwashed masses of NFL viewers (and non-NFL viewers) that no self-respecting corporation or league would ever favor a collective bargaining agreement which excludes completely neutral arbitration — even though the current CBA provides, as Judge Berman made clear, a decidedly un-neutral arbitration framework. The public, in some ways, is now going to be a part of the next CBA negotiation, worried that a “fair” (read: neutral) process must be put in place.

3. The Forgotten Judge Who Ruled in Brady’s Favor: There is a forgotten judge in all this Deflategate chronology, and he was an employee of the NFL. And he ruled in Brady’s favor. This was the referee who discovered that the footballs had briefly, and without explanation, disappeared for some short minute at half-time. He considered his evidence and thought about it quickly. First, he knew the context: that the QB’s had, in 2006, been given much more discretion in selecting the balls to be used while on offense, and that this change had been enacted, if not pushed, by the league, in order to: 1) inflate QB passing performances, and scoring, in order to keep fans entertained; and 2) thereby burnish the ‘superstar’ status of league quarterbacks — to similarly build fan interest, loyalty, and entertainment.

He felt the footballs and, being a fellow who has been around footballs all his life, knew that nothing significant had occurred. Finally, he thought to himself: why in the world would anyone in the NFL want to set up some ready avenue to call into question the integrity of its star quarterback – when there’s no ball-inflation problem? (He may have also thought to himself: there’s more damned pissant midget-wrestling that goes on, minute-by-minute, at these games, and I can’t be chasing after every little dust-puppy.).

So the ref ruled from the bench: No harm, no foul — Play Ball! He didn’t even bother to write a decision — or even mention it to anyone! This so-called deflation ‘problem’, at this first, immediate adjudicative level, didn’t even warrant a second thought from the ref.

4. Rule 46 ‘Conduct Detrimental’ is Going to Get Narrowed at the Next Negotiation: The NFL runs a Glamour Factory, in which it carefully crafts players images to accord with some hard-to-define public expectation. It’s beyond me why the American public apparently badly needs to believe that the fellow who scored two touchdowns last night never misbehaves, but the league certainly not only worries about that, but acts upon it, in the form of loopy, Draconian ‘disciplinary’ decisions by Roger Goodell — all of which all get shot down by Big Foot, much smarter, Federal Judges or independent arbitrators. Players will want, at the next contract talks, to limit the commissioner’s power to discipline to those instances where the criminal law has convicted, while the league will want wide-open commissioner discretion to discipline. By going after Brady, and losing so haplessly, the league has helped move the public toward the player’s side, in favor of imposing some rational limits on that league power.

5. The Public Now Knows that Roger Goodell is a Squirrel in the Headlights, Darting Deperately to-and-fro’, and Chasin’ Dust-Puppies.

This has all not gone well for Goodell the Squirrel, and he’s right now at high risk of getting fatally caught where the rubber meets the road. The public will, at the time of the next CBA negotiation, be ‘at the table’ to an extent not seen since Reagan shut out the air-traffic controllers in ’81 — and that public has been moved to favor the players, through Goodell’s wrong-way, darting-squirrel dashes and dust-puppy chases, while Goodell has run his NFL backward to its own 1-yard line. 

As that ref must’ve asked himself in that locker-room at half time: why in the world would anyone in the NFL want to set up some ready avenue to call into question the integrity of its star quarterback – when there’s no ball-inflation problem?

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Why the Big Ten Conference Needs to Honor Bump Elliott

Bump Elliott is a unique man, solid, with a low center of gravity, a winning smile, and a persona which draws people to him. And

Coach Bump Elliott and All-American halfback Bennie McCrae

Coach Bump Elliott and All-American halfback Bennie McCrae

a fantastic football player, with his brother Pete, on Michigan’s ‘Mad Magicians’ of the late 1940’s.

He also has stronger ties with the more Big Ten schools than any person — academic or athletic — in history. He enrolled in the Marines just before his 1943 high school graduation in Bloomington, Illinois, and was assigned to the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Purdue, where he played halfback and lettered in football, baseball and basketball in 1943-44, before being called up to active duty in China in late 1944.

After the war, he enrolled at Michigan, where he starred as the Big Ten’s most valuable player, and All-American, from 1946 – 1948, on a Fritz Crisler-coached team which some say was Michigan’s best ever.

After graduating, he served as an assistant coach at Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon State, before being appointed head coach at Michigan in 1959, where he served for ten years, winning the 1964 Rose Bowl with a team which included 12 players who would later play in the NFL.

In 1970, he began what would be a 21 year career as Iowa’s Athletics Director, during which time he hired and oversaw perhaps one of the most coaching “trees’ ever generated at one school: Vivian Stringer, Hayden Fry, Olympics coach and legend Dan Gable, Lute Olson, and Dr. Tom Davis.

Bump passed through Purdue, for a year. He was a Michigan legend, as coach and player. And he had perhaps as much impact on Iowa athletics as anyone has ever had while at Iowa.

More important: I don’t know if you will ever find anyone who wouldn’t say that he was top-drawer. He had a knack for gathering fundamentally decent, principled and highly competent people around him. (There’s a great old story about his trip from Ann Arbor by car, to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, to recruit high school phenom quarterback Joe Namath. As the story goes, Bump and an assistant didn’t find Namath at home when they arrived there, and drove downtown, only to have someone point out Joe Namath, sitting on the hood of a car, drinking a beer. Bump never bothered to stop — just turned the wheel around and headed home.)

Bump Elliott was the sun, and people loved being around him. The Big Ten will never see another like him, and needs to recognize his impact, with a Bump Elliott award.

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Knight Comm. Hearings: NCAA Student Rep Gushes That He’s Lucky to Get Invited on the ‘Field Trip’

I write this with some trepidation, since my comments will be seen as critical of a “student” representative to the NCAA.

National – Collegiate – Athletic – Association?” If you had just arrived from Mars, perhaps you might have first guessed, from the name alone, that the NCAA might be some kind of governmental body. It’s not. The NCAA is a voluntary, unincorporated association. And, at least partially because of its professed fealty to its own notion of amateurism, the NCAA is categorized under the Internal Revenue Code as a not-for-profit, and pays no taxes on its income.

Your Martian assessment of the name might also have caused you to deduce that the NCAA members are all of the U.S. college students who play sports, including on-campus intramural and club sports. Or, alternatively, all the college professors who play — or teach — sports. Or, perhaps, even, all of the fans of college sports. None of these guesses would have been correct.

453,447 non-members: In fact, the 1,066 NCAA members are the colleges and universities themselves (and affiliated associations and other educational institutions.) The NCAA cites a “record-level” of 463,202 “student-athletes” who participated in NCAA championship sports in 2012-2013, but none of these “National”-in-scope, “College”-attending, “Athletic”-types is allowed to be a member of this “Association” called the NCAA. That makes 453,447 non-members.

The NCSMA — National Collegiate Sports Managers’ Association?: The NCAA framework does include limpid ‘student-athlete advisory committees’ on each campus, meant “to provide insight as to the student-athlete experience” and “input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes’ lives.” But those players are not only denied membership status; they have long been deprived of significant voting or decision-making authority, and serve on those committees as unpaid volunteers. The NCAA leaders even, apparently, put a ‘muzzle’ on these SAAC students; according to one SAAC member in 2014, the NCAA wanted “to filter any and everything we say/do,” monitored SAAC members’ social media accounts, and required that all reporters contact the NCAA before speaking with any SAAC members. Probably as a direct result of rising public and player outcry about NCAA exploitation of athletes, along with the numerous legal actions which now threaten the NCAA’s structure and hegemony, in late 2014 it created a forty-person governing Division I Council, which includes, for the first time, three students with voting rights.  Also, in February 2015, the NCAA’s Division I Council recommended the creation of seven new standing committees, with each committee having one voting student representative, drawn from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

This is the context. At the May 19, 2015 Knight Commission gathering in Washington, there appeared one Kendall Spencer, who apparently is the head person for the national SAAC. It is not clear how he achieved this status; nor is it exactly clear whether he has been, during this past school, a ‘student-athlete’, since internet entries suggest that he last competed as a track and field athlete for the University of New Mexico during the 2013-2014 school year.

I will assume that Mr. Spencer was, at the time he delivered his remarks, a ‘student-athlete.’ But I will nonetheless suggest that Mr. Spencer fell somewhat short of his duty in these circumstances. He appears a hale and well-met fellow, with felicitous instincts toward those with whom he has encounters.

But Mr. Spencer — who is, by any measure, an adult, fully capable of conducting his own affairs, and the affairs of others who he purports to represent — approached these serious affairs in Washington as a mere ingenue, thrilled to have garnered the attention and even grace of those NCAA higher-ups who have allowed him into their rarified rooms. Here is Mr. Spencer, gushing: this is “Great — the student-athlete gets to know what goes on behind the scenes. This is great!”

Mr. Spencer spewed more platitudes: [we need to] “Help our student-athletes get the most that they can out of their college experience,” and then offered that [we are] “really looking at our SAAC committees.”

Then, in a burst of truthfulness, Spencer admitted that the SAAC committees are “focused on community service.”

Drilling down, as they say, Spencer then boldly suggested that “we’re looking at an overall changing model,” and “focusing on that education piece.”

This is the national head of the Student Advisory Committee at the NCAA.  The performance, for anyone with intimate knowledge of both the history of the NCAA and sector-based bargaining, was appalling, as if Mr. Spencer was thrilled merely to have brought along on a sixth-grade field trip.

Fortunately, I was not the only one listening to him who was offended to this ‘Gidget Goes to Washington’ attitude displayed by the NCAA player’s one representative at the Knight hearings: one woman, during the time allotted afterward for audience questions, arose and asked Mr. Spencer, in so many words, whether he would take any position on any issue at all?

Mr. Spencer, it appears, did no preparation at all for his speech at this national gathering, and got up and tried to bullshit the attendees. Contrast this presentation with the one given by Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, with whom I have many disagreements on issues of substance, which reflected not only Swarbrick’s fine intelligence, but the fact that he respected his national audience by giving them an extremely thorough, but also well-organized and very well-reasoned  presentation.

And Spencer came to the dais with a fundamental shortcomings: he represents the non-revenue sport athlete. If the NCAA were in the habit of dealing from the top of the deck (which it is not), it would have insured that a “revenue” player — whose performance effort is at the hub of the NCAA’s multi-billion dollar empire — would be designated as the SAAC national head. Mr. Spencer, as a non-revenue player, staked out no positions on any of the many pressing issues which are forcing change upon the NCAA. Perhaps Mr. Spencer should recommend someone like Simon Cvijanovic of Illinois as his replacement.

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