The House of Cards Pitino Built: Louisville Lessons for Coaches and AD’s

Last week’s NCAA decision to sanction Louisville for hosting prostitution and stripper parties in its basketball dorm was more than a sex case, though you couldn’t tell that from the decision issued by the Committee on Infractions.


Like the 1930’s-era Chinatown cops known for (as Jack Nicholson quipped in the movie) arresting Chinamen for “spittin’ in the laundry,” the NCAA ended up fiddling and diddling on some small stuff. But their Louisville decision has some important lessons for coaches and athletic directors:

Lesson #1: If you are a head coach, write the words “Bylaw 11 Vicarious Liability” on a strip of duct tape and stick it on one corner of your laptop screen. Bylaw 11 is out to get you. Pitino got off easy, with a ‘spit-in-the-laundry’ penalty, but he still took a hit. As a head coach you are, Bylaw 11’s VC policy pronounces, presumed responsible for NCAA violations committed by your underlings. Don’t forget that.

Lesson #2: The entire NCAA reporting system is built on the duty to ‘self-report’.

Everyone – school, team, coach, assistant coaches, staffers – has a duty to ‘self-report’ violations to the NCAA. And when the new Bylaw 11 mandated in 2013 that the head coach “monitor the activities of all assistant coaches and administrators who report directly or indirectly” to him, and declared that the head coach is “presumed to be responsible” for his subordinates’ actions, it radically changed that duty to self-report.

Lesson #3: ‘Presumptions’ about your head coach responsibility can be rebutted by evidence. Bylaw 11 didn’t require that assistants wear body cameras at all times; instead, it should have, as of 2013, moved every head coach and AD to radically change their system, to build a culture which – the coach and AD should later be able to prove — commands underlings to self-report every possible violation. If the coach can prove that he has properly monitored and has created such a ‘report-everything’ culture, then he cannot be held responsible.

Lesson #4 – Do Not Duplicate the Rick Pitino/AD Tom Jurich Bylaw 11 Train-Wreck:

The two men at the top of the Louisville athletic juggernaut never came close to rebutting the Bylaw 11 presumption. The culture they created was so off-the-rails, in fact, that the NCAA didn’t even need Bylaw 11’s presumption to bag them.

The primary issues presented to the COI were: 1) what in hell was Director of Basketball Operations Andre McGee thinking of when he repeatedly, over several years, held those prostitute sex parties for players and even minor recruits in the basketball dorm?; and 2) who let him get away with all that?

The most damning, almost comical COI findings on these issues are here:

[Pitino] stated in his interview that it was the assistant coaches who monitored the former [McGee’s] activities with visiting prospects. However, three men’s basketball assistant coaches … all denied that their duties included monitoring the former operations director. According to former assistant coach 2, “everybody assumed that everybody was doing the right thing.”

This is the kind nonsense which was prattled by every Enron employee once that scandal blew, or by every Patriarca mob family member, once the feds started peeling back the layers. “It Ain’t Me, Babe” is the tune Pitino sang – and then all his assistants sang the very same tune. Imagine for a moment: the testimony of the head coach of the most profitable, highest-grossing basketball program in the country squarely conflicted with the testimony of his own top three assistants, on a principal issue as to what the four men’s respective managerial duties were! Then compare: what if one Pitino’s players, throughout a four-year career, repeatedly wandered confused and aimless about the court, each time the team deployed Pitino’s meticulously-managed and wildly-effective full-court press. How plausible is Pitino’s claim of lack of well-defined individual duties, and lack of Pitino oversight, direction, knowledge and management?

But there’s more. McGee actually resided 24/7 in the player’s basketball dorm. But no one could agree as to what McGee’s job title and duties were. Was he, as Pitino laughably claimed, just a “Liaison” to the university’s Housing Department? Was he a “Watchdog” of some kind and, if so, for whom was he “watching”? Was he in charge of the basketball dorm? Or was the Resident Assistant (an employee of the school) in charge of the dorm, as Pitino claimed? (The COI even got turned around on this issue, concluding — contrary to all evidence — that McGee was a ‘peer’ of the players.)

It was, the Louisville witnesses and testimony would have us believe, a Keystone Kops operation, with no one in charge, and no clear-cut lines of authority or job duties. The claim was so outlandish that it amounted to repeated ethical and oversight “flopping” by Pitino, for which he should have been ejected – followed by an explicit COI finding that the operational negligence, if not pandemonium, in the Louisville athletic operation was the result of, not collective incompetence, but artifice and planning, and that McGee’s de facto primary function was as Chief Subverter of Self-Reporting.

Lesson #5: If you hire a Watchdog, or Housemother, or Resident Assistant, or Peer, or Director of Basketball Operations to oversee your players, define his job in detail, in writing.

Lesson #6: Every head coach, AD, and school should have in place the following:

a) Written Organizational Chart: a detailed and consistently updated snapshot, showing job titles and lines of reporting responsibility;.

b) Written Job Descriptions: detailed descriptions of job duties, areas of responsibility, with explicit statement of the nature and timing of required reports;

c) Periodic instructional emails to staff, which include reminders about major NCAA reporting and other duties.

d) Periodic audits, followed by written reports, conducted by both: i) In-house compliance staff, employed by the athletic department; and ii) ‘Out-house’ compliance staff, employed by the university, who report to the school’s president, not the athletic department. Some of these Out-house compliance audits should be randomly-timed, and unannounced.

e). Detailed written policies which outline all direct oversight and reporting obligations.

f) Frequent other meetings. These should include what physicians and hospitals have long called “Morbidity and Mortality” meetings, where compliance, reporting, or NCAA violation shortcomings or screw-ups are named, vetted, and remedied.

The above simple set of documents and practices are the kinds of evidence which – had they existed at Louisville – would have allowed Pitino and AD Jurich to paint a picture of diligent self-reporting up a well-defined chain of command, sufficient to avoid the Vicarious Liability which the NCAA assigned to Pitino.

Next: Six More Lessons from Louisville



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NCAA: UCF Kicker De La Haye Can Promote Nike, Not Himself

UCF football kicker Donald De la Haye has a lively ‘vlog’ where he described his recent encounter with the UCF compliance office, which told him that he can no longer operate that vlog and receive money for it.

According to de la Haye, who has an obvious charismatic presence on camera, UCF compliance has told him that he “can’t make it obvious that” he “is a student-athlete,” because that means [he] is using his likeness and image to make money.”

This is the NCAA imposing two of its goofiest – and most disingenuous — ‘principles:

1) All players must be ‘Economic Virgins’; and

2) Players cannot be engaged in, or benefit from, any promotion in any way athletic-related.

This nonsense started 40 years ago, when Phil Knight and Sonny Vaccaro in 1978 began skulking around college campuses, paying-off coaches (with increasingly big checks), to force their players to wear apparel with the Nike swoosh on it.

Before that, players didn’t promote. When the Brits founded ‘amateurism’ in 1866, no crew members or cricket players promoted products. Commercial promotion was just not done by players – right up until Sonny Vaccaro began paying coaches in 1978.

In that vacuum, the NCAA and schools could have, in 1978, just as easily told Vacarro to go pay each player for wearing Nike. No revered old principle of amateurism prevented it. But the coach (and later, the school) wanted Nike’s big cash – so they ginned-up the two ‘principles’ above, which they thereafter pretended had been handed down by the ‘revered’ British amateurism gods, back in 1866.

And the NCAA boldly enacted, over time, regulations which even declared that display of a company logo is not promotion – the kind of edict which deserves Churchill’s famous retort: “I should hardly think it possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.”  (If the patent bad faith of that regulation is not immediately apparent, then consult Nike’s standard contract with the school these days, which provides that ‘display of the logo’ is the ‘essence of the transaction.”) And the NCAA passed other regulations which declared that no player can engage in, or benefit from, promotion.

However goofy and economically-unreal these ‘principles,’ they allow UCF and the NCAA to steal from De La Haye. They take the income he earns for performing apparel-promotion for a for-profit third-party multi-national corporation (Nike) – while simultaneously barring him from earning money for promoting himself.  All in the guise of an NCAA exaltation of ‘student-athlete’ Economic Virginity:  we all know how badly soiled one’s hands can get by handling money.  And the hands of UCF and the NCAA are very dirty.

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Bowlsby’s Bye Bye Ms. Amateurism Pie and NCAA Spooky Action at a Distance

About a month ago I think I glimpsed some NCAA spooky action at a distance – just a momentary flash, really, like some subliminal image across a movie screen. Then it disappeared. Spooky.


It happened at the May 1 annual D.C. confab of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and it was Big 12 commissioner and major NCAA Talking Head Bob Bowlsby who did it. Bowlsby, apparently, drove his Chevy to the levee, found the levee was dry, and then fired off the shot which (so far) nobody has heard ’round the world.

I take issue,” Bowlsby said, “with the characterization of college athletes as amateurs.”

I started singing bye, bye Miss Amateurism Pie

Martin Luther might just as well have posted on the door in Wittenberg, or maybe some other prince-with-no-name might’ve been shot-silly in Sarajevo.

“They’re college athletes,” Bowlsby explained, “and they’re not professional. They’re college athletes. This model exists nowhere else in the world.”

I can still remember how that Amateurism music used to make me smile.

But no one screamed. No wailing or sobbing, and no one pelted Bowlsby with pebbles or bad fish. Spooky.  In fact, it appeared that none of the Knight dignitaries even noticed. None certainly cared enough to ask Bowlsby what-on-god’s-earth he might mean, or intended to do with, his apostasy. If today’s college athlete is no longer an amateur, will the Big 12 be cutting paychecks to all players? Or does Bowlsby, perhaps, intend to move the entire Big-12 to Canada? The Knight meeting attendees, primarily a collection of parvenu sports-business aristocrats, were all apparently too busy on their laptops, tracking the performance of their hefty retirement funds, or the year-to-date bonuses they delude themselves into thinking they ‘earn’ for championships or grades which are, in economic reality, earned by “The Kids”— the players. No one at the Knight meeting, in fact, even blinked. Spooky.

Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step

Sure, Bowlsby did not come out in favor of incest, or driving on the left side of the road, but really. What about that ‘revered tradition of amateurism‘ we’re all supposed to worship? The same RTOA the NCAA just finished engraving on the O’Bannon federal court decision-tablet now on display in their lobby, a companion to the 1984 Regents tablet which has the same “RTOA” scribed all over it? It seems like only yesterday, after all, that the 9th Circuit’s Judge Bybee took communion with the Prelates of the Revered Amateurism – whose homilies preach the sanctity of the strict separation of their ‘RTOA’ church from the state — and then left his mind behind in 90 pages of man-splaining about what “precisely makes an amateur.” College players – not – Amateurs?  Should Judge Bybee now buy a whole new legal tool-kit to measure things-amateur a bit more ‘”precisely”? If not, who will now tell him – and all those other jurists of the last half-century, upon whose slouched-but-amateurism-reverent shoulders Judge Bybee himself now stands and slouches — that college athletes are no longer amateurs?

I can still remember how that pro-competitive amateurism music used to make me smile

Was this just some spooky notion which popped from Bowlsby’s brain at the same time he popped the Tic-Tacs upon which he idly chewed as he blurted it out?

Or were we witnessing there the spooky birth of a revolutionary NCAA Major Talking Point: “College Athletes Are Not Amateurs”?

It’s hard to tell. But there has been some other spooky NCAA action. There was that 2007 speech by the late NCAA head Myles Brand, when he announced his new “Everything-is-For-Rent” version of NCAA Amateurism, which he labeled as the new “Collegiate Model”. Then, at one of those amateurism revival meetings which recurs at random locations around the country, where NCAA sports-biz manager High Priests congregate – without “The Kids” [players], of course – to renew their Amateurism vows and massage each other’s toes, NCAA VP Kevin Lennon raised up in 2015 to exalt (without ever mentioning the word ‘amateur’) what he called the “College-Eligible” athlete. But that term thereafter disappeared. Spooky.

Some of this NCAA spooky stuff may be going on because the NCAA itself is spooked. They might realize that their ‘RTOA’ Spotify channel is showing fewer hits than the Glenn Miller Orchestra because the kids these days just don’t take to it anymore. Those honchos may, in fact, recognize that the end of the RTOA may be near, after a run of incredible luck through some scary legal scrapes. Who could have guessed, after all, that Judge Bybee would get so carried away, humming the NCAA RTOA refrain, that he would pronounce in O’Bannon that by Sherman Antitrust standards the NCAA cartel was broken but also that there was no need to fix it?  Or that the law clerk assigned to ghost-write that Northwestern NLRB decision would procrastinate all the way into a 3 a.m. all-nighter funk so profound as to cause him to apply an antitrust ‘effect-on-market’ test to dump what was a collective bargaining case? Or that the Berger and Dawson federal judges would land on their loopy ‘college athletes-are-like-prisoners‘ and ‘ours-is-not-to-reason-why‘ rationales, to deny two perfectly legitimate FLSA college athlete employment-status claims? Spooky.


And still there’s Jeffrey Kessler. You remember him. Tom Brady’s labor lawyer, with more heft than Vince Wilfork and more legal-super-bowl rings than TB12, is skulking ’round, takin’ names and depositions, in anticipation of a class action trial within 18 months, where he might actually prove that ‘athletic scholarships’ are really just payment-in-scrip. And if Kessler gets anywhere, those NCAA honchos know, there will be more ‘student-athletes’ – The Kids — scurrying up the front steps of courthouses and athletic departments to feed like squirrels at untended bird feeders upon those raging NCAA and athletic department gross revenues. Spooky.

And if I’m right that these NCAA honchos feel that they now need a big play to protect that tsunami of gross income from The Kids, that might explain some other recent and un-revered spooky NCAA action at a distance — called lobbying. Lobbying is, by its very nature, a little spooky, because it’s done at much distance from public view. It is un-revered because the NCAA, as a non-profit, is not supposed to do it, but also because (unbeknownst to Judge Bybee), one of the primary factors which “precisely” makes amateurism is the thumping public interest at the back of whatever-the-hell amateurism is now. Eighty percent of NCAA members, after all, are public universities, many of which operate athletic entertainment/promotion businesses which generate in their publics not just a febrile loyalty but also a sense of ownership.

I started singing bye, bye Miss Amateurism Pie

So the NCAA is apparently now looking to get some spooky and un-revered lobbying done at the greatest possible distance from public view. But how?

By getting someone else to do it for them. But who?  

—  Look for Bye Bye Miss Amateurism, Part II tomorrow             Copyright, William Wilson, JD 2017



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Watch Knight Commission and Arne Duncan Go Off the Rails Again Tomorrow

Foundations are endowed by capitalists who had a lot of excess cash when they died and who, before they died, wanted to make sure that a good chunk of the cash they made off the labor of others might ‘pay forward’ to others, perhaps even the offspring of those whose labor built that capitalist’s fortune.

The Knight family wanted to do good when they endowed the Knight Foundation. And their money has done some good for college athletics. But KF has gotten co-opted. They actually think that the current operation and structure of the NCAA has merit.

Their vision is limited. They can’t tell that the current NCAA structure is a con. The Power 5 conferences basically pulled out, within the last couple years, and Knight didn’t even know it. Nor does Knight recognize why the Power 5 didn’t completely pull out of the NCAA – they could have easily – for two reasons: 1) they need the non-Power 5 conferences, but also all the non-D-1 teams, as a counterweight, as the Power 5 teams (the real-party-in-interest) litigate the O’Bannon, Alston, and many other cases which challenge the NC AA’s Shamateurism. They need those teams and divisions to allow the Power 5 fellows to claim that education and academics are, in fact, a central part of today’s college sports business model; and 2) they couldn’t walk away from that $1 billion windfall which is the NCAA March Madness tournament.

And the Knight people, Amy Perko, even Arne Duncan, they fall for all this. Duncan comes out with high-minded pronouncements about how it is mandatory that the college athlete be able to get earnest, legitimate education, as a part of the “scholarship” which he is paid for his work.

Sure, I suppose that Duncan wouldn’t have gotten this job as titular head of the Knight Commission, if he did not parrot this party line.

But Duncan, Knight, and Amy Perko are lost at sea. The major problem is not whether some black player who funds all of Division 1 football and basketball is getting good grades, and whether those grades are legit. That’s what they think the issue is. And white guys like Duncan, or Perko, and Sandy Barbour, or Tom McMillan, will debate this issue for the next decade, trying to fine-tune and constrain the un-constrainable and un-fine-tuneable: the freight-train of academic racketeering driven by the Bull of Triumph (and Profit) which now rules college athletics.

As these idealistic Knight-types debate, over the next decade, the academic purity and regulation of big-time college sports, there are many black Power 5 basketball and football  players whose families – having sent their wildly talented sons off to the big business which is college sports – still struggle to pay the rent — not ten years from now, but next month.

So tomorrow, May 1st, 2017, we’ll see some high-minded posturing by white guys about the need for these black players to get a degree, which “is worth a million dollars, lifetime.”

Knight – Duncan, McMillan, Perko – ought to look at two things: 1) the Rule of Thumb for split of gross income in pro sports, which is 50-50, between owner and players; and 2) the gross revenue at Texas A&M, which was about $190 million. They would then recognize that the primary issue in college sports is not whether some poor black, fabulously talented running back is having his papers written for him, or whether he attends class. Those are really neato-keeno issues for those of us who have grown up in UChicago, or Harvard, or other bastions of academic idealism.

Those issues have nothing to do with the issue which the Knight Commission pretends does not exist: how does my poor black son get at that $95 million which he and other basketball and football players at, for example, Texas A&M, would get if they were employees?

While the white guys at Knight Commission fiddle and diddle, write position papers, and get it all perfectly figured out over the next decade, there is a mammoth Whoosh of Capital Accumulation which annually occurs at every Power 5 school, as one class of basketball and football recruits signs onto their NLI’s, collectively, and their assets are then immediately — and brutally — seized by the Power 5 schools. Each and every year. And this whoosh?  — it’s sector-based, with the sector being defined by the thief who robs that sector: the NCAA. The sector is all the high school players who sign that NLI, at the same time, each year.

The Knight Foundation will say they have no dog in this fight, because their mission is educational. All the education, though, which the Knight Foundation purports to monitor, is funded by this NCAA and school Theft of Capital. Watch, though, tomorrow, at the Knight meeting on May 1. It will be civilized. It will be silk ties, smiles, smooth. No worries. Because none of them have any worries. The predominantly black Power 5 basketball and football player will not be there. Never has been, never will be.

The Knight Foundation is, right now, the sole potential source for sector-based voice for the athletes shut out of decision-making and voting authority for his sports. But Knight is AWOL.

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Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes Interviews Marvin Miller about a Final Four Players’ Strike

(Below is an entirely fictional interview, conducted by Wisconsin basketball player Nigel Hayes, of the late, great economist and sports labor pioneer Marvin Miller, on the question of a March Madness Final Four Player’s Strike.)

Nigel Hayes: Well, Mr. Miller, I know you’ve only been gone for three years, but you’ve probably been keeping an eye on things, so you probably know that there’s been a lot of unrest and talk about giving big-time college athletes more power, and even pay. What do you think we should do?

Marvin Miller: Call me Marvin. It’s odd, really, you big-time college players, right now, in so many ways, you’re just like my major league baseball players when they hired me on a shoestring back in ’67. No money. No power. No leader. Lots of country-poor blacks, doin’ all the work. They couldn’t pay me, so I ginned-up some money through their baseball card contracts – which paid ’em only $125 a year, believe it or not. Bought and sold and bullied — that’s what they were.

Hayes: So you know about some of the talk over the years, about March Madness player strikes. UNLV players under Tark in ’91, they were going to strike the final game, after they beat Duke – then they lost to Duke.

Miller: Yea, there’s been some scratching around, just like Curt Flood scratched for us, just like you’re scratchin’ now for your players. I know back in ’85, Tennessee running back Charles Davis, he did summer workouts with Dick DeVenzio, that ex-Duke basketball guard did a whole lotta scratching for NCAA players, he was barkin’ at an NCAA moon long before any other dogs started in, and he saw through this whole wacko NCAA profit machine — what I call Shamateurism. And Charles Davis was gonna strike, but his trainer got wind of it, so Davis knew his coach knew too – so Davis’d never even get on the field. PT – Playing Time – those college players, they’re all slaves to it. So that strike never happened.

Hayes: —  Shamateurism – I like that. And you probably saw Mizzou, a couple years ago – the team made a demand, and two days later, the university president was gone.

Miller: Yup. And a year ago, basketball players at Queens College in New York city, they refused to practice until the school got rid of their abusive head coach – and the school got rid of him!

Hayes: So if some Final Four players are thinking of striking, how much money should they demand before they go out on the court and play?

Miller: Zee-ro.

Hayes: Uh – don’t ask for any money?

Miller: Not a penny.

Hayes: I, uh, I guess I don’t understand.

Miller: Sure, you can try it, but money — that’s not your first problem. Don’t get me wrong, Nigel, you Revenue players need and deserve money. Lots of it. And you need a specific demand — as Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.”

Let me explain. When I started in ’67, baseball players had no power. Nothing. I couldn’t even get a meeting with the baseball owners. They didn’t care about me, and they didn’t care about their players. They did whatever they damn well pleased with my players. What happened was, eventually, they had to meet with us, cuz of labor laws and other pressures we put on ’em. And pretty soon, we got into their Board Rooms. That’s what you Revenue players need. In the law books, they call that Sector-Based power and negotiating. For me, I just called it Getting into their Board Rooms. So you can get a seat at the table, and they gotta talk to you.

Hayes: Well, the NCAA voted a couple years ago, after O’Bannon got them all nervous, to let one player on its 24-member Board of Directors, and two players on the 40-member D-1 Council.

Miller: So now we’re getting’ down to it. Yes they did. But those players on those Boards have always been from Non-Revenue sports. Nigel, if I’d had to fight for my major league player’s rights and money by using minor league players, I’d be dead now, and they’d still be paying some other executive director with a small skim off of baseball card contracts, with no player power or money in the end. It’s the same with those Student-Athlete-Advisory Committees on every campus. Those few Non-Revenue board members, those SAACs – they’re just the owner’s captive unions.

Let me talk dollars a sec, Nigel. First, the NCAA gets $1 Billion from that 3-week March Madness tournament – every year! And there’s 64 teams, 768 players. Second, the NBA, NFL, MLB – they basically split revenues 50-50 with the players – that’s been the rule of thumb for years. Third, if you March Madness players went half-sies on that $1 billion with the owners, you players would walk away with $651,042 – each. That’s what O’Bannon Judge Wilken called the “Real Money At Issue. And that money’s why they call you Revenue players.

Hayes: But I thought you didn’t want us to strike for money?

Miller: I don’t, I’m just trying to lead where you need to go. Here’s what you should strike for: Full, complete voting membership in the ‘ole En-Cee-Two-Ay.

Hayes: Well, uh –

Miller: Full NCAA membership. Not for some tennis player, or some golf guy, but for the guys who make all of the money for the NCAA. The NCAA — all those silk-tie guys — they spend OPM — ‘Other People’s Money.” And you, Nigel, and the other 816 players – you make that money.

Hayes: But we can’t, well, I mean we’re not, like, coaches, we’re not AD’s — we’re not even adults, you can’t just hand over the NCAA to a bunch of kids.

Miller (rising out of his chair, face flushing with color, now peering down at Hayes next to him): I am, without permission, going to call you Mr. Hayes from here on in – and here’s why. You are not a kid. None of you players are kids anymore. That went out the window by 1980, but the NCAA, coaches, AD’s – all of ’em – they all pretend that every judge in this country never threw out that old in loco parentis doctrine by 1980. Before that, the college was the student’s nanny, operating “in place of the parent,” and could control the student just about any old way it wanted.

And the NCAA still pretends that the 26th Amendment never got passed in 1971, and pretends that, by 1980, every state did not lower the age of majority from 21 to 18. Mr. Hayes, that whole Nanny-College thing got chucked out the window by 1980, and after that, every player was an adult, with rights, and the right to engage in activities that adults engage in. But you’d never know talkin’ with these NCAA guys, they’re as clueless – and devious – as Bowie Kuhn. And Mr. Hayes: they love to dress up in Mary Poppins costumes, and talk to you like they’re just minding your sandbox for you

Hayes: Well, yes, Ok, Ok, would you please, um, sit down again, please, Marvin. But what’s some Mary Poppins costumes have to do with it?

Miller: Here’s what, Mr. Hayes. When they threw that Nanny-College thing out the window, all those schools, and the NCAA – they lost every basis for excluding you and your Revenue brethren from being full-fledged NCAA members. And that’s what you strike for: full-fledged, full voting-rights NCAA membership for all 768 March Madness players And those players vote to select one player from each school to be a voting representative to the NCAA. Those 64 chosen then serve —  24 player-reps on the Board, and 40 player-reps on the Council. And Boom! — you’ve Gotten Into the Board Room, you’re at the table, and you’ve got shared voting rights. 24 player reps, with 24 school reps. 40 player reps with 40 school reps. And you don’t even need a union to get there!

Hayes: Dude! Yea, I think I’m likin’ this. Yea, this is cool.

Miller: Let me give you another tiny hint. These NCAA chnuckleheads have seen 25 years of revenue increases that would make Warren Buffet blush –but they won’t give you independent arbitration, truly independent medical care, they won’t even pay for the same quality of insurance that they place on their buildings! That’s the kind of thing you act on, things that no decent human being (other than those chuckleheads) would ever possibly allow, and you take those to vote. And remember that $651,042 per-player payout I told you about? — you vote on that. No more taxation without representation, Mr. Hayes.

And then, Mr. Hayes, you’re gonna need some staff, once you’re on those Boards. Do what that Athletic Director’s powerful lobbying group (LEAD1) is doing these days: accept $75,000 gifts from vendors who sell to their own schools. It violates almost every public school’s state anti-bribery statutes, or school regulations – but if it’s ok for them, it’s gonna be just fine for you, Mr. Hayes, when you are in the Board Room, with a seat at the table, with equal voting rights, and some staff. Think of yourself, and all of the other 767 March Madness players, as Adults. Board members. And owners.

Hayes: Whoa. Yea. Whoa. Dude, how I can thank you?

Miller: Mr.. Hayes, when all 64 of your guys sit down at the Board’s conference table, just make sure the name plates say ‘Mister’ on them – just for me. You’re all adults. Board members. Owners. And remember — I’m watching.

copyright 2017 William Wilson

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Why Michigan’s Beilein Should Be Calling Ten Other Coaches With $20 Million Contracts

A confession: It’s been hard for me to abide Michigan’s head basketball coach John Beilein. It started when I attended a Harvard-Michigan game six or seven years ago at tiny Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. It’s a small venue, no bigger than the Ann Arbor high school gym. I sat directly behind the Michigan bench and watched as, three or four times during the game, coach Beilein insisted upon loudly, and with much remonstration, addressing and grandly instructing some player he had just pulled from the lineup, using elaborate hand-and-arm gestures, to make clear to that pulled-player how badly he had just executed some fine art of basketball upon which Beilein had surely – the little sideline skit was meant to tell the crowd – previously repeatedly instructed that player.


It was a petty little performance. And the faces on his team when, for example, they were assembled for a time-out ‘huddle,’ seemed bemused, distant, but wary of provoking Beilein’s wrath – and also ever-so-slightly contemptuous of his sanctimony. The great Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics always insisted that all coaching instruction be reserved for practice days; on game days, he wanted his players to perform. Mack, a hard-nosed man of dignity, grace, and compassion, was also aware that -in-game correction or instruction of players could easily be interpreted by attentive fans as an effort to show-up that player.

And then I heard Lukey Bonner describe his experience a decade ago as a freshman player at WVU years ago, when Beilein was the head coach there. Out of the blue, toward the end of the year, Beilein came to him and requested, with a straight face, that Bonner ‘take a red-shirt year.’ As Bonner described it, he said ‘NO!’ He’d never once heard the notion of red-shirting before, and he had no intention to do it then. Bonner later transferred. The story confirmed for me: Beilein, an approximately decent man, succeeds because he can don that hard-heart, which demands that he confront and pressure a young player suddenly to red-shirt, or openly scold a player before a crowd. But also, I’ve recently learned, ignore the patent duty of care he owes to his players — and his duty to react with moral force, in the face of revealed adversity.

Beilein has continued to engage in those little grandiose sideline skits which, apparently unbeknownst to him, make obvious to the public that he has some need to demonstrate that he’s not to blame for foul-ups by his players. He used this same overt, in-game show-up of his players during Michigan’s defeat of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on March 11th.

But I will take an entirely contrary position about the need for immediate instruction, if not scolding, correction, or sanction, when it comes to obvious errors in the conduct of sports administration, particularly as regards endangering the lives of players. Specifically, with regard to the airplane accident in which the Michigan team was involved at Willow Run airport in Ypsilanti as they were attempting to fly to Washington DC for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last week, in which the winds were 60 to 70 miles an hour. The tower at the airport was shut down. There were no good reasons for any prudent person to allow that plane, containing very valuable, high-profile big-time college players, to travel to the Big Ten Tournament.

But there were very strong personal, financial and professional reasons for characters like John Beilein and his boss, Warde Manuel, to have that plane give it a rip, and try to take off, to get to DC, despite that extraordinary storm — even though doing so meant that they needlessly endangered the lives of their players. Both men get bonuses for winning the Big Ten tournament, and for qualifying for the NCAA tournament. No bonuses are given for the players on the court who do all this ‘qualifying.’

The plane lifted off, and the wheels went up. But then the wheels went down, and the plane skidded across the runway. Some players were injured – none seriously, thank god. All players were shaken.

It was the Mad Bull of Triumph and Profit, in the person of Coach Beilein and AD Manuel, which attempted that lift-off. Somebody should be subject to serious sanction for having subjected those Michigan players to that risk.

If you think that I make this conclusion merely because of the obvious, if not terrifying risk to which Manuel and Beilein subjected their players, then you are wrong. It is also because Manuel (who might have been on the plane) and Beilein (who surely was) carried massive amounts of their own life insurance, provided as a part of their employment contracts: millions of dollars in life insurance.

Do you know how much life insurance Michigan procures for each of its players whose lives were risked last week? — $25,000. A dipshit, shit-ass, spit-in-your-eye $25,000 life insurance policy. That’s all.

Let’s take a quick breath. The NCAA makes a billion dollars on March Madness — the same March Madness tournament which propelled Beilein and Manuel to make the cavalier, devil-may-care-but-also-may-get-March-Madness-invite decision to make that plane aim to get airborne.

And as these sordid events unfolded at Willow Run, the Michigan loyal fans were engaged in some odd fund-raising mechanism, which was directed toward increasing by $100,000 the amount which might possibly be pledged to the ‘Chad Tough’ campaign which has long operated, to fund a UMich hospital effort to fight the kind of cancer which killed former football coach Lloyd Carr’s grandson recently. The $100,000, all literature and tweets suggested, was somehow to be atributed to that saintly Michigan coach: John Beilein. This is all decent, noble, and kind. It is also a process fed by the ego and narcissism of John Beilein.  

Beilein should be raising money to expand the amount of  insurance coverage available to his players, and also expanding his efforts to  change NC double A regulations to allow such increased coverage. How could I possibly make that conclusion?  

Beilein likes being a charitable icon, if not hero. Everyone likes Chad Tough. But Beilein took his eye off the ball. I want to have a sideline conference with him as the crowd watches, and I wave my arms, and contort my face, as Beilein likes to do, to ask him how anyone in their right mind, in that setting, could do what he’s done. How could he possibly have:

1) allowed that plane to try to take off, in those terrible winds – and did that decision have anything to do with the ‘incentive’ bonuses to which Beilein would be entitled if the team went to the tournament?

2) not immediately become an advocate for radical increase in insurance for big time players. Beilein professes to have been shaken by the plane crash. But he wasn’t. Beilein wears silk ties. He makes big money. He’s an aristocrat, like those same British aristocrats who founded a phony ‘amateurism’ in 1866, and which began paying its players by 1867. Beilein did not emerge from the event as a new man, or with any new insight. It never dawned upon him that he might now be precisely the right person of power and bully pulpit, able to use his sway to lobby for money to fund appropriate, substantially increased, levels of insurance for his players, to whom he had subjected rather extraordinary risk. Instead, Beilein basks in a Chad Tough glow, and waxes eloquent about his player’s toughness in the face of adversity.  

John Beilein? Warde Manuel? Anybody home? Moral outrage? Tremble for your players and their parents, other than little lip service at some fawning press conference? John Beilein, have you been on the phone the last 3 or 4 nights, to ten NCAA coaches who also have $20 million contracts, and massive life insurance policies, to persuade them that immediate new legislation is needed, to provide all players with, not $25,000 in death benefit coverage, but $250,000?

Suppose that that plane had actually took off but then was grounded by the extraordinary storm which had overtaken the Midwest, and that all of Michigan’s 12 scholarship players were then killed in the plane crash – much as occurred when the Marshall University football team went down back in 1971. Maybe John Beilein would think beyond his own bank account, and be a force for change? 

Time for a TO, John Beilein and Warde Manuel. What were you thinking? 

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Why Every College Head Coach Should be Using His Wife’s Cell Phone

The California Supreme Court has just ruled, consistent with the trend of cases from other jurisdictions, that government business conducted on personal cell phones, personal emails, or other devices, generates a public record, which is subject to a freedom of information request.

What does this have to do with big-time college sports? It reinforces what Butch Davis was told, at the time he was head football coach at Carolina: public business is public business, subject to a FOIA request, whether that business is conducted on a cell phone paid by the head coach’s employer, or paid for by the coach himself.

Good coaches play dip-and-dodge, to avoid scrutiny. So if you are a good, wary head coach, at a big-time, public ‘program,’ get yourself a burner phone, or a phone which is under your wife’s name, to do all of your business as a head coach. It’s not iron-clad, but you will make it much harder for anyone to get at the substance of your emails, texts, or other communications, long after the fact.

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Elegy For the Dying College Athlete Employee: NLRB General Counsel, Dashing Out the Door, Gets Valiant

NLRB General Counsel Griffin has obviously been stewing. A year ago, the NLRB had decided they just wanted to keep drinking PBR’s in their banquette out back, up ’til closing time. There wasn’t, they decreed, any reason to do anything at all different. What, after all, their decision on the Northwestern union-cert campaign pronounced, is at all wrong with, well . . . just keeping things the way they are?

Griffin knew, when they did it, how cowardly were those NLRB members. Maybe, even (and we will never know), he might’ve cornered one or two of them, sprinting to catch the Metro: “How,” he might’ve challenged them, “How, ‘could you walk away from this, the way you have?’

But they are hurried. There are other things in their lives. Kids, soccer out in Fairfax County. A great outdoor concert somewhere close by, in all the steam. It’s easy and, really, how important could any of this all, possibly, be?

So General Counsel Griffin decides. It’s late one night, and he knows that he has some slight heft, what he puts out on press release will get a broad read.  A broad read. So he gives it a rip.

Griffin, the flaks then say, says that college athletes are employees. They are so oppressively controlled, Griffins says, that they must be employees of those private colleges.

Griffin is right. But he’s wrong. The arc of governance is now working hard and fast against him, and Griffin will soon be a footnote. He will, a couple years later, maybe have some fellow find him, maybe a law school classmate, out in the left field bleachers at Nationals Park on a steamy DC evening out, or maybe at Wolf Trap — and the guy will pop him, because it’s been a while: what, the fellow with two blue cups in his hands will wonder — what  happened with all the NLRB stuff, and the college player employees?

It might be 2018. Maybe ’19. But the NLRB is no close relative, any longer, of what Griffin knew in early 2017.  There’s a whole new regime, they blew it all up. It was worse than Taft-Hartley in 1948. Mostly, it’s all gone, really. These NLRB guys now, they’re all scared, hedgehogs, running from burrow to burrow, and unions, basically, are dead.

“Employees?” Griffin responds. “Employees? Nah. Not really” It was, he mutters to himself, “it was all,”  thinking of Joni Mitchell –“it was all just a dream some of us had.”

Copyright William Wilson 2017



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What the Puck

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Nike Internships for Jourdan Lewis (Mich), Curtis Samuel (OSU), & D’Onta Foreman (Tx)?


Nike’s 2016 contract with Michigan provides for three summer “Student Internships,” described as follows:

Each contract year, Nike will offer summer internships at NIKE”s world in Oregon, to three Michigan students at a minimum cost to NIKE of $15,000 per intern. Nike shall select the interns in consultation with, and from a pool of qualified candidates provided by, Michigan and/or the Athletic Departments.”

Earlier this year, Nike funded a different kind of venture, with ostensible educational purpose, for some athletic directors. Virginia Tech athletic director Win Babcock went on a Nike-funded junket to Vietnam which allowed him, Babcock said, to “venture out of his comfort zone. It was a great trip,” Babcock said,

“and I feel like when you get outside your comfort zone, you can grow. So I think it made me a better athletic director.”

For 38 Years, Nike has been paying-off coaches and athletic directors, not because they do the promotion, but because they negotiate with Nike, or have the power to command that Players wear Nike product.

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