Very few people understand what has happened. You are seeing the NCAA do a U-Turn. It’s more than a few bricks being knocked out of that Berlin Wall which purports to divide allegedly “amateur” big-time college sports from the reality of it’s status as a Glittered Entertainment money-making machine. And what’s happening is that the NCAA is showing, in a way it never has, that things are going to change. For the NCAA to “allow” a parent to negotiate for payments with a prospective school is one step toward finally recognizing that 17 and 18-year old exceptional athletes, and their families, have the right to participate in a free-market “Athletic-Entertainment” system.
What’s so important about that? The NCAA has implicitly announced — by concluding they had no jurisdiction to regulate the conduct of Newton’s father, which allegedly involved soliciting one or more Division I Football school for payment in return for his son enrolling at that school – that they are opening the door for any father to call up any school, and seek payment.
Now the question remains: will schools move to make those kinds of payments to parents of exceptional athletes? As this entire NCAA cartel-in-restraint-of-trade continues to crumble (and it will, it’s just a question of how fast), we will see more clearly some answers to those questions. Some past examples ring similar: KU’s “signing” of best-high-school-basketball-player-in-the-nation Danny Manning, back in the late 1980’s, was accompanied by KU hiring Manning’s father as an Assistant to the basketball program. Many frowned on it, and it was outlawed by the NCAA back then — but that’s how a free-market system can work — and we might see that sort of thing again occurring.
Play with that notion for a moment. Just think of it: instead of reading that excellent — but pathetic — Michigan Daily story about Denard’s Dad working til Saturday noon last fall for the Public Parks in small-town Florida, and hurrying home to watch his national-phenom son perform before 110,000 and millions more electronically — when Dad Robinson is watching it on a TV on a wheeled stand at the edge of his garage — maybe Dad Denard could be employed by the UofM, so he can watch in-person? [Stop once again here, briefly, to recognize the further irony in that story: Student Reporter Ryan Kartje has an all-expenses paid trip to Florida to report on watching Dad Robinson watching the game on TV!]
Or consider some other history. In the mid-80’s, that ever-so-sanctimonious Coach Mike K of Duke “broke new ground” for college coaches, by being the first coach to accept Hollywood-type money ($500,000 or more) from shoe manufacturers to “guarantee” that his players would wear those shoes — an example of a prominent member of this Athletics-Entertainment system taking advantage of his “free-market” value. [Query whether that cash might more rightfully have flowed right through to the players upon whose feet those shoes were worn.]
If you’ve followed the story of Cam Newton and his father, it appears that the NCAA may have gone so far as to ask the father for copies of records associated with any bank accounts maintained by the (Pastor) father or by his church, apparently in an effort to try to prove or disprove the existence of any kind of payment from some college football program. And it also appears that the father very correctly told the NCAA to take a hike. And in doing so, he may have unknowingly started some part of a revolution. Maybe he’s not Curt Flood, who blew up MLB’s “reserve clause” servitude, but he deserves some recognition.