LEAD1, the new trade association of Division I college athletics directors, has just announced that it is in the process of forming a Political Action Committee. PAC’s are formed to pool money, to lobby and otherwise influence congress and legislators.
Leaving aside the suspicion that this PAC will just be a stalking horse for the NCAA, questions nonetheless arise about this PAC, and even the LEAD1 trade group itself. Trade group? Really? What is the trade exactly? I thought athletic directors were, as Penn State’s Sandy Barbour pompously observed at the Fall 2016 Knight Commission meeting, “really, after all, just educators.”
There are other questions. Who funds this LEAD1? Does funding come from the [admittedly deep] pockets of the AD’s themselves? — or do the dues come from the athletic departments, most of which are public universities? After all, LEAD1 has taken on as its new executive directive a legitimate big-foot — former Congressman (and Maryland basketball player) Tom McMillen, who some time before his hiring for this position, seemed to have some potential for a role as a vigorous advocate for radical change in the business of college sports. McMillen’s name and sway does not, I am sure, come cheap.
But there is a bigger question raised by these events: what exactly will executive director Tom McMillen be lobbying for? What does this trade group so badly want out of Congress, to prompt them to form a trade group and hire a high-priced lobbyist?
I’ll provide an educated guess: Tom will be holding luncheons, and button-holing federal congressmen, to encourage them to support a bill which would give the NCAA an antitrust exemption. This is not a good thing.
And this is a particularly bad thing for the predominantly black players who generate almost all of the gross income which funds the salaries of almost all of the athletic directors who are members of LEAD1. These mostly black ‘revenue’ athletes are the beasts of burdens for all of college sports. And now fat-cat Tom McMillen, and his fat-cat LEAD1 athletic directors can only be presumed to have an interest in insuring that those overwhelmingly black, usually poor, beasts of burden for the college athletics Promo-Tainment business remain frozen in their wildly under-paid, quasi-voluntary status.
So, if you are a black, poor, but wildly talented Power 5 football or basketball recruit, then your very first question for any school which woos you, should now be this one: tell me explicitly what your athletic director is telling LEAD1 about how it should spend its substantial budget, and which legislative or lobbying initiatives your AD is pushing Tom McMillen to push?
If Tom McMillen’s salary now dictates that he lobby for an antitrust exemption for NCAA sports, then every one of those black revenue-sport players who are the engine for college sports needs to know that, and work to make Tom go back to his former progressive roots. Because, if that is McMillen’s job description, then McMillen is no longer the friend of the working man, and certainly no friend of the black revenue-sport player who makes the entire college sports business world go round. Finally, McMillen, and the AD’s who have coalesced, with their own or their schools’ money, to move for legislative change, have an overweening transparency obligation, to make plain to the public, and to the players who basically fund all their salaries, what their biases are, but also what are their specific lobbying and PAC priorities.
Recruits, your first question of any coach who comes to recruit you must be: what is your AD pressing to have Tom McMillen tell federal congressmen when he has lunch with them? And tell that coach to confirm it all to you in a written email or letter..
Copyright Wm Wilson 2016