NCAA Loses Round One…

Whilst I was enjoying a long weekend in Seattle visiting friends and watching Mariners’ baseball, Ed O’Bannon won the first round of his legal battle with the NCAA. I cannot – with a straight face – pretend to offer up a rational analysis of the judge’s decision in the case; I can only pretend to understand the decision at the surface level. However, this column by Michael McCann at goes into the ramifications of the decision and speaks to potential future events that will be associated with the case. I suggest you read it in its entirety.

It does seem to me is that Judge Wilken has inflicted a significant blow to the NCAA with regard to the way it does its business. She did not find merely that the NCAA business model was unfair; she said that it violated the antitrust laws of the country. At my shallow level of legal understanding, that sounds like a pretty big deal – and it is something the NCAA had better deal with before other parts of its business model are deemed to be similarly in violation of antitrust laws.

Moreover, every time someone challenges the NCAA with regard to its rules and/or its business practices, the NCAA hauls out the “amateurism argument”. Their contention is that without “amateurism” there would be no intercollegiate athletics; “amateurism” is the foundation upon which everything stands. Now, it would seem that Judge Wilken thinks the NCAA’s “amateurism” is merely a benign label on an illegal practice. Ooops…

The NCAA has already announced that it will appeal this decision – just as O’Bannon would likely have appealed should Judge Wilken have ruled the other way. That means that the rational way to resolve this issue – the parties sit down and negotiate how to allow college athletes to share in the profits earned by using their names and images in the marketplace within a set of guidelines that maintains competitive balance on the field. I really believe that last thing is the only thing that the NCAA exists to do – maintain competitive balance on the field. I made that argument back when the NCAA Bigfooted its way into the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky mess. That had nothing to do with competitive balance on the field and the NCAA had no business doing anything.

In 2002, Dr. Myles Brand took over as the NCAA Executive Director and he boasted that he would see to it that the college presidents took over collegiate athletics and reined in the runaway/rogue athletic departments and coaches. That was patent nonsense then and of course, he never came close to achieving even 1% of that noble objective. And now, his successor – Mark Emmert who seems not to be able to lead a dog to a pork chop – is looking at a near term future where judges in courtrooms will be looking to rein in the NCAA itself.

After last weekend’s PGA Championship, I wonder if it is time to ask the following impertinent question:

    Has Tiger Woods become golf’s version of Michael Jordan in Michael Jordan’s years with the Washington Wizards?

Both men were – at the top of their games – the single best practitioner of their art in the world. They rightfully belonged in any conversation regarding the “best ever” in their sport. Jordan’s time on the court for the Wizards was sad to watch in a way because he was only able to be “His Airness” a few plays a week instead of a few plays per quarter of a game. Today, it is difficult to watch Tiger Woods play at a level where he may or may not be competitive with players who would have been caddying for him 10 years ago.

One other item from the PGA Championship… I read a report that the folks at Valhalla had more than 3500 volunteers signed up for the week of activities. Not to put too fine a point on this, but those folks are demonstrating platinum-plated stupidity. Think about it for a moment; the PGA will give out approximately $10M in prize money for the tournament and you can be certain the PGAQ is not “running in the red” for the week. The PGA is not a mendicant living from hand-out to hand-out.

    Memo to Volunteers: You enable these folks who make their living based on the athletic excellence of pro golfers to make more money than they deserve. You give them free labor thereby increasing their profit margins for sitting back and “organizing” golf events – where you do the work and they drink cocktails in the hospitality tents. Wake up…

According to a report I read in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Oakland Raiders might just be considering a move to San Antonio, TX. Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, met with former San Antonio mayor, Henry Cisneros, recently setting off speculation that the Raiders may be looking to move from their antiquated and dysfunctional quarters in Oakland to something a bit more modern and upscale. Remember, the sewer lines periodically back up in Stadium leaving sewage on the locker room floors; so moving upscale from that is not exactly a Herculean task.

In addition, if I understand correctly the “stadium status” in Oakland it goes something like this:

    The A’s signed a 10-year lease to stay in that stadium – but they can opt out of the lease with 12 months’ notice.

    There is also a clause in the lease for the A’s that would allow the city – and the Raiders – to tear down the stadium to make way for a new football field.

If that sounds strange to you, welcome to the world of rational people…

Finally, here are observations from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle regarding the Niners’ new venue, Levi’s Stadium:

“The 49ers will sell standing-room tickets for $50 and $75. For $75 you get to stand on both feet.

“Along with the $50 or $75 SRO ticket, you will be required to purchase a ‘personal air-space license.’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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  • Doug  On August 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

    On the NCAA: I think the judge erred when she set the cap on payments to players at $5000. From an anti-trust stand point, I do not see the difference in the current cap established by the NCAA and the new cap set by the judge. The players have a take it or leave it situation that has not really changed all that much. Whatever Georgia Tech offers a recruit will be exactly the same financially as the offer from Duke or UNC. I would advise the O’Bannon attorney’s to appeal this part of the ruling.

    On PGA volunteers: A volunteer that has a job on the course where the action can be viewed may disagree with you. As a Boy Scout I volunteered at Ga Tech football games because I wanted to see the game. That was all I really cared about and my dad could not afford tickets.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 12, 2014 at 8:48 pm


      Michael McCann in that SI column I linked to pointed out that O’Bannon’s side might choose to appeal part of the decision.

      The volunteers at the PGA are generally NOT people who cannot afford tix or who would not be able to see any of the tournament without volunteering. It’s on TV after all and you get to see just about everyone do everything short of picking their noses. Volunteers are like lambs being led to slaughter – only they live to volunteer another day. When they go home after the tournament is over, I hope they enjoy the fact that they just made the “1-percenters” who run the PGA ever so slightly wealthier.

  • Bones  On August 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    First, welcome back Curmudge! On the subject of the NCAA ruling, take a look at Charles P. Pierce’s column about it:

    “Ed O’Bannon and an exaltation of other plaintiffs”
    “Judge Wilken hit the organization over the head with a big bag of obvious”
    “The scramble for seats on the last lifeboat is not going to be a pretty one”

    The boy can write!

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm


      I ran across Pierce’s column after posting my rant. Indeed, the boy can write!!

      I wonder if Mark Emmert knows who Edward J. Smith was…?

      • Bones  On August 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm

        I would venture to say not. And even if he did, and even if he got the reference, I doubt he would think it applied to him.

  • Rich  On August 12, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Mr. O’Bannon is currently employed at a car dealership here in Las Vegas. He knows that the ruling does not entail much money, but he seems to sincerely believe that the case will benefit future generations of college athletes. I think his heart is in the right place. One column I read pointed out the obvious in the case: everybody seems to make money in NCAA athletics, except the players. Most of those players will not make as much money in their post collegiate life as a Division I coach will make via shoe contracts in the three or four years those players on the squads, even if they do have cushy car dealership jobs.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 13, 2014 at 9:27 am


      Now, if colleges – or maybe the courts – were to put a cap on coaches’ compensation, perhaps there would be “enough money to go around” and pay all the NCAA athletes a pittance. Just a thought…

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