Wednesday August 3rd, 2011

Next week, at some place in Indianapolis where time has been instructed to stand still, Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, will convene what is being called, without irony, a "retreat." Assembled will be about fifty college presidents, pledged to make sure that college athletics continue to remain firmly in the past, in the antiquated amateur hours.

The avowed purpose of cloistering the academic wise men is about "protecting and enhancing the integrity of intercollegiate athletics" ... which is the equivalent of upholding the gold standard of Somalia's government. Will one of the presidents, among the two score and ten in attendance, have the courage to suggest that the empire has no wardrobe, that it just doesn't work anymore?

Emmert should certainly know. Both LSU and the University of Washington, whose presidential mansions he graced, have been punished by the NCAA. But, many of the presidents will be coming from athletically convicted campuses. It's certainly worth highlighting that the two prime incumbent NCAA champions, Auburn in football, UConn in basketball, are both current offenders ---- UConn convicted, Auburn, already a serial cheat, under investigation again. If that suggests to you that virtue may be its own reward but see-no-evil is the path to trophy, well then, you are college presidential timber.

Those in presence at the retreat need to admit that integrity in the NCAA has flown the coop because it is impossible to maintain that billion-dollar entertainment industries -- which ticket sales, concessions and TV contracts make college football and basketball to be -- can exist when everybody, but the entertainers themselves, is making money. Never mind fairness; it is against human nature. The system obliges hypocrisy and mandates deceit. Yet, a stated purpose of the retreat is to "maintain amateurism" ---- even as more and more observers and insiders, including coaches, have changed their minds and concluded that the NCAA must acknowledge that the nineteenth century really did end sometime ago.

The NCAA claims that amateurism equates to purity. That is a canard; there is simply no proof of that. Otherwise, we would have amateur musicians, painters and writers, and art would flourish pristine as never before. The NCAA's stated defense for athletic penury is "student-athletes should be protected from exploitation." Hear! Hear! But right now, it's the NCAA member colleges which exploit football and basketball players. Will there be just one president at the retreat who will speak the truth and acknowledge that the only true reason for amateurism in big-time college sport is to legally get free entertainment for paying students and wealthy alumni?

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