I suppose we all agree that the NCAA is terrible. The organization does so many wretched things in the name of protecting academics and amateurism in college sports that it's hard to keep track. (If you remained unconvinced after this latest mess at Miami, where the NCAA's half-assed shadiness would have embarrassed the Nixon administration, you're probably hopeless.) But this latest debacle, with Minnesota wrestler Joel Bauman, makes us especially sour.
A precis of his case: Bauman is the singer you see in that video up there. For your own sake, we recommend watching the video for no more than 15 seconds, unless you adore AutoTune. He is, also—or was—a redshirt sophomore wrestler for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Why will he soon lose his scholarship and his eligibility? Because of that song, of course. The NCAA has a rule that prohibits athletes from profiting from their likenesses while they're in school. But Bauman's YouTube video urges the viewer to download his song from iTunes. He also hopes to do motivational speaking. Although Bauman tells Sports Illustrated that he hasn't yet broken even on his extracurricular activities, his plan to get a few cents here and there to subsidize his gospel-spreading has jeopardized his student-athlete standing.
But it was Minnesota, not the NCAA, who put Bauman on notice. The school decided to sanction its own student; the people in charge of punishment didn't have to. The NCAA didn't need to pick up a phone or send an email to exact its punishment. Hell, in an interview with SI, NCAA spokesman Bob Williams gets to play the good guy:
Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications, wrote in an e-mail that Minnesota's compliance department made the interpretation and that Bauman could seek a waiver if the school chose to back him...
You don't need to have studied post-structuralist prison theory to tell you that this is a disciplinary society at its most evolved—the authority doesn't have to act; the subject instead punishes itself. This is dispiriting. For all the signs of weakness the NCAA has displayed in the past few weeks, months, years, whatever—the organization's as effective as ever.