Jim Boeheim spoke with the press on Friday, per Syracuse.com, touching on Syracuse’s upcoming attempt to bounce back from a 19-15 NIT campaign, UNC’s last-minute dodging of NCAA penalties, and the fact that, actually, jersey sales aren’t really that high, so college athletes should probably be happy with their Pell Grants and just shut the hell up.
Boeheim’s thoughts are a lot of stupidity to take in all at once, and none of it is really all that thought out; since he’s such a busy guy—what with all his endorsement obligations to go on top of working to get the Orange past the second round of the NIT and finding a new heir—it’s probably worth adding some much-needed context to his defensive posturing.
I’ll start with the easy one, in which Boeheim argues that only future NBA players are worth money:
“Any kid that would get an endorsement will get his money when he goes to the NBA,” Boeheim said. “The other kids that aren’t going to end up in the NBA probably aren’t going to get endorsements in college anyway.
While one-and-dones continue to rule the larger season narratives, any person who has followed college sports and believes that folk heroes with fringe-NBA talent, like UNC’s Luke Maye, for example, couldn’t swing some good money doing local ads after a big game or season is either delusional or lying.
“The greatest fabrication was Chris Webber saying they sold all my jerseys and I didn’t get any money. First of all, the jersey sales are very little money...”
“Jersey sales are very little money,” says the man whose university advertised Tyler Ennis’s jersey moments after he downed Duke with a buzzer-beater. (We’ll skip over the whole matter of Boeheim going on ESPN and shit-talking his point guard after Ennis declared for the NBA.)
“...and Chris Webber made more than $150 million in the NBA. So he got his platform in college. He built his reputation there. And he cashed in in the NBA. Guys like me, I wouldn’t have gotten any endorsements. But I didn’t have any bills when I was done playing basketball. I didn’t owe money like most do. The endorsement thing is a complete non-starter for me because then you’d have real troubling circumstances.”
Boeheim said Chris Webber took his college fame and “cashed in in the NBA” by making “more than $150 million”—never mind the fact Webber played in the league for 15 years, won Rookie of the Year, and was a five-time All-Star; it’s all thanks to a few years of ball at Michigan.
Those circumstances, Boeheim said, would be similar to the current Adidas scandal. He indicated that payments would be even more widespread if the rules allowed them. That, he said, was a problem.
“The market value would be determined by, you come to our school and this company will give you a $100,000 endorsement deal,” Boeheim said. “Perfectly legal. Is that a problem? Yeah, I think it’s a problem.”
Boeheim “thinks it’s a problem” that apparel companies could openly pair with colleges to allot worthwhile college players a signing bonus in addition to their scholarships because, gasp, there would still be rule-breakers—first, that’s rich coming from Syracuse, of all places; secondly, that whole payment structure Boeheim hates so much sounds an awful lot like how, as late as 2014, Boeheim’s contract included over $1.2 million in payments from IMG Worldwide, in addition to the money he took from outside private companies looking to stamp his glowing review on their product.
“I think all coaches, including me, have always been for (athletes) to get more resources,” Boeheim said. “Not to be compensated as employees, no. But if you are a need athlete, you can get a full Pell Grant. If you were getting the full Pell Grant and a cost-of-attendance, where the mean is around $4,000, you could get ($10,000). That’s in addition to the scholarship, plus two meals a day. That’s a huge stride over where we were.”
This last one—where he waxes on about how far college sports has come and the beauty of Pell Grants—is a real hoot. Boeheim’s essentially patting himself and every other major college program on the back for not continuing to be a piece of shit that would deny players in need the money to attend school and play for them. Progress from a place of vast inequity to somewhere of slightly less inequity isn’t something to be proud of, it’s a challenge to keep working toward a fair market. Last I checked, “$10,000" and “two free meals” doesn’t go quite as far as a $150,000 signing bonus from Adidas.
Boeheim’s been on this train for a long time—in 2013, he called the idea of compensating players past a scholarship whose monetary value is set by the NCAA member schools “idiotic,” adding that he doesn’t “believe players should be paid” as their scholarships and access to the world’s best paper-writers mean they are “getting a tremendous opportunity.” As the long-time coach at one of college basketball’s premier programs, as well as a highly influential employee at an NCAA member school, Boeheim’s opinion on college athlete compensation unfortunately matters a great deal—unless more coaches like Colorado’s Tad Boyle (or the since-disappeared 2012 version of Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin) start voicing their opinions and pressing their ADs to make structural changes to the AD-run NCAA, nothing will happen. Instead, we’ll just keep being treated to more half-thoughts from successful dipshits who see the end of their careers and the college system they got rich off of coming to an end.