Today is the final day of testimony in the anti-trust lawsuit brought against the NCAA by Ed O'Bannon. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel has been on the scene at various points during the trial, and he's filed a dispatch today that highlights one very important fact about the NCAA's sad attempt to defend its cartel status: Not a single relevant student-athlete was called to testify on behalf of the NCAA.
Astonishingly, an organization that tells us to think of it as "a marching band celebrating student-athletes in everything they do" did not call a single … wait for it … student-athlete. Two of the NCAA's four pre-competitive justifications for prohibiting compensation are that consumer demand of college sports is dependent on maintaining amateurism and that amateurism rules promote an integration of academics and athletics. Who could possibly be more qualified to speak to the merits of amateurism than a successful former amateur athlete?
To be fair to the NCAA, the judge hearing the case previously ruled that any college athlete who has appeared in televised game footage since 2005 was automatically a class-action plaintiff, and therefore could not be called to testify on behalf of the defense. Still, out of all the thousands of athletes that played college sports before 2005, the best the NCAA could come up with was Jim Delany, a former North Carolina point guard who played in the '60s, a former Kent State basketball player from the '70s named Chris Plonsky, and Diane Dickman, who played college golf in the '80s for Tulsa.
Here are some fun facts about those three pro-NCAA former student-athletes: Jim Delany is the current commissioner of the Big Ten, Chris Plonsky is the current athletics director at Texas, and Diane Dickman is the NCAA's current director of academic and membership affairs.
Consider how stupid this makes the NCAA look. According to the NCAA's Division I manual, a college athlete's participation in sports should be "Motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived." And yet Emmert and his goons couldn't find a single "student-athlete" who does not currently have a financial stake in the NCAA's continued existence to take the stand and plainly state, "Yes, I got into this for the education as well as the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived."
Whether the NCAA couldn't find a relevant athlete to testify on its behalf because no such athletes exist or because it was too stupid to go looking for one doesn't really matter. What matters is that right now when Mark Emmert speaks—"They are not hired employees, they are conducting a game strictly for entertainment," he said on behalf of NCAA athletes during his testimony—he sounds like the minister of propaganda in a repressive state, telling the world all about how much everyone loves living in his country and the wonderful things the government does for its citizens, with whom there's certainly no reason at all to speak.