The NCAA May Be Approaching Its Day Of Reckoning

Illustration for article titled The NCAA May Be Approaching Its Day Of Reckoning

Once upon a time, complaining about exploitation in the NCAA made you the turd in the punch bowl and/or Jason Whitlock. "College athletes should be paid" marked troll territory. Rollie Massimino selflessly forges boys into men, damn it! He's never made a dime off basketball!


But fairly recently, around these parts and elsewhere, more and more folks are recognizing that the NCAA, with all its regulations, is a sham. The times, they are a-changin'.

This week, PBS's Frontline (video embedded) and HBO's Real Sports will devote lengthy segments to investigating the NCAA.

Players ought to make money, some say. Others just bemoan horrendous graduation rates throughout the NCAA.

Did you know UConn and Kentucky graduate less than half of their players? (Although Coach Calipari helpfully notes that he graduates 80 percent of his players that stay four years.) Feel-good VCU graduates 56 percent of its basketball team. Butler graduates 83 percent. (Look up all the numbers here.)

Preeminent academic Decided non-moralizer Charles Barkley said this: "I'm concerned about the NCAA not graduating these players. They aren't paying the players. I'm not going to go on a rant about where the money goes, but you have an obligation to graduate these players."


Barkley's not speaking as the snide Duke fan who notes that his team and his coach—unlike yours—graduates all of their players. He's not trying to claim that JJ Redick's poetry can hang with Les Fleurs du Mal.


Rather, he's saying there's something fundamentally wrong about making millions off players and leaving them without college degrees, without anything of worth. This is a big statement for an established basketball figure, even a contrarian like Barkley.

We haven't seen the Real Sports bit, but the Frontline story gets at this, showing former UCLA Ed O'Bannon working at a Las Vegas Toyota dealership, waiting on the outcome of his lawsuit against the NCAA. O'Bannon and PBS's Lowell Bergman play NCAA Basketball '09—with O'Bannon's likeness included, because the NCAA owns it in perpetuity.


The Frontline piece also includes interviews with Sonny Vaccaro—who used to sign coaches to Nike deals, among other things—Joakim Noah, and Michael Lewis. (Vaccaro will also be on Whitlock's podcast tomorrow. And Whitlock will be on HBO. Lots of synergy here.) Plus, you get to see NCAA president Mark Emmert squirm when asked about his salary. So watch it.


But if you don't watch, the piece's salient point comes from the simple data it throws at us: that the NCAA makes 90 percent of its revenue from March Madness, that it signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion broadcast deal, and that the players don't get any of that.

Now we know. And so will everyone who watches PBS on Tuesday nights. Which is something.


UPDATE: Sports By Brooks has some transcripts from the HBO show. Four former Auburn football players said the school paid them in sex and money. Stay tuned.

Whitlock: Greedy NCAA still exploiting athletes [Fox Sports]

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Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.