Back in January, less than a week before the college football championship game, the NCAA announced that parents of players who made this year's College Football Playoff or Final Four were eligible to receive $3,000 in travel expenses. Now, a number of ADs are pushing to make the program permanent. We'd like to remind you that this is a fine gesture, and also that it reveals the many overlapping, alley-ooping layers of bullshit baked into the NCAA's arguments about why it would be improper to pay its players.
When the exception was put into place, sports economist Andy Schwarz explained the many ways that this was mealymouthed bullshit on the part of the NCAA, which forbids nearly all forms of payment for the services of athletes or for good performance in the pursuit of those services—except, apparently, when payment will get mom and dad within range of the TV truck's shotgun mic.
Being at the biggest game of junior's life is heartwarming, but until very recently it was classified as just as improper a form of payment as giving a player's family a car, or a place to live, or cold hard cash for an athlete's strong play—mostly because it is exactly the same. This is actually evident in the mechanism through which the new funds are paid out: the schools themselves are still not allowed to pay the families, because that would be a violation, but the event organizers of the NCAA Tournament and College Football Playoff, or the NCAA itself, can.
It's also lost on no one that by self-selecting the revenue-driving sports for this exception, the NCAA itself has made a value judgement about the primacy of these programs, which is probably why ADs like Ohio State's Gene Smith are pushing for all sports' championships to receive the same treatment. "The finances are there," Smith told the AP. (We know. That's the whole point.) The AP continues:
Television and media contracts for the College Football Playoff make hundreds of millions of dollars annually for FBS conferences and the NCAA tournament's TV deal pays the association more than $700 million per year.
So when the CBS cameras cut to the tearful families at the ends of the games this Saturday, remember that they aren't there because of any great charity on the part of the NCAA. Their sons are being rewarded because they play revenue sports at big programs, and they play it well—something the NCAA swears up and down it can't possible suffer. Yet the parents' presence is payment, and a cut-rate one at that.
Photo via AP