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Corpus Christi Caller-Times
SAN ANTONIO — Fat, arrogant and idiotic is no way to go through life.
Unless you're the NCAA and its member universities and colleges.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday that he couldn't predict what collegiate athletics will look like in a year or two because the Commission on College Basketball has not yet finished its work. But he promised changes are coming, that the FBI investigation that revealed fraud at the highest levels of college basketball made everyone realize the NCAA cannot continue operating this way.
Well, congratulations. It's only about two decades too late.
Emmert said in his annual address at the Final Four that leaders in college athletics were "pretty dismayed by the nature of the facts that were laid out" by the FBI investigation.
"Everyone had heard rumors, of course, about that kind of behavior, and the business had swirled around everyone," Emmert said. "But nobody had seen it displayed as starkly as it was in the findings of that investigation."
Really? Scandals at Colorado, Southern California, SMU, Ohio State, Miami (Fla.), Michigan and Alabama weren't enough to clue the NCAA and its member institutions into the fact that there was shady business going on in the recruitment and retention of players? They might not have been able to see the cesspool, but they sure as hell could smell it.
But only when federal charges were on the table did the people responsible for doing right by thousands of "student-athletes" decide it was time to do something.
"One of the things that's different about this commission is that everybody I asked to serve on it ... said, 'Yeah, I'd love to do it, but only if you guys are serious,'" Emmert said. "Just to be blunt about it, you don't waste Condoleezza Rice's time if you're not serious about it."
I have no doubt in the integrity or sincerity of Rice, who leads the commission investigating how college sports can — must — change. But with all due respect to Rice, her valuable time shouldn't be the motivating factor here. It's the kids who are generating the millions of dollars for their schools, conferences and the NCAA and getting only a scholarship in return.
Now, I'm not saying a college scholarship is worthless. Far from it. For some athletes, it is the only way they can afford to go to college.
But the quaint days of college athletics being an amateur activity are long gone, and the NCAA and its schools remain steadfast in their refusal to accept that.
"Universities and colleges have consistently said they don't want to have student-athletes become employees of a university," Emmert said.
That argument, though, is both hypocritical and offensive in light of how much money there is in college athletics. CBS will eventually pay almost $1 billion a year for broadcast rights to the men's basketball tournament. Coaches have already made at least $5 million in performance bonuses for their team's results in the tournament.
And last year, Alabama football coach Nick Saban made a little over $11 million.
"There is no interest in higher education turning college athletes into employees that are hired and fired by universities," Emmert said.
Few people are suggesting that. Most people are comfortable with there being some difference between professional and college athletes but also believe it's fair that the players get some compensation for the revenue they're generating.
Allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness is one longstanding suggestion. Follow the Olympic model, where athletes are allowed to sign individual endorsement deals.
There are ways to make it happen, and the fact it hasn't is because the NCAA doesn't want to. It doesn't want to give up control; it doesn't want to give up what it sees as its moral high ground, and it doesn't want to give up any of its cold, hard cash.
But change is coming, and I don't just mean the report from Rice and her commission.
Athletes are getting more and more vocal about getting some kind of compensation, and that will only continue, whether in the form of lawsuits or unions.
The world of college athletes has changed. It's time — long past time — actually that the NCAA and its members recognize that.
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