Opinion: Emmert Owes NCAA Athletes an Explanation

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times


Mark Emmert has said a multitude of ridiculous things in the seven years he's been president of the NCAA.

Most of his crazy talk has involved the sham of "amateurism" and its phony correlation to big-time college football and basketball. But he went a step further last month, suggesting that prep players with NBA ambitions shouldn't enroll at institutions of higher education.

"Is this a part of someone being part of your university as a student-athlete, or is it about using college athletics to prepare yourself to be a pro?" Emmert said at the SportsBusiness Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. "If it's the latter, you shouldn't be there in the first place."

Of course, that's a preposterous stance, as if "student-athlete" and "NBA prospect" are mutually exclusive. It's not an either/or situation. You can be both.

But players with professional ability, like Maryland forward Justin Jackson, might strongly consider leaving sooner rather than later.

Jackson nearly entered the draft last spring after shooting 44 percent from 3-point range as a freshman. His marksmanship and 7-foot-3 wingspan made him an intriguing NBA prospect, perhaps a late first-rounder. But he also could've been a second-round pick, meaning he wouldn't have a guaranteed contract.

So he came back to improve his stock. Now he's injured and out for the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Jackson tried to endure the pain and his performance suffered; he shot just 37 percent from the field and 25 percent on 3-pointers in 11 games before being shut down and scheduled for surgery.

"It's an old injury," coach Mark Turgeon told reporters last week, adding that doctors said it happened before Jackson arrived at College Park. "He reaggravated it a lot this year. So, he's a tough sucker. A torn labrum is a pretty significant injury, pretty painful, and he tried to play through it for his team."

But according to Emmert's faulty reasoning, the Terps aren't Jackson's team because Jackson is just "using" them to move up.

The NCAA president should submit to drug tests, like the players, because he sounds high.

Maybe I missed all the times Emmert complained about college administrators using schools to advance. (He went from Colorado-Boulder to Montana State to UConn to LSU to Washington in his career.) Maybe it escaped my attention when he railed against student-actors and student-musicians using college as a launching pad for pro careers in entertainment.

Aren't business majors taking advantage of Emmert's member institutions as much as basketball and football players? What about pre-med and pre-law students? Are they on campus just to be part of the university, or are they also preparing themselves to be doctors and lawyers?

The worst offenders in Emmert's world should be coaches, especially those in football.

There's nary a season without a bowl-bound team fending for itself after the coach bails for a better job, sometimes taking others with him. Rarely do we see cases like Scott Frost, who stuck around to coach Central Florida in the Peach Bowl before he (and almost his entire staff) departs for Nebraska.

Exits for new gigs usually occur several weeks before the bowl game, leaving interim head coaches in charge. Less noticeable but sometimes equally disruptive are scenarios when top assistants leave early.

Former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel left last month to get a jump on replacing Frost at UCF. Heupel took offensive line coach Glen Elarbee with him and the Tigers struggled offensively in a 34-3 loss against Texas last week.

"Realistically, Heupel left us in a bad position," defensive end Marcell Frazier told reporters after the Texas Bowl. "It is what it is. And Elarbee left us in a bad position. As men they have to look in the mirror. They let a whole bunch of teenage boys down, 18 and 19-year-olds.

"They have to do what's best for their family, but I think it showed up a little today. ... We practiced for almost a whole month without an O coordinator or an O-line coach after having one of the most dominating offenses in the nation. It's tough."

Coaches skip bowl games for better situations and multimillion-dollar jobs. No problem.

Players skip bowl games (or their upperclassmen seasons in basketball) for drafts with multimillion-dollar jobs at stake. National issue.

According to the NCAA's own marketing campaign, there are over 400,000 student-athletes and most will go pro in something else besides sports. Awesome.

The minuscule percentage that eventually reaches the NBA and NFL foots the bill for fellow student-athletes, while also earning billions of dollars for the NCAA and member institutions. That leads me to a question for Mr. Emmert:

Who's using whom?

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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January 2, 2018


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