By Ken Reed
College sports are on the precipice of a brand new era. Change is coming, it’s most definitely coming.
The highly-commercial, big-time college sports factories want to separate from the smaller, poorer conferences and schools. That’s been the case for awhile but now they’re getting vocal about it. They want to make their own rules, and divide up the money as they see fit — among a much smaller group.
The driving force is … you guessed it: greed. Good old-fashioned greed.
The powers that be in college sports — conference commissioners, athletic directors, college presidents, television network executives, video game moguls, etc. — want more money and they want to continue keeping the money away from the athletes whose work is responsible for creating all the moulah in the first place.
The commissioners of the Big Five college conferences — the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big 12 — are openly advocating “transformative change,” according to an excellent piece by George Schroeder and Dan Wolken in USA Today this week.
The Pac 12’s Bob Bowlsby says it’s time to entertain a new college sports “federation” of schools with similar resources, and possibly separation by sport. ACC commissioner John Swofford predicted major structural and governance changes could be implemented at the NCAA’s upcoming conference in January.
“I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order,” said Bowlsby.
Here’s what the big-time schools want: independence from that annoying NCAA and retention of the non-profit tax-exempt status they currently enjoy as “educational entities.” Good luck with that. If the Big Five conferences separate from the rest of the NCAA, and start acting more like the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Lakers, the Justice Department, Congress, and IRS will undoubtedly (perhaps the operative word here is hopefully, not undoubtedly) take a serious look at that tax-exempt status. Of course, they should be doing that right now, as more and more of the big-time college sports programs are openly hiring business executives with extensive corporate marketing and fundraising experience — and little to no college sports experience — to run their athletic departments.
On another front, the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA and Electronic Arts — which argues that college athletes’ likenesses shouldn’t be used without the athletes themselves gaining some financial benefits — is currently being considered for class action status. If the O’Bannon case goes in that direction, it could preempt the big-time conference commissioners when it comes to “transforming” the current NCAA structure. If O’Bannon is successful, the current college sports economic model will disappear and college athletes will gain a civil rights victory and a measure of economic justice.
Nevertheless, by whatever means, the NCAA, as it currently operates, needs to be blown up. Let the big-time schools and conferences go their own way — as long as their football and basketball players are treated fairly from an economic perspective. The remaining universities and colleges could then give up the sports arms race and focus on putting college athletics in its proper perspective on campus.
There’s no use resisting the inevitable. The train has left the station. Let’s get on with this “transformative change” of college sports.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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