The blog has been quiet this week, but I have been busy. Here’s a rundown of coverage following Ohio State’s season-opening win over Navy and in preparation for the Buckeyes’ visit from Virginia Tech. Continue reading
The NCAA does itself no favors by continuing to keep up the PR front that it is all about preserving amateurism because that word has lost whatever power it ever had, but maybe U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken did the organization a favor by weeding out such arguments up front. Continue reading
The crystal football of the Bowl Championship Series is gone, replaced with a trophy of hardened steel surround by gold brackets.
It is three feet tall, and like the last trophy is composed of two distinct pieces so the 26.5-inch 35-pound “virtual football” trophy can still be lifted off the base, as winners famously were able to do with the crystal football trophy.
After taking a look at the success rate of Ohio State’s five-star recruits, we turned our attention to the lower rated but perhaps overall more important guys who account for well over 80 percent of the roster.
The study of the Buckeyes who signed as four-star recruits and those rated three-stars (or lower) brought out a couple more surprises than the five-star study, which served as more of an affirmation of the practice than anything else.
As the Ed O’Bannon case against the NCAA opens in California, it appears the outcome is more a game-changer than a foundation-shaker. That’s probably a good thing for all involved.
While there was a period of time when the potential for huge damages hung over the heads of the NCAA and its partners, the goal of the plaintiffs has shifted to determining if players have been getting cheated out of profits garnered from TV broadcasts, video games and more over the years and then figure out how to fix that.
This is the No. 1 issue that the NCAA could have and should have gotten out in front of without truly changing its model to a drastic degree (despite what they say). Yet it also seems like the one it is least interested in addressing aside from actual direct salaries for players. It also happens to be the best possible compromise for both sides, not to mention the many millions who sit on the sidelines either as fans, media, sponsors or entrepreneurs.
I think all of these parties should be considered not from from a legal standpoint but a practical one. That’s because without the latter there is nothing for the two parties in court to argue about.
The NCAA does not seem to see a difference between paying players a salary and allowing them to profit off their image (which for this purpose means appearance, reputation, etc.), and that could be a fatal mistake, perhaps more because of other cases it faces than this one.
While the O’Bannon case has been characterized as many things, it has boiled down to the area where the NCAA could most easily call for a truce and get out with a relatively similar model to the one it has already been maintaining for decades.
There have been those who call O’Bannon bitter for not being able to make it in the NBA and thus needing to hit the NCAA to make up the shortfall he might feel his talents deserved. Those people are missing the point. In fact, they zoomed right by it. O’Bannon, a college star who never did much in the pros, is the perfect example of the relatively small percentage of athletes who do genuinely end up getting a raw deal in this whole college arrangement. His example is also noteworthy because he would not have been such a big deal in college (maintaining name recognition more than a decade later) if he hadn’t played at and delivered a national championship to a school that is so steeped in a tradition of winning.
I maintain the great majority of players end up getting more out of their scholarship (when considering the education, the experience and the various other benefits) than they are really worth to the school, and many of those who outperform the value of the scholarship are still made whole by multimillion-dollar contracts signed at the age of 19-22, contracts (with not only their pro team but also endorsers) that are in many cases more valuable than they would have been without the opportunity to perform on a college platform that has often been developed over many years and affords much greater effect than any available alternative that exists or could reasonably expect to be formed.
It’s been said before, but it’s not the NCAA’s fault the NFL hasn’t created a minor league or that the NBA’s domestic minor league doesn’t pay enough to make it an attractive option for those who don’t want to go to college or even avoid going overseas. It’s also not the NCAA’s fault the public isn’t interested in attending or watching the D-League or it’s NFL alternative, but that’s something that should not go overlooked.
Now, a victory by O’Bannon would change things in some significant ways for college athletics. There is no denying that. But without having to worry about taking a huge financial hit up front, the schools that make up the NCAA would have the opportunity to redraw budgets to account for distributing more of their revenue directly to those teams that generate it, and that time should allow for figuring out ways to move around their money without taking away too many opportunities for athletes in other sports.
In their rush to rail against the current college athletics model, many ignore the fact just about all of the money college teams bring in is spent by the athletics departments on athletics teams and therefore its athletes. However, anyone who has toured a college facility recently knows there are plenty of places they could be just a bit less lavish to save money to spend on the lacrosse and track teams without significantly hurting the experience of the football and basketball players.
Are the players better off with a few more bucks in their pockets than they are having the school spend lavishly on them in the form of facilities, training, food, tutors and publicity? I’m sure that would vary some by case, but I’m not going to make that overall argument either way because it probably won’t affect the outcome.
Of course, NCAA schools can probably open the door for athletes to market themselves without losing much of anything they bring in now. Let the market bear what it will for them while continuing to refine their experience with better food, better training, better health care and enough money to cover the full cost of education (all things that seem to be on the way already). That makes whole those who are notable enough in college to be able to argue they should get significantly more than they already do without taking anything away from the 85th man on the roster. It provides some insurance to players such O’Bannon or maybe even a Michael Sam or a Troy Davis or Colt McCoy or Troy Smith who can dominate in college but might not have the skill set to make it big in the pros. Guys like those can and do profit off their likeness for years to come after college is over, but it stands to reason there is more to be made while the iron is hottest.
This whole debate is really important because I do get the impression from fans on social media, our message board and beyond that their appetite for supporting college sports would be diminished if the players became true employees who were bid on by teams openly like players in the NFL, MLB, etc. This is a debate that has been going on since scholarships first became offered and regulated many decades ago, and truth be told compensation is compensation in my book. If athletes were paid a salary instead of a scholarship, it would not make much difference to me. I do believe they are being compensated for a service, and so in that sense are employees (even though I think the arguments applied in the Northwestern case don’t fit that definition as compared to other examples of college students’ experiences, that’s a legal debate, not a common sense one), but apparently that is not a consensus. And if there is a consensus out there indicating the market for college sports will dry up if the players become true employees, even if the overall experience is basically the same in its essence but looks different from the outside, then the idea of change should not be taken lightly. Whether it is the players or the colleges risking the slaying of the golden goose doesn’t matter. In many cases, practicality overrides morality, and this could be one.
Of course, the possibility exists that even letting players do endorsements could turn off the general public, but that has not happened with Olympic sports. Does the general public care that Olympic athletes are not paid, per se, for competing, or does that even register in their perception of what is going on? Maybe the Olympics, like long-famous colleges, simply trump all from a marketing standpoint thanks to their tradition and the same would be true in college athletics regardless of how the athletes are further paid. I’m not sure it’s worth finding out or necessary, but maybe there won’t be a choice.
Earlier we took a look at the East. Now comes the West, which should have an interesting race.
Iowa and Minnesota both showed great improvement last season while Nebraska and Wisconsin have questions but remain contenders. Continue reading
Stanford’s win over North Carolina in the second regional final game played Tuesday night means a fourth Final Four in five years for Beavercreek’s Mikaela Ruef, who redshirted because of a foot injury early in her career.
Ruef joins Malina Howard (Twinsburg) and Chloe Pavlich (Cincinnati Sycamore) of Maryland as the three players from Ohio to earn a trip to Nashville.
Meanwhile, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer is headed to her 11th Final Four with the Cardinal since leaving Ohio State after the 1985 season, when she led the Buckeyes to the Elite 8.
VanDerveer coached Ohio State as women’s basketball became an officially sponsored Big Ten sport and led the Buckeyes to the first conference title.
Her top assistant at Stanford is Amy Tucker, the captain of the 1982 Ohio State squad that played in the first NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
Ohio State came in second for Ruef, who has family on the West Coast and was also swayed by the opportunity to get a Stanford education. Interestingly, back then Ruef’s father told me VanDerveer talked to them about what great memories she had of her time at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes also went hard after Howard, who was ESPN’s No. 1 center prospect in her class two years ago, but she did not have Ohio State among her finalists when she chose the Terrapins.
So, let’s face it: PR is not the NCAA’s strong suit. Of all the things the organization struggles with, this might be No. 1. Of all the people guilty of a lack of nuance when discussing issues surrounding major college athletics, the NCAA’s spokespeople (be they official or de facto) could be the worst offenders.
We are reminded of this every time they simply deny athletes should be paid rather than point out they already are (and have been almost from the beginning) paid, and yesterday’s response from the organization following the news that football players at Northwestern have started an effort to unionize probably did nothing but blow a bigger hole in the organization’s credibility on this issue with the general public. Continue reading
Consider this a “cliff notes” version of Ohio State’s response to the NCAA’s Letter of Allegations. These are the parts I found interesting or enlightening (or both, I guess). Check another post for more thoughts on the matter.
This seems important:
Also, the enforcement staff requested numerous materials from the institution. These included the provision of rules education materials and monitoring procedures (primarily in the areas of preferential treatment and extra benefits). The additional requests in these areas resulted in no additional allegations against the institution.
The University believes that little institutional responsibility exists for the preferential treatment violations in Allegation #1. While the University recognizes that the institution must take responsibility for its employee’s actions with respect to Allegation #2, the responsibility is upon Tressel. No other institutional personnel were aware of the preferential treatment violations, and Tressel had an obligation to report the potential violation to the appropriate institutional officials.
They say repeat offender should not apply because the violations are far different plus most of the actual violations were more than 10 years ago.
Mitigating factors include:
The individual (Ed Rife) involved in the provision of preferential treatment was not a representative of the University’s athletics interests and is not a contributor to the University. Rife and two of the student-athletes named in Allegation #1 met at a local nightclub.
Regarding Rife’s status as a representative, based upon a strict interpretation of Bylaw 13.02.14, Rife became a representative in April 2010 when Tressel learned that Rife had arranged or provided discounted prices on tattoos. The University does not believe if (or when) Rife became a representative is significant to the overall severity of this case. Rife was not (and continues to not be) affiliated with the University and did not have a relationship with any athletics department staff members. It appears that the nexus of the relationship was a chance meeting between Rife and two student-athletes at a local nightclub. Nevertheless, the institution sent Rife a letter (see Exhibit 1-8) disassociating him indefinitely from any contact with the University and its student-athletes. In December 2010, the compliance staff informed all student-athletes that they could not visit Fine Line Ink nor could they have any contact with Rife and specifically requested them to “defriend” Rife from their Facebook accounts.
This made me chuckle:
The office plans to partner with an organization titled Experience Columbus to communicate the message that businesses may not provide any benefits/preferential treatment to student-athletes based on their status. The compliance staff also plans to provide brochures with this message to all restaurants, bars, and service businesses (e.g., barbers and tattoo parlors) either located near campus or known by the compliance staff to be frequented by students.
They argued (sensibly so, it would seem) that players would have been ineligible in 2010 for five games are being punished just the same in 2011 after the revelation of what Tressel knew, and the school seems to consider vacating the 2010 season as an additional penalty because Tressel used ineligible players.
In summary, the University believes that the corrective and punitive actions are appropriate and negate any competitive advantage gained by the institution as a result of these violations. The University asks the Committee on Infractions to accept these penalties and take no further action.
Regarding the February 8, 2011, interview, Tressel was asked if he was “aware” that violations regarding student-athletes, particularly and, had either occurred or likely occurred, and his response was “yes.” He was asked whether he was aware “that as a result of these violations that the student-athletes likely would be ineligible for participation during the 2010 season,” and he responded that, “No, I really didn’t think of it like that.” Upon further questioning, he acknowledged that he understood that and had been involved in violations before the start of the 2010 season and that they intended to participate during the season. In response to a question on whether he was prepared to go forward with the student-athletes participating even though he knew that NCAA violations had occurred, Tressel responded that he understood that the institution was “going to get as our works deserve” and that “we were going to pay the fiddler.” As he indicated throughout his February interview, Tressel believed there was a “hierarchy” of issues, with the federal criminal investigation having the highest priority. He indicated that the NCAA issues would be resolved once the ramifications of the federal investigation were resolved.
The letter goes on to say (essentially) they tried like hell to tell the players they couldn’t sell their bowl stuff and point out they have repeatedly made public declarations about what constitutes a booster and what those folks can and can’t do (That began after the Clarett fiasco and actually rose to the level of somewhat amusing absurdity when they would post videos defining boosters on the big screen prior to games and put messages in the program. I see why that is necessary, but I always got a bit of a chuckle out of it anyway.)
Is this enough?
As noted in the response, the institution’s review in December 2010 focused upon the current student-athletes identified in the U.S. Department of Justice letter. After discovering the Tressel e-mails, the institution began its efforts to ensure that no other student-athletes with eligibility remaining had received any free or discounted tattoos or sold memorabilia. On February 4, 2011, the institution distributed a questionnaire to all football student-athletes about their attendance at or purchases from Fine Line Ink and determined that based upon the information provided, there were no additional violations.
Although the famously overhyped and overwritten Sports Illustrated rip job identified other players’ being associated with the tattoo shops, sources have been indicating for quite some time that all but one of those players was cleared by the NCAA in early June.
The University emphasizes the distinction between information available only to Tressel and the knowledge of other institutional officials regarding this matter. As noted in the Introduction Section of this report, upon receiving information about this matter from the Department of Justice in December 2010, University officials acted immediately, declared student-athletes ineligible, and sought reinstatement. In early 2011, after learning of the e-mails, the NCAA was contacted, several interviews were conducted, and the University determined that a NCAA Bylaw 10.1 violation occurred. It subsequently imposed significant corrective and punitive measures upon Tressel and the football program. In both the initial inquiry and in the determination of appropriate corrective and punitive actions, the faculty athletics representative, key attorneys from the Office of Legal Affairs, and the President’s Office became engaged in the inquiry.
(Cicero) recalled that on Christmas Eve day in 2010, he received a text message from Tressel, who asked if the information that had just recently been released concerning the reinstatement of six student-athletes related to the information (Cicero) had provided Tressel earlier in the year. Cicero said he confirmed with Tressel that it was the same information.
The school’s description of its dealings with Tressel in December leave little room for doubt that it went to reasonable lengths to find out what the coach knew and when he knew it (even if the scope of the investigation of the team still seems questionably small). Previously, it was somewhat unclear if Tressel had “lied” or simply omitted some details, but this indicates he deliberately told them things that weren’t true about what he knew.
Also, on December 16, 2010, the six student-athletes whose eligibility was affected were interviewed by institutional representatives. Shortly after the conclusion of the last student-athlete interview, Director of Athletics Gene Smith and Tressel met briefly with those institutional officials who had conducted the interviews to ask about the status of the information and its implications on the anticipated eligibility restoration requests. During that conversation, University officials asked Tressel about his knowledge of the information. More specifically, Senior Associate General Counsel for Athletics Julie Vannatta asked Tressel if he had been contacted by anyone about this matter or if he knew anything about it. Tressel replied that while he had received a tip about general rumors pertaining to certain players, such information was not specific and pertained to the players’ off-field choices. The University interpreted his responses to mean that the tip related to the social decisions/choices being made by certain student-athletes. Tressel also mentioned during this December conversation that he did not recall from whom he received the tip and that he did not know that any items had been seized. Nevertheless, the conversation represented another opportunity when Tressel could have informed the institution of his previous e-mails with Cicero.
Seeing as how roughly a week later Tressel contacted Cicero again, it’s hard to believe he didn’t know who had tipped him about the players’ involvement with Rife. I don’t believe his characterizations of the content of Cicero’s emails are accurate, either.
Information was reported to the University and the enforcement staff subsequent to the Notice of Allegations that still is being reviewed. This review continues and the University will report any additional violations if necessary in the future.
Read more here.
I’m stuck between two Metallica songs in my search for a title for this post.
I guess I’m supposed to have a reaction to Ohio State’s response to the NCAA, but I’m kind of burned out on the topic.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: This is news. There are plenty of interesting tidbits in the documents the school released Friday (find them here), but for anyone who has been following along from the beginning, there wasn’t all that much real, substantive news.
So what is the lesson, if there is one?
I think it’s that sometimes what they don’t say matters as much as what they do.
In this case, I’m referring to the fact that the NCAA still has not alleged Ohio State failed to monitor the situation properly or that it exhibited lack of institutional control. I am under the impression the organization could still do that if it sees fit, but there is no concrete reason to expect that at this point.
Many people got all bent out of shape over what they perceive as a light punishment self-imposed by the Buckeye brass, but most of them have already shown themselves to be a little too itchy on that trigger finger.
They’re also missing an important distinction between what has been reported and what the NCAA actually has shown any real concern about, at least enough to express it in writing. As long as that continues to be the case, I suppose we will still have to deal with the howls and those people will have to learn to get over their disappointment.
Ohio State looked a lot better on paper yesterday than it has looked in the press for quite some time, and that is an incredibly meaningful thing.
However, the time for exhaling has not arrived in Ohio quite yet.
The conclusion of Ohio State’s response could be taken as ominous even though it might turn out to be innocuous.
It reads, “Information was reported to the University and the enforcement staff subsequent to the Notice of Allegations that still is being reviewed. This review continues and the University will report any additional violations if necessary in the future.”
This means Ohio State is not quite out of the woods. While obviously vague (and possibly procedural), the reference to further reviews likely has to do with reports former quarterback Terrelle Pryor had multiple dealings with a Columbus photographer who allegedly paid him for autographs he could later sell.
But much like when Maurice Clarett faced charges of accepting extra benefits (not to mention misleading NCAA investigators), this figures to be tough for the NCAA to prove because Pryor left town with indications he won’t be back, at least not to see them, and the photographer is likely in no hurry to talk to them, either.
There has been one unsubstantiated report that a paper trail exists between Pryor and the photographer, but it stands to reason the persons who made that report would have produced proof by now. And if the NCAA actually had such evidence last month, Ohio State likely would have included a response to that charge with the rest on Friday.
What is certain is that nothing is assured until the case is finally heard, and someone is going to be disappointed in the outcome. Whether it is Ohio State and its fans or the sanction hawks throughout the national media and fan bases, only time will tell.