Recently, the NCAA announced yet another working group designed to help the governing body of college sports evolve as everything around it changes. This time around, Mark Emmert and NCAA Board of Governors designated a group to study issues highlighted in recent state and federal court hearings involving student-athletes’ name, image and likeness.
It’s another snag at crippling the forever running debate between a belief system founded under the idea of amateurism going against those who would like the labor compensated in a way the market dictates. If a proponent of the pay-to-play model, it sounds like a step in the right direction.
A single statement in this announcement, however, puts to bed any idea of this group creating a true impact in terms relative to labor compensation.
“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”
It can be inferred, by simply looking at Smith’s statement, the NCAA isn’t using this endeavor to take earnest steps forward. Instead, as literally echoed by the Ohio State vice president, it’s a move being made under the guise of good faith to confirm something the association already believes.
Furthermore, and potentially more important, it’s something the NCAA wants everyone to get behind.
To be Camp Crystal Lake clear: The study could result in compensation for name, image and likeness, most likely through third-party, non-NCAA affiliated organizations. However, this is a group created to monitor those specific matters of contention, all of which hover directly over skilled labor compensation affairs, without the possibility of direct pay as a solution ever being an option.
Purposely, at least presumably, it puts the working group inside a box of the NCAA’s own creation. If an outright refusal to directly pay the labor prior to the group even starting its venture is the starting line, the endeavor isn’t so much pointless as it is consciously drawing a conclusion beforehand, then forcing the voyage to get there — regardless of potential contrasting evidence.
On its very surface, this entire charade avoids any such theories going against the governing body’s ideological belief that amateurism is good and paying players would in some way corrupt it beyond repair.
Logical minds have long argued the NCAA, as well as university presidents who use the umbrella organization to shield themselves from criticisms, hide behind an often redefined term like amateurism to avoid paying players, creating a large gap between those with all the money and power from those without it — making it increasingly difficult for the latter to obtain more of either.
In any other field drawing millions of dollars in an industrialized world, a trust created to look at issues circling around pay and labor rights would be forced to at least kick the tires on compensation playing a role in probable solutions.
And still, through magic, that argument can be moved to the wayside, as it’s clearly part of the larger discussion, but not the literal flaw in the working group’s starting point.
If any entity creates a brain trust, working group, or whatever else have you, but begins the campaign with a predetermined conclusion already made, every theory and discovery made along the journey is going to be for nothing and riddled with flaws.
In the scientific community, doctors and specialists don’t reach their conclusion first. Rather, people working on whatever potential discovery or theory begin without an endgame. Even if there’s a theory with one, those tasked to prove it begin their process by first trying to debunk the original scientist’s conclusion.
The best, least problematic way to determine if something is working correctly isn’t to drum up affirmations first and only. It’s to do the opposite for as long as you can until it can either be proven to be a viable option or determined as a doomed model.
While college basketball, or any other money sport, has no need to function with the same standard as the scientific populace, the latter certainly highlights the former’s flaws at trying to get to the bottom of an issue that’s only a problem because of the laborers’ status within its power and financial structure.
“This group will bring together diverse opinions from the membership — from presidents and commissioners to student-athletes — that will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.”
That’s a whole bunch of words cobbled together to form a statement. It’s also meaningless if the outcome, even if only partially, is predetermined.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared on Forbes, but has been republished under the original author’s name at CBBToday thanks to the publisher-contributor agreement.
Joseph Nardone has covered college basketball for nearly a decade at various outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
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