Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

October 29, 2013

Is the NCAA a sinking ship?

Can things get much worse for the embattled NCAA?

The enforcement division looks like a toothless tiger. Players are demanding to be paid. An antitrust lawsuit brought by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon threatens the association’s long-standing claim of amateurism protection. College presidents are calling for “transformative change” in how the NCAA operates, a feat it wants accomplished by next summer. And, oh yes, the five major football conferences are looking at pulling out and operating their sport and national playoffs under a new umbrella.

By comparison, the NCAA’s myriad problems make the Obama Administration’s roll out of the Affordable Care Act look smooth.

The daily flow of bad news chronicling the NCAA seems to fall somewhere between damaging and defeated. NCAA President Mark Emmert looks as unsteady as a boxer stunned by a left hook.

Sweep away the grandeur of attending a big-time college football game on a glorious autumn afternoon and what is hidden from the public’s view is too few men fighting over too much money.  In a relatively short time span, major college sports have become a big, big business where winning drives the bottom line.

In a strange announcement, Emmert recently suggested that maybe the time has come for the best athletes to consider skipping college and going straight to the pros – a case in team sports that’s only permissible in baseball, where kids fresh out of high school can head to the lowest levels of the minor leagues and begin working their way up. College basketball’s best players generally spend at least a year on campus before accepting the NBA’s riches. NFL rules require players to wait three years after graduation from high school to enter the draft.

That idea won the endorsement of other conference leaders. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany questioned why colleges should be the minor leagues for professional sports. It is easy to understand the frustration coaches and athletic directors must feel in seeing their star players leave early, but what’s to be gained by having the best players bypass college athletics altogether?

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