Piling on the NCAA – It’s Not Hard ; NFL Must Stop the Nonsense

punish ncaaby Patrick Hruby
www.sportsonearth.com

Piling On the NCAA
NCAA President Mark Emmert’s attempts to defend amateurism are completely nonsensical — especially for anyone who worked while in college.

Let’s start with a thoroughly unremarkable story. Boring, even. Back when I was a college freshman – a fuzzy, long-ago era where Netscape Mosaic was as wondrous and new as iPhone thumb scanning – I worked at the university bookstore. Peeling labels off unsold textbooks. Packing textbooks into cardboard boxes. Pocketing a paycheck. The last part, I guess, made me a professional – yet at the same time I was paying income taxes as shipping clerk, I also was a student, reading and studying some of those textbooks. Oh, and I also spent a lot of time playing basketball at the rec center, which made me a shipping clerk-cum-student who played sports.

The end. Told you it was a boring story.

Of course, there’s a reason I’m sharing. I think my college experience might blow National Collegiate Athletic Association president Mark Emmert’s head clear off, like in “Scanners,” leaving nothing behind save a puff of smoke and his immaculate, indefatigable, downright Gingrichian coif. After all, here’s what Emmert had to say in defense of college sports amateurism – now and forever – during a Monday forum at Marquette University:

“One thing that sets the fundamental tone is there’s very few members and, virtually no university president, that thinks it’s a good idea to convert student-athletes into paid employees. Literally into professionals. Then you have something very different from collegiate athletics. One of the guiding principles (of the NCAA) has been that this is about
students who play sports.”

Rule of thumb: If your best argument for maintaining a morally bankrupt status quo is to retreat into semantic tautology – as opposed to, you know, making moral arguments – then maybe
you don’t have an argument in the first place. Honestly, it’s a wonder Emmert didn’t cause the heads of his audience to go Mentos-in-a-cola-bottle, given the sheer inanity of his
statement:

1. College sports can’t change because then it would be different.

Well, yes: By definition, “something different” generally is both the point and outcome of change.

2. College athletes can’t be paid, because if they were, they’d be professionals, and if they were professionals they wouldn’t be “student-athletes.”

Again, this is correct: If college athletes were allowed to be paid the same way college coaches and administrators and NCAA presidents and the kids who work at the cafeteria are, at
least some of them would make money, and since making money is prohibited by the legal fiction that is the “student-athlete,” those athletes would no longer qualify for: (a) being
screwed out of workers’ comp if and when they get hurt; (b) a spiffy hyphen.

Still, the real coup de grace of Emmert’s amateurism defense comes in the final sentence: This is about students who play sports. Agreed. College sports are, in fact, about students
who play sports. Only what does that have to do with a group of schools colluding to decide who gets to keep the money generated by those sports? Amateurism isn’t just a dubious
fiction, it’s a dubious fiction built on two intelligence-insulting premises:

1. College students who play sports are somehow fundamentally different, and therefore deserving of different economic rules, from college students who do not play sports;

2. The education of college students who play sports – indeed, their very status as students – somehow depends on them specifically not being allowed to be paid for playing sports,
and/or any notoriety they achieve through said playing.

Do either of these ideas make sense? Do they even hold up to cursory examination, a quick, logical stop-and-frisk? (Note: rhetorical questions). Back to my boring story. I boxed books
for the university. I was paid for it. Later on, I won some journalism awards that included cash prizes. Just like the tens of thousands of other college students who work campus jobs
each and every year, the school-supplied money in my pocket in exchange for services performed had absolutely no impact on my standing as a student or the quality of my education. If I
studied, I passed; if I screwed around, I flunked. The situation was utterly ordinary, entirely non-controversial. On the Spring day I filled out my first 1040-EZ form – and later,
when I paid gift taxes on that prize money – I did not receive a two-month label-peeling suspension. Emmert did not break through my wall a la the Kool-Aid Man, flaming stone tablets
in hand, castigating me for violating his guiding principles via my heretical conversion into that basest of creatures, the paid employee.

Why should allowing the likes of Allen Iverson – then a classmate of mine – to be paid for his campus job be any different?

Enrolled at a university? You’re a student. Play sports at that university? You’re a student who plays sports. Your employment status is irrelevant, except in the eyes of the NCAA and
its member schools. Only there’s nothing principled about their so-called guiding principles. There’s no principle at all. Just empty rhetoric and philosophical sleights-of-hand.
Nonsensical claims of but … but … but … education! Grating, repeated references to “the collegiate model,” which is about as real as a Yeti. Go through my archives, and you’ll find a
half-dozen concrete reasons why amateurism deserves to join Baby on Board stickers and leech-based medicine in history’s dustbin; on the other side of the argument, Emmert offers airy
oral flatulence. Which is hardly surprising. He’s defending a phantom.

Only I know better. Everyone who ever drew a paycheck as a resident assistant or laboratory postdoctoral student knows better. We worked. We studied. Some us of played sports, albeit
mostly badly. We were not playing a “dirty game.” We did not require spiffy hyphens. Nobody’s head exploded.

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penalty flagStuff the yellow flag: Penalties on legal hits are dumb and confusing
By Ross Tucker
Sporting News

It’s got to stop.

For the long-term health of the sport I love, penalties like the ones thrown on Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the college football game of the year against Texas A&M on Saturday and Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore on New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in the much-hyped Manning Bowl on Sunday simply cannot be called.

Throwing flags on legal hits like these only confuse players, coaches, and parents who are involved in the sport at every level.�And the casual fan? Keep calling penalties on textbook tackles like that and they will have absolutely no idea what is or isn’t a foul. Most of them probably already don’t.

Is that what we want? A sport watched or otherwise enjoyed by millions in which nobody really knows the rules?

We actually should highlight and celebrate the hit by Moore on Sunday, which was very similar to the blow he delivered to Ravens tight end Dallas Clark in the Thursday night kickoff game. It is a physical sport. It always has been and always will be. Trumpeting examples of how to do it the right way are 10 times as valuable as showing more clips of what not to do.

The thing is, the NFL knows this. In fact, the league sent out an email on Friday afternoon from NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino that showed several tough, physical and
legal hits” from Kickoff Weekend, and the hit by Moore on Clark was the last and best example they gave. Yet, there we were, almost 48 hours later, and Moore was being penalized for
basically the exact same hit in a game that was watched by more people than Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Do you understand how damaging that is not only to the NFL brand, but to the strides being made regarding hits to the head at every level? Does the NFL?

Players at the lower levels need some positive reinforcement. They need to be shown that you can still deliver a devastating shot and enjoy that aspect of the game legally. The
expression is that a picture is worth a thousand words and it is oh, so true. The video the NFL emailed on Friday was a good step in the right direction. The penalty being called on
Moore on Sunday was a big step back.

Moore got flagged for two reasons. The first is that Nicks’ head snapped back and it didn’t look good. The reality is that a whiplash effect like that can and will happen as a result
of legal hits like the one Moore delivered. There’s no way around that given the way human beings are built; the head is attached to the body via the neck. That’s our anatomy and it is
what it is.

The second is the current standard for these infractions, which began in the NFL and has trickled down to college. It is: “When in doubt, throw the flag,” and it is a very dangerous
mandate these officials have been given.

I understand the desire to make the game safer and I am fully on board with it. Between the concussion lawsuit that has been settled and some discouraging lower participation numbers,
the NFL and the NCAA had no choice but to step in. I applaud them for that effort. Throwing a flag “when in doubt” is not the right way to implement it, however.

The goal is to deter behavior. I get it and think there are tangible examples that it is already working, and in fact Blandino’s video referenced that. Throwing flags on legal hits,
though, has the opposite effect of the intended goal. It takes away a player’s incentive to do it the right way if he believes he’ll get penalized either way. Some will think that they
might as well lead with their head or go for a head shot on their opponent if they are just going to get a 15-yard penalty anyway.

That’s why that standard must be removed.

We have video now. This is not the dark ages. If it is clearly a foul and the official sees it, he should throw the flag. If he isn’t sure, he should keep the flag in his pocket and
let the league or conference office (in the case of college football) take a look at it on Monday and punish that behavior in another way if necessary. In the NFL, they can fine
players, and as a guy who was once fined $5,000 for a late hit, I can tell you that it stings. At the NCAA level they can suspend a player for a half or a game or whatever they deem
appropriate for the given infraction in the following week’s contest.

College ball is even worse now if you ask me. Not only was Clinton-Dix penalized, but he was technically ejected from the biggest game of the season on a play that never should have
been called a foul. Fortunately for him, it was a marquee SEC matchup and, like all of the games at the Division I FBS level, there was a video replay official who rightly overturned
the ejection and allowed Clinton-Dix to stay in the game.

But what if this was a key player in the Harvard-Yale game, or the longest-played rivalry in college football between Lehigh and Lafayette? Or how about any game at the Division II or
III levels?

Because those games don’t have replay, the players would have been ejected from a moment and an opportunity they had waited their entire lives for because an overzealous official was
given a standard that has no place on a football field.

Can you imagine if any other foul was a “when in doubt” scenario? Offensive holding? Pass interference? We would be playing five- and six-hour games if that was the provision the
officials were given in terms of calling those penalties.

Thankfully, they are not.

Now let’s change the process for hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players back to a reasonable standard and highlight the clean hits as much as possible. Let’s get this
train back on the tracks before it is too late.

 

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