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More On The NCAA’s Supreme Court Loss

The NCAA’s various disasters mean it’s time to try something different

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
Why is Mark Emmert still the NCAA President?
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Our initial reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in NCAA vs. Alston was probably off in that the ruling was more narrow than we realized. Essentially it’s not a complete free market solution but holds that the NCAA has to allow schools to recruit by offering other things as long as they’re expressly tied to education.

So if we understand correctly, if, say a Chris Bosh, Jr. was just as geeky as Chris Sr. is (and he is a truly glorious geek), then he could compete for programming scholarships and awards.

So it’s not a home run.

However, the bases are loaded and the NCAA basically has two strikes and three balls. If that wasn’t clear enough from the ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh made sure to underscore the point in his concurrence, which pretty much dares the NCAA to keep the status quo.

Writes Kavanaugh: “Traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated. Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”

There is only one out for the NCAA now and it looks increasingly unlikely: that Congress would pass a national law.

That wouldn’t be easy under any circumstance, but when you look at past issues, we see people like Orin Hatch being pressured by Utah voters to force the NCAA to do something for BYU and Utah, usually something to do with football.

Even in a sane, non-polarized Congress it would be tough. When you add in the conflict between the Power Five schools and the rest of the NCAA, and you break that down by district, much less however the Senate might end up doing things, you can see the chances of getting anything done there are just about zero.

And they are literally zero when it comes to getting anything done by July 1st. Why July 1st? Because NIL legislation takes effect in a few states in a few days.

We think there’s a reasonable chance that the Power Five conferences simply throw their hands up and say the heck with the NCAA and walk, and if they did, who could blame them?

The NCAA has had years to do something rational and useful and they’ve only made things worse.

And that losing streak continued earlier this year when, for some unknown reason, Mark Emmert was given an extension.

Based on what?

He’s been a dreadful executive. Faced with the most urgent situations, he dawdled, perhaps assuming the NCAA would prevail in court.

Well that didn't happen this time, it didn't happen last time and we honestly can’t remember the last time the NCAA did win anything significant in court.

Now the entire enterprise is about to be thrust into chaos with different rules in different states and this is the guy they think can guide them through it?

The brutal truth is he’s never shown that he’s up to the job. The smartest thing the NCAA could do would be to let him go and hire someone more capable of dealing with the current situation. We see people in different arenas who have done things quite differently, despite opposition, and made huge and successful changes.

We don’t think they could possibly afford Elon Musk, and he’s busy trying to get to Mars and all, but you get the point: the guy forced a different paradigm on the space industry. Now everyone is trying to catch up to him.

We can think of other people too. Mike Krzyzewski has already said he’s not interested in anything after retirement, but he has the kind of imagination and personality to get things done. Jay Bilas, a long-time NCAA critic who has been proven right on nearly every criticism of the NCAA, could probably do it but we can’t imagine he’d want to. Mark Cuban might be too abrasive but he’d at least frame things differently and force us to consider them in a new light.

Pushing Emmert out front is kind of like the old Soviet Politburo pushing out Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko after Leonid Brezhnev died. Mikhail Gorbachev followed the three sclerotic leaders and while historians will argue for a long time about his reign, he certainly understood that things could not go on as they had. Glasnost and Perestroika weren’t slogans. They were acknowledgments of vast, systemic failure.

The NCAA needs a fresh start and a bold new leader and the sooner it happens the better for everyone concerned.