Today I realized what it feels like to be a Donald Trump supporter! For months I have been trying to figure our how Trump’s supporters can continue to support him. I have been particularly harsh on evangelical Christians. How can they continuing to support him after more than a year of when it has become obvious, if it was not earlier, that he is an ignorant, racist, narcissistic blowhard who does not even have a passing acquaitenc with truth or morality?
He said when he was running for office that he could stand in Times Square in New York City and kill a person and people would still support him. He turned out to be right, for everything Trump has done is about equivalent to that.
Now I am ashamed to confess that I may be just as bad as Trumps supporters. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (‘NCAA’) college basketball tournament started yesterday. I have often said that this is the best sporting event in the world. It has all the excitement of the NHL playoffs in 3 consecutive weekends of sudden death basketball. 68 teams play and each game is sudden death If a team loses it is out.
The winner will be the one college team that wins 6 straight games. Only one team can do it. It is a thrilling event. Every year there are major upsets as favored teams are eliminated by upstarts. Nearly every year what the experts predict, fails to materialize.
The game is played by magnificent young student athletes cheered on by rabid college fans. Many of the games are astonishingly exciting. The student athletes are not paid a salary. Nothing at all. In theory at least. This is where things start to get a little murky.
The deal is this: college athletes are not paid a salary, but they get a college scholarship that allows them to get a very valuable and expensive education from elite American universities. That is worth a lot of money. At least in theory it is worth a lot of money.
College basketball is of course awash with money. Television companies together pay more than a billion dollars for TV rights to the games. More than a billion every year!
Then of course there are apparel companies. 2 years ago one University, UCLA and Under Armour signed the richest apparel deal in college sports worth $280 million over 15 years! The University of Oregon is commonly called University of Nike because that company has poured millions into its coffers. Every team has contracts with a shoe company for their team to display shoes. These contracts are very lucrative.
Who gets that money? Not the players. There are strict rules about what can be paid to them. They get almost nothing. That is because they are expected to be pure athletes. Driven only by a love of the game.
That of course does not apply to the coaches and administrators. Money is lavished on them. Especially coaches. Most of them, of course are white. So money is heaped on the white men and a few lucky African Americans while the young, mainly black, athletes get almost nothing. Does that sound fair? Its hardly surprising that Sports Illustrated magazine, hardly a leftist organization called the NCAA “profitable if grossly exploitative.”
This past year my favorite team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels were investigated because of allegations that some of their basketball athletes were enrolled in courses where a pass was virtually guaranteed. Little work had to be done. The pass was pretty automatic. No player in these course failed no matter how little effort was given by the student athlete. I was later told that the university resisted the charges against them on the basis essentially that in essence this was no different from many other courses! Many of their courses are like that.
If that is true, the students are getting no education at all. It is a fraud. The students get nothing. Nothing at all. It is a fact that very few college athletes get careers in professional basketball. They can’t count on that. If they don’t get a good education they get nothing. So the athletes, who are mainly black, get almost nothing. Only a few get very lucrative professional basketball contracts.
Recently the FBI investigated cases of coaches getting paid money from shoe companies to direct prospective players to certain agents who would then direct the players to certain teams. Reportedly, one of the best players this year received $100,000 under the table.
To begin with I wondered why would the FBI investigate such an allegation? Where is the fraud? Such payments may violate NCAA rules designed to ensure the players are pure, but how is this a crime worthy of an FBI investigation?
The University of Louisville Cardinals found another route to corruption–hookers. They were charged and found guilty by the NCAA of hiring prostitutes for potential recruits, resulting in the firing of its Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino. Incredibly, Louisville argued that their fine should be small because they hired cheap hookers! Morality in the NCAA has reached below rock bottom.
I don’t blame the players. Many of them come from underprivileged families, often with single moms. Who can blame them for accepting cash? Everyone in the industry is paid, and many of them extravagantly, while the players who produce the magic, get zilch.
The coaches are loaded with cash for their efforts. According to USA Today, the 4 highest paid NCAA coaches were paid a high of $7,300,000 to a low of $4,779, 000 in 2018. My favorite coach of my favorite team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels was way down the list at a paltry $2, 182,000. Is that all he is worth? Nonetheless it is clear, coaches are very well paid off the backs of student athletes who get a pretty thin gruel.
A couple of years ago a class action law suit was filled by the players against the NCAA demanding the players be paid the minimum wage for their efforts. According to Sports Illustrated magazine the NCAA responded by citing a precedent case where an inmate in a penitentiary unsuccessfully sued the State for a minimum wage for all of his work while in prison. In the earlier case the court held in a 1992 case that the 13th Amendment applied. That amendment erased the legality of slavery, but also allowed “involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been convicted.” That is the basis of cheap prison labor to this day. The NCAA used the same argument against its student athletes–equating them to prisoners! Well that is what they are! But should such a draconian law apply to student athletes? On what basis?
NCAA president Mark Emmert who is paid about $2million per year, responded, with breath-taking hypocrisy,
“With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”
So everyone but the players can be paid stupendously. The players get to suck socks. Capitalism at its finest?
So what have I done in the midst of all this corruption? Absolutely nothing, except for a few rants. How corrupt does it have to get before I stop supporting the NCAA? I am still intending to watch the tournament. I can’t seem to resist. Like Trump supporters never lose their devotion, so I watch the games no matter how corrupt the league. Am I any better than Trump’s resolute supporters?
 Charles P. Pierce, “Law and Disorder,” Sports Illustrated, (March 12, 2018) p. 16
 Charles P. Pierce, “Law and Disorder,” Sports Illustrated, (March 12, 2018) p.17
 Charles P. Pierce, “Law and Disorder,” Sports Illustrated, (March 12, 2018) p.16