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The Shame of College Sports


TobiasFunke

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Oh, yeah.

Boomer!

With a huge chunk of the NCAA’s treasury walking out the door, Byers threatened sanctions, as he had against Penn and Notre Dame three decades earlier. But this time the universities of Georgia and Oklahoma responded with an antitrust suit. “It is virtually impossible to overstate the degree of our resentment … of the NCAA,” said William Banowsky, the president of the University of Oklahoma. In the landmark 1984 NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the NCAA’s latest football contracts with television—and any future ones—as an illegal restraint of trade that harmed colleges and viewers. Overnight, the NCAA’s control of the television market for football vanished. Upholding Banowsky’s challenge to the NCAA’s authority, the Regents decision freed the football schools to sell any and all games the markets would bear. Coaches and administrators no longer had to share the revenue generated by their athletes with smaller schools outside the football consortium. “We eat what we kill,” one official at the University of Texas bragged.

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Thanks for posting. I'm only halfway through, but it's great so far.

The part about the "student-athlete" protection for universities when families sue over benefits for devastating injuries is pretty interesting. It's a nice position to be in when you don't have to consider the people that work for you as "employees".

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What a great article. I never understood just how loathsome the NCAA really is, and how little real authority it has. Hopefully the house of cards falls soon.

Totally agree. The NCAA does such a good job of seizing upon legitimacy that you never really stop to realize that they have none. I thought the most fascinating part what the stuff about where the notion of a "student-athlete" comes from, and the reminder that terms like student-athlete and amateur aren't things with inherent meaning or relevance but are just ideas that the NCAA can manipulate to serve their own purposes.I thought it could have been a little fairer by pointing out that the schools are using the money they make to provide non-revenue opportunities for other students- they're enhancing the college experience for all of their students with most of the money, not using it all on private jets or hookers or something. I also think the article doesn't really point out that a decent portion of the blame lies with the NFL and NBA for their ridiculous age-related eligibility rules that essentially force kids into the NCAA system instead of allowing them the same freedom that every other athlete (really, every other person) enjoys. But those are minor quibbles. Overall it was an amazing piece of work. I'm interested to see if anyone affiliated with the NCAA says anything, and also if people like the College Gameday analysts talk about it.
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So, what happens with no NCAA?

I don't know about that, but the only way to fix the system, as a whole, is probably to destroy it with a viable competitor, imo.Amateurism and massive TV contracts simply cannot co-exist without corruption.As long as big-time college football and basketball control the vast majority of the talented 18-20 year old athletes under a veil of amateurism, there's no way it can't be a corrupt system.The only major sport where the student-athlete tag isn't completely laughable is baseball (even then, there's still alot of money flowing). IMO, in an ideal world, college football and basketball would generate about as much interest and revenue as college baseball. That might even be stretching it. So, in that world, it doesn't really matter what happens to the NCAA. Without money flying all around amateurs, the NCAA or some other organization could govern it pretty easily. NCAA or whatever organization would so small they wouldn't matter. Other than the courts, the only way anything changes is if the NFL and NBA decide it makes sense to create a viable alternative. I assume they have absolutely no interest in this at the moment.
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Holy crap this would have caused people to flip out:

NCAA v. Regents left the NCAA devoid of television football revenue and almost wholly dependent on March Madness basketball. It is rich but insecure. Last year, CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting paid $771 million to the NCAA for television rights to the 2011 men’s basketball tournament alone. That’s three-quarters of a billion dollars built on the backs of amateurs—on unpaid labor. The whole edifice depends on the players’ willingness to perform what is effectively volunteer work. The athletes, and the league officials, are acutely aware of this extraordinary arrangement. William Friday, the former North Carolina president, recalls being yanked from one Knight Commission meeting and sworn to secrecy about what might happen if a certain team made the NCAA championship basketball game. “They were going to dress and go out on the floor,” Friday told me, “but refuse to play,” in a wildcat student strike. Skeptics doubted such a diabolical plot. These were college kids—unlikely to second-guess their coaches, let alone forfeit the dream of a championship. Still, it was unnerving to contemplate what hung on the consent of a few young volunteers: several hundred million dollars in television revenue, countless livelihoods, the NCAA budget, and subsidies for sports at more than 1,000 schools. Friday’s informants exhaled when the suspect team lost before the finals.

Any guesses on the team?
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So, what happens with no NCAA?

The football and basketball factories will organize their own governing bodies with a brand new set of rules that recognize the realities of court rulings and cash flow.I suspect that that will entail payments to athletes, less academic requirements and a lucrative playoff for those schools, who will have an obvious edge in player procurement.
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So, what happens with no NCAA?

Unlikely perhaps, but one option is that we could one day join the rest on the world by recognizing that there is no logical reason to connect education and big business sports.
:goodposting: The whole "amateurism" schtick is dead, the NCAA and its member schools just don't know it yet. Some of us remember when the Olympics had equally absurd notions and the change to a more realistic system hardly killed them.
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So, what happens with no NCAA?

Unlikely perhaps, but one option is that we could one day join the rest on the world by recognizing that there is no logical reason to connect education and big business sports.
Yeah, I can't see any way that this would ever happen.I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.
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I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.

:goodposting:They could make side deals with the college if they wanted to attended classes. I wonder what percentage that would be in the major conferences.
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I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.

:goodposting:They could make side deals with the college if they wanted to attended classes. I wonder what percentage that would be in the major conferences.
I should say that I'm not much of a college sports fan, though. Would those of you that are big fans still follow it as intensely if this model were adopted?
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So, what happens with no NCAA?

Unlikely perhaps, but one option is that we could one day join the rest on the world by recognizing that there is no logical reason to connect education and big business sports.
Yeah, I can't see any way that this would ever happen.I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.
I don't know that anything will ever change and I think the only way is a viable alternative, but I seriously doubt the solution would ever come to universities explicitly running professional teams without university students. And they'd absolutely not lend their name, likeness, brand, and/or stadium to an outside interest to profit off of.You might say that's pretty much what's going on now and I'd agree, but the student-athlete facade is what allows for the existence of big-time college athletics.IMO, the system can't be fixed. It can only be destroyed.From the article, UNC's AD on the thought of treating programs like a professional sport (I'm sure others feel the same way): “I would not want to be part of it,” North Carolina Athletic Director Dick Baddour told me flatly. After 44 years at UNC, he could scarcely contemplate a world without amateur rules. “We would have to think long and hard,” Baddour added gravely, “about whether this university would continue those sports at all.”
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I don't know that anything will ever change and I think the only way is a viable alternative, but I seriously doubt the solution would ever come to universities explicitly running professional teams without university students. And they'd absolutely not lend their name, likeness, brand, and/or stadium to an outside interest to profit off of.You might say that's pretty much what's going on now and I'd agree, but the student-athlete facade is what allows for the existence of big-time college athletics.From the article, UNC's AD on the thought of treating programs like a professional sport (I'm sure others feel the same way): “I would not want to be part of it,” North Carolina Athletic Director Dick Baddour told me flatly. After 44 years at UNC, he could scarcely contemplate a world without amateur rules. “We would have to think long and hard,” Baddour added gravely, “about whether this university would continue those sports at all.”

It seems like if just one conference did it, it would force all the other big time schools to do it too if they wanted to be able to recruit successfully.
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I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.

:goodposting:They could make side deals with the college if they wanted to attended classes. I wonder what percentage that would be in the major conferences.
The schools could agree on limits to compensation, just like they do now. One of the forms of compensation could be 120 free lifetime credits at UGa. That's almost as much a tie to the program as is the current model.
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I should say that I'm not much of a college sports fan, though. Would those of you that are big fans still follow it as intensely if this model were adopted?

I'm a lukewarm (at best) fan of any one school, too. I'd like to hear this question answered by one of the board's zealots.

You might say that's pretty much what's going on now and I'd agree, but the student-athlete facade is what allows for the existence of big-time college athletics.

Could you expand on this statement?
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I don't know that anything will ever change and I think the only way is a viable alternative, but I seriously doubt the solution would ever come to universities explicitly running professional teams without university students. And they'd absolutely not lend their name, likeness, brand, and/or stadium to an outside interest to profit off of.You might say that's pretty much what's going on now and I'd agree, but the student-athlete facade is what allows for the existence of big-time college athletics.From the article, UNC's AD on the thought of treating programs like a professional sport (I'm sure others feel the same way): “I would not want to be part of it,” North Carolina Athletic Director Dick Baddour told me flatly. After 44 years at UNC, he could scarcely contemplate a world without amateur rules. “We would have to think long and hard,” Baddour added gravely, “about whether this university would continue those sports at all.”

It seems like if just one conference did it, it would force all the other big time schools to do it too if they wanted to be able to recruit successfully.
I see a few of problems:1. What sort of legal issues would unfold if major public institutions of higher learning really became professional sports enterprises?I'm no lawyer, but I'd think enough to end it.2. How many programs could actually survive in a professional environment, having to treat the athletes as employees with compensation, benefits and rights? I'm guess less than 10%.3. Even for the programs that could survive for awhile, they'd lose all those regional rivalries and eventually all the brand power that they've built up on the brilliance of the student-athlete facade.Like I said, it can't be fixed. Only destroyed.If there were a way to make massive profits off a professional minor league football league of sorts, I think the NFL would find a way to do it.
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If there were a way to make massive profits off a professional minor league football league of sorts, I think the NFL would find a way to do it.

The NFL can't do it because the NCAA has such a sweet deal going on right now.
Right. And if the college sports had to treat players as employees, they wouldn't do it either (they'd try for awhile, but it would either ultimately fail or be lukewarm success that doesn't generate the piles of cash it does now).Look at minor league baseball. It survives, but it's not a cash cow either.
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If there were a way to make massive profits off a professional minor league football league of sorts, I think the NFL would find a way to do it.

The NFL can't do it because the NCAA has such a sweet deal going on right now.
Right. And if the college sports had to treat players as employees, they wouldn't do it either (they'd try for awhile, but it would either ultimately fail or be lukewarm success that doesn't generate the piles of cash it does now).Look at minor league baseball. It survives, but it's not a cash cow either.
That's why I think you need to keep naming the teams after the universities. There are loads of fans willing to spend money to support the "Georgia Bulldogs." If those fans are still willing to do so even if the players aren't students, then I think the model would be profitable. If it's just some minor league football team called the "Athens Squirrels" or whatever, I agree that it would not be profitable.
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If there were a way to make massive profits off a professional minor league football league of sorts, I think the NFL would find a way to do it.

The NFL can't do it because the NCAA has such a sweet deal going on right now.
Right. And if the college sports had to treat players as employees, they wouldn't do it either (they'd try for awhile, but it would either ultimately fail or be lukewarm success that doesn't generate the piles of cash it does now).Look at minor league baseball. It survives, but it's not a cash cow either.
That's why I think you need to keep naming the teams after the universities. There are loads of fans willing to spend money to support the "Georgia Bulldogs." If those fans are still willing to do so even if the players aren't students, then I think the model would be profitable. If it's just some minor league football team called the "Athens Squirrels" or whatever, I agree that it would not be profitable.
Would you have the teams still affiliated with the schools financially, or operating independently as for-profit companies?I could see a problem with the quality of the overall product developing quickly. All of the professional sports leagues have some sort of artificial barrier in place to allow the teams with fewer resources to compete. All of them have a draft that gives the weaker teams a better chance to secure the rights to the best players. And then all of them but baseball also have salary caps ... and baseball compensates for the lack of a salary cap by giving the teams control over drafted players and their salaries for a really really long time, which also gives them a bargaining advantage in re-upping with the players they drafted.U.S. sports fans love parity, so if colleges started to pay players to represent them they'd have to come up with some sort of artificial adjustment to the market to level the playing field just like you see in all the other spectator sports.
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I see a few of problems:1. What sort of legal issues would unfold if major public institutions of higher learning really became professional sports enterprises?I'm no lawyer, but I'd think enough to end it.2. How many programs could actually survive in a professional environment, having to treat the athletes as employees with compensation, benefits and rights? I'm guess less than 10%.3. Even for the programs that could survive for awhile, they'd lose all those regional rivalries and eventually all the brand power that they've built up on the brilliance of the student-athlete facade.Like I said, it can't be fixed. Only destroyed.If there were a way to make massive profits off a professional minor league football league of sorts, I think the NFL would find a way to do it.

1. Wouldn't it be just another way of fund-raising?2. Profits might go down but schools that couldn't make a profit would simply have to find another level of play. Heck, the impending superconferences are gonna impose another level of competition as it is.3. The student-athlete facade is tenuous already and only exists now as some nebulous ideal for a few. When fans, alumni and boosters see nothing concrete change, it will be business as usual. Yeah, maybe Vanderbilt will have to leave the SEC but conferences have always been dynamic in their structures.
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Also, keep in mind that the student-athlete facade helps give an illusion of quality.

Alabama, for example, is a college powerhouse.

If they become a pro team, they are no longer a powerhouse, but simply an inferior pro team. You turn college sports into another pro league, I assure you the NFL drops its 3 year rule.

Over time, the passion for college football would be nothing like what you see now.

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I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.

:goodposting:They could make side deals with the college if they wanted to attended classes. I wonder what percentage that would be in the major conferences.
I should say that I'm not much of a college sports fan, though. Would those of you that are big fans still follow it as intensely if this model were adopted?
Most of the people in the stands have no link to the University anyway, except, through the football team. They didn't attend the school. Their parents didn't. Their kids don't. Have never set foot on the campus except to attend a game.Here in New Orleans, I was amazed at the number of people who thought Jordan Jefferson kicking somebody in the head was much ado about nothing and that we had more important things to worry about, like, how we were going to match up against Oregon.
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I see a few of problems:1. What sort of legal issues would unfold if major public institutions of higher learning really became professional sports enterprises?I'm no lawyer, but I'd think enough to end it.

I think the current system presents many, many more legal headaches than that alternative. Making student athletes employees simplifies things. We have tons of precedent about how employees need to be treated. From workman's comp to labor law. The players could unionize, allowing the colleges to set restrictions across schools. The current system relies on a gigantic legal fiction, which is that these athletes aren't in a labor market. There's no Supreme Court caselaw or anything establishing that. The right antitrust case could send the entire structure down like a house of cards.
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U.S. sports fans love parity, so if colleges started to pay players to represent them they'd have to come up with some sort of artificial adjustment to the market to level the playing field just like you see in all the other spectator sports.

US sports fans say they love parity. I don't think the numbers bear that out.
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I should say that I'm not much of a college sports fan, though. Would those of you that are big fans still follow it as intensely if this model were adopted?

I'm a lukewarm (at best) fan of any one school, too. I'd like to hear this question answered by one of the board's zealots.

You might say that's pretty much what's going on now and I'd agree, but the student-athlete facade is what allows for the existence of big-time college athletics.

Could you expand on this statement?
I follow Connecticut athletics pretty ardently. If players were paid and treated like employees, it wouldn't change my enjoyment of the game. If they blew the NCAA up and had a model where the teams were just loosely affiliated with the school....I don't know. I'm not really sure what that universe would look like. That said, I'd rather that this system gets blown up. "Slavery" isn't an apt comparison, but I think indentured servitude is closer to the truth. I'd rather see the right thing get done.
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I've always thought that the best solution is to just have professional teams of players under a certain age that represent the colleges. Like, there would still be a team called the "Georgia Bulldogs", and it would still play on or near the campus of the University of Georgia, but the players on the team would not actually be students at the university.

You would never be able to staff it with enough quality players to make it worth watching more than the XFL was worth watching.
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What would stop, say, the NBA or the NFL from just stabbing the NCAA in the back and creating junior leagues? Players can't join the NBA until they're 19 or 20 or whatever, but they can be drafted earlier, play professionally in the minors, and then become pros without ever having to go through the charade of being a "student-athlete"?

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U.S. sports fans love parity, so if colleges started to pay players to represent them they'd have to come up with some sort of artificial adjustment to the market to level the playing field just like you see in all the other spectator sports.

US sports fans say they love parity. I don't think the numbers bear that out.
We've never really seen a model without a reasonable amount of parity. They love to watch the dynasties and big name teams, sure, and those teams draw the biggest ratings, although that is in part because they come from the biggest markets. But that's only because the little guys still have a reasonable chance. If you removed the salary caps and revenue sharing and all those other artificial constraints on the free market for talent, I can't imagine any of our professional sports improving their lot. I think more than half the teams would have serious problems at the gate almost immediately and I think it would filter down to a loss of interest in televised sports pretty quickly. There's a reason why those leagues have those artificial constraints in the first place.
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What would stop, say, the NBA or the NFL from just stabbing the NCAA in the back and creating junior leagues? Players can't join the NBA until they're 19 or 20 or whatever, but they can be drafted earlier, play professionally in the minors, and then become pros without ever having to go through the charade of being a "student-athlete"?

Because it would fail. People are attached to college sports.
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What would stop, say, the NBA or the NFL from just stabbing the NCAA in the back and creating junior leagues? Players can't join the NBA until they're 19 or 20 or whatever, but they can be drafted earlier, play professionally in the minors, and then become pros without ever having to go through the charade of being a "student-athlete"?

Because it would fail. People are attached to college sports.
And the NBA has the NBDL, which pretty much resembles what you've described. It hasn't really knocked March Madness off the map.
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I see a few of problems:1. What sort of legal issues would unfold if major public institutions of higher learning really became professional sports enterprises?I'm no lawyer, but I'd think enough to end it.

I think the current system presents many, many more legal headaches than that alternative. Making student athletes employees simplifies things. We have tons of precedent about how employees need to be treated. From workman's comp to labor law. The players could unionize, allowing the colleges to set restrictions across schools. The current system relies on a gigantic legal fiction, which is that these athletes aren't in a labor market. There's no Supreme Court caselaw or anything establishing that. The right antitrust case could send the entire structure down like a house of cards.
So in 2035 I may have to worry about the UCAA (United Collegiate Athletes Association) decertifying, the Universities locking them out, and both sides screaming about how they are being worked by the opposing side. A few people will long for the halcyon days of "student-athletes" playing for love of the game and a small contract known as a "scholarship." Some may even advocate the use of scab players. The Presidents of Georgia, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech will meet with the 24 year old player rep for the UCAA, a retired quarterback, formerly of the 14-3, 2032 NCUASAAL Champions, Oklahoma State (National Collegiate and University Affiliated Semi-Amateur Athletic League). Talks may or may not go well. If talks fall apart, I could see people saying that the players on strike in the NCUASAAL should just say screw that league, even if it is the premier Collegiate level league, and instead sign on with either the up-start AUA or the somewhat under-performing USCAAAA or Quad-A. Arguments would be that regional powers in the AUA like Boise State or Texas A & M would draw fans from the NCUASAAL and finally break the strangle-hold over semi-pro collegiate level athletics that has dominated since the NCAA was deemed a high level Ponzi scheme in 2018. Still others would belabor that former premier teams that dominate Quad-A would nearly double the revenue with UCAA players. Of course, to do so they may face strikes from their own player associations. But really, who woulnd't want to see Quad-A powerhouse Maryland, sign the talented Florida State running back Steve Smith for his last year of eligibility before he is drafted into the 48 team NFL (Not to be confused with UCLA's star quarterback Steve Smith of the AUA). We all know the Alabama team from the NFL's SEC would love to get their hands on Smith (not Smith).
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What would stop, say, the NBA or the NFL from just stabbing the NCAA in the back and creating junior leagues? Players can't join the NBA until they're 19 or 20 or whatever, but they can be drafted earlier, play professionally in the minors, and then become pros without ever having to go through the charade of being a "student-athlete"?

Nothing is stopping them except for the fact that the public prefers college football and basketball to minor league football and basketball.

Yet, for some reason the public prefers minor league baseball to college baseball.

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What would stop, say, the NBA or the NFL from just stabbing the NCAA in the back and creating junior leagues? Players can't join the NBA until they're 19 or 20 or whatever, but they can be drafted earlier, play professionally in the minors, and then become pros without ever having to go through the charade of being a "student-athlete"?

Because it would fail. People are attached to college sports.
You're looking at this backwards. People are attached to elite 18-22 year old athletes. What if the pros offered those athletes a better deal? They set up a junior league where they can make an average of, I don't know, $150K a year. They don't have to worry about school, they get paid, and they get exposure to professional coaches. If you were a stud basketball player, 18 years old, with little interest in schoolwork, which would you choose? 150K a year, or 0K a year, an education that you don't really want, and the added pressure of having to keep up good grades? AND you get to watch your university get rich off your hard labor.
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You're looking at this backwards. People are attached to elite 18-22 year old athletes. What if the pros offered those athletes a better deal? They set up a junior league where they can make an average of, I don't know, $150K a year. They don't have to worry about school, they get paid, and they get exposure to professional coaches. If you were a stud basketball player, 18 years old, with little interest in schoolwork, which would you choose? 150K a year, or 0K a year, an education that you don't really want, and the added pressure of having to keep up good grades? AND you get to watch your university get rich off your hard labor.

People are attached to the brands, not the players. Most of the best 18-22 year old basketball players are in the NBA. Nobody disputes that the players playing college basketball are worse now than 15 years ago, but college basketball is still popular.
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What would stop, say, the NBA or the NFL from just stabbing the NCAA in the back and creating junior leagues? Players can't join the NBA until they're 19 or 20 or whatever, but they can be drafted earlier, play professionally in the minors, and then become pros without ever having to go through the charade of being a "student-athlete"?

Because it would fail. People are attached to college sports.
You're looking at this backwards. People are attached to elite 18-22 year old athletes.
I disagree. The best college basketball players used to play for four years. Now they mostly leave after one or two (and until the NBA changed the rules, a bunch stopped going to college at all). It hasn't reduced the popularity of March Madness at all. People are rooting for the jerseys.
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You're looking at this backwards. People are attached to elite 18-22 year old athletes. What if the pros offered those athletes a better deal? They set up a junior league where they can make an average of, I don't know, $150K a year. They don't have to worry about school, they get paid, and they get exposure to professional coaches. If you were a stud basketball player, 18 years old, with little interest in schoolwork, which would you choose? 150K a year, or 0K a year, an education that you don't really want, and the added pressure of having to keep up good grades? AND you get to watch your university get rich off your hard labor.

People are attached to the brands, not the players. Most of the best 18-22 year old basketball players are in the NBA. Nobody disputes that the players playing college basketball are worse now than 15 years ago, but college basketball is still popular.
So then what's the harm of the professional leagues creating an alternative? Kids can choose whether to get paid or get an education and play collegiately(or a partial education), and college sports will still be popular. Seems to work for baseball, no?
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So then what's the harm of the professional leagues creating an alternative? Kids can choose whether to get paid or get an education and play collegiately(or a partial education), and college sports will still be popular. Seems to work for baseball, no?

The NBA and NFL have a good thing going. It isn't in their interest to start a league that competes with college sports.
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So then what's the harm of the professional leagues creating an alternative? Kids can choose whether to get paid or get an education and play collegiately(or a partial education), and college sports will still be popular. Seems to work for baseball, no?

The NBA and NFL have a good thing going. It isn't in their interest to start a league that competes with college sports.
I don't see how this would endanger their good thing. It gives them more control over their future employees, creates an additional revenue stream, and gets more meaningful basketball into secondary markets.The article detailed how effectively the NCAA can retaliate against "student-athletes", but what measures could it use against the NFL?
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