Is the NCAA a Bad Episode of Ballers?

Allegations have been revealed that multiple parties within the NCAA, coaching staffs, sports agencies, financial advisors and athletic brands (including Adidas and Nike) have been participating in a “black market” of teenage athletes. While this type of rumored behavior may be expected, seldom does it rank near the top of the Facebook News Feed. These revelations emerged just over a year after the association agreed to begin paying college players. In light of the ongoing investigation, it looks like the NCAA will have to pay a lot more if they are to compete with black market prices. Apparently, new recruits were receiving $100,000 bids by shoe companies and coaches appear to be involved.
This is troubling news for many. Bribery and back-door deals have been brokered in college sports for generations but this illegal activity usually takes place out of sight. New evidence is likely to come to light as the investigation proceeds. According to Sports Illustrated, “The scandal has… cost Rick Pitino his job at Louisville, and you can be sure he’s only the first of the significant dominoes to fall because this was, you will pardon the expression, a fullcourt press.”
This fiasco is disappointing on a few levels. Coaches are supposed to be positive figures in the lives of young athletes, not middlemen brokering illegal deals and lining their own pockets in the process. Families of young talent are under enough pressure without greedy coaches using their influence to finesse players into contracts that are using the illegal money to grease the gears.The big question is just how can amateur sports realign itself so college players can be adequately compensated? If brands are willing to spend the money, why is there no over-the-table option for players to earn their worth prior to going pro?
This is all very reminiscent of William C. Rhoden’s book Forty Million Dollar Slaves, where “Rhoden argues that the roots of these athletic practices in the context of slavery should lead historians to think twice about whether athletics are automatically empowering and liberating for [B]lack Americans.”
Coaches, trainers, and other staff are all compensated well at schools with elite athletic programs. Not to mention the fact that the majority of top talent in college basketball is African American. This gives an unappealing double meaning to “black market”. This federal investigation is focused primarily on college basketball but what of football, baseball, and other collegiate sports that produce marketable professional athletes? It seems short-sighted to assume this is an issue exclusive to hoops.
We are in the era of The Ball Family and the NCAA is trying to uphold rules that make less sense now than they did in the past. The romantic illusion of purity in amateur sports is not compatible with a capitalist nation like the United States of America. As for all the coaches, agents, money-men, and brand execs caught up in this mess- maybe somebody should give Spencer Strasmore a call. Hopefully when the dust settles there will be a new policy in place for the NCAA, otherwise we may be seeing this news in a storyline for HBO’s Ballers in the future.
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