Mark Emmert

NCAA prez addresses ‘exploitation’ of student-athletes

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Early this morning we noted that former North Carolina defensive back Deunta Williams, when he wasn’t accusing the SEC of paying for football players, took issue with what he described as “a broken system” as it relates to the NCAA and collegiate athletics.

“College football is a business, and the people who run college football are only interested in money and using the players as product to make money,” Williams was quoted as saying.

The thinly-veiled inference, of course, is that the NCAA uses “student-athletes” for their financial gain, a form of exploitation if you will.

Obviously, the leaders of intercollegiate sports vehemently disagree with that assessment.  During an interview with Bob Ley on ESPN’s Outside the Lines Tuesday afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert addressed the criticism college sports has come under in relation to the financial benefits realized by the universities and how precious little is funneled back to the individuals who are actually responsible for the on-field work that’s made the game, in the case of football, the second most popular sport in the country.

Here’s the transcript of Emmert’s interview, courtesy of PFT‘s Mike Florio (yes, you read that correctly).

I’ll tell you the critique that I agree with, and the critique [is] that there’s such an emphasis in America on athletics as a route to fame and fortune that it has skewed far too many young people’s view of how you can be successful as a young person. 

We surveyed our Division II NCAA men’s basketball players.  Division II.  Half of them believed they were going to make a living in professional basketball.  Maybe one will.  But half of them thought they might make a living as a basketball player. 

We have far too few young people realizing that the route to success in life is to get a good education in middle school, high school, and college, and then go on and do all the things that people do in life.  When we see a young person getting an opportunity to go to college, the $2 billion — second only to the federal government — the total amount of financial aid that’s proposed by NCAA institutions to young people, we see young people having higher graduation rates in Divisions I, II, and III than the rest of the student body, we see them having access to the best coaches, the best educators, the best trainers, the best tutors that help produce academic success like that.  If that’s the definition of exploitation, then I don’t know what exploitation is. 

I would have loved to have my kids exploited like that.  I would love to have been exploited like that myself as a young man.  The idea that somehow playing in front of a stadium with 70,000 people and being on ESPN SportsCenter diminishes you in some fashion while creating an opportunity for you to be known world-wide is somehow exploitation is a curious notion of exploitation.  I think the vast majority of your audience would love to be on this show, would love to have a chance to have their name known widely. 

If you want to be a professional athlete, there’s no better way to do it than to come to a high-level collegiate program, get the best trainers, best exposure, best coaches, best educational opportunities, and then go out and pursue your career.  To me, that’s a pretty good opportunity.

As Florio adroitly noted in our email exchange, Emmert starts off by claiming that there is too much emphasis on athletics as a route to fame and fortune, and then ends by stating (contradicting himself?) that the NCAA doesn’t exploit athletes because it provides a route to fame and fortune at the professional sports level for a select few.  Of course, all of this talk of exploitation and financial aid and pretty good opportunities boils down to one core issue: paying student-athletes for services rendered on the playing field.

The proposed $2,000 stipend, which has met stiff resistance from several corners of the collegiate sports world, is a fair-to-middlin’ start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.  At bare minimum, and as we’ve stated ad nauseam in the past, players should receive a portion of the profits earned by a football program for the sale of jerseys and the like as well as a percentage of the profits from video games that utilize their likenesses in lieu of their names.  That’s the bare minimum, and you can adjust your financial mileage accordingly.

The value of the education the players are receiving — or have the opportunity to receive if they choose to take advantage of the six-figure gift — should not be underscored, but neither should the value of their numbers and likenesses and such.  While we don’t foresee a day, at least in the near future and as long as Title IX is the law of the land, where student-athletes essentially become paid employees of a university, there will at some point be a tipping point on the financial landscape as it relates to athletics at the collegiate level.

In fact, a four-letter word from the NCAA’s point of view — “union” — is already being bandied about as a potential remedy to the perceived inequities of the current system.

It would thus behoove the leaders of today to get ahead of that point and prepare for something that is inevitable somewhere down the road.

Northern Michigan OL Anthony Herbert passes away

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Northern Michigan offensive lineman Anthony Herbert has passed away following a workout Tuesday, the school has confirmed. He was 20.

Herbert is the second college football player to pass away in less than a week. His passing comes as Oregon has come under fire with three players hospitalized after a grueling workout, for which the Ducks’ strength coach has been suspended without pay for one month.

“Anthony’s passing is felt deeply by many,” NMU athletic director Forrest Karr said in a statement. “He made a positive impact on our campus and was everything we hope for in a student-athlete. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates, and we are focused on supporting them during this difficult time.”

Officials cited by ESPN state Herbert participated in a Tuesday workout, ate breakfast and returned to his dorm room, where he passed out. EMTs unsuccessfully attempted to revive him, and he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

“In my brief time with Anthony, I could tell that he was a great young man,” head coach Kyle Nystrom said. “He was well respected by his coaches and teammates and was a leader on the offensive line. We are devastated by this tragedy, and we are keeping his family in our prayers.”

A native of Lapeer, Mich., Herbert started every game at left guard as a redshirt sophomore in 2016. He was a member of the All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.

Pac-12 announces 2017 schedule

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans scrambles prior to throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Pac-12 announced its 2017 schedule on Wednesday, beginning with a New Mexico State-Arizona State/North Dakota-Utah double-header and ending with the conference title game, once again set for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on the first weekend of December.

The headliner is USC, the league’s presumed champion and best shot at snapping its 12-year streak without a national title, playing 12 consecutive games without a bye week. The Trojans open with home games against Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas, and play straight through their Nov. 18 finale against UCLA at the LA Coliseum.

Speaking of UCLA road games, the Bruins have a lot of them — and they’re all tough. They’ll go on the road to face Memphis, Stanford, Arizona, Washington and Utah (over a 6-day stretch) before their finale at USC. The Bruins also host Texas A&M and Oregon.

Washington’s title defense will begin with a trip to Colorado (after another pillow-soft non-conference schedule of Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State) along with a key stretch that requires a home game with Oregon followed by a trip to Stanford six days later.

For the full schedule, click here.

Washington QB Jake Browning reportedly undergoes surgery on throwing shoulder

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 25:  Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies looks to pass against the Washington State Cougars in the first half of the 109th Apple Cup at Martin Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Pullman, Washington.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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Washington quarterback Jake Browning has undergone surgery on his throwing shoulder, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

The Times reports Browning injured his right shoulder during a 44-18 win over Arizona State on Nov. 18, though the exact nature of the injury is unknown. Washington kept the injury hidden during the season’s final stretch, as the Huskies claimed the Pac-12 championship and reached the College Football Playoff.

Browning played through the injury, hitting 21-of-29 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 45-17 drubbing of Washington State just six days later. Browning’s performance suffered from there, though. He hit only 9-of-24 passes for 118 yards (with two touchdowns and no picks) in a Pac-12 Championship win over Colorado, then completed 20-of-38 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and two picks in a 24-7 loss to Alabama.

How much those subpar performances were caused by the injury or by the opponent — or, most likely, a combination of the two — will be left to mystery.

Browning was the nation’s second-most efficient passer in the month of September, No. 3 in October, No. 16 in November and No. 66 in December. He finished the year ranked seventh, hitting 62.1 percent of his tosses for 8.8 yards per attempt with 43 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

Huskies head coach Chris Petersen has a policy of not discussing injuries, but he let on to Brock Huard’s radio show earlier this month that Browning did not finish the season 100 percent.

“I do think he was fighting through some things as the season went on because he’s a tough guy,” Petersen told the show, via The Seattle Times. “We had to do some things. Let me say this: We’ve got some tough kids on our team. Those kids, they fight through some things, and we don’t talk about who’s hurt and all this stuff, but Jake’s a tough kid and I’ll just say that. He fought through some stuff.”

Browning’s recovery time is expected to be six weeks, the paper reports.

Oregon suspends strength coach in wake of player hospitalizations

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 6: Close-up of the Oregon Ducks 'Liquid Metal' helmet during the the game between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies on October 6, 2012 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 52-21. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Three Oregon players were hospitalized after grueling winter workouts conducted by new strength coach Irele Oderinde, and now the school has suspended Oderinde for one month without pay.

The original report from The Oregonian, which the school later confirmed, saw at least one player contract symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a soft tissue condition triggered by overwork that can lead to kidney damage. Other players showed signs as well, according to the report.

The sources said that some players “passed out” and others later complained of discolored urine, which is a common symptom of rhabdomyolysis. After testing, others were found to have highly elevated levels of creatine kinase, an indicator of the syndrome.

As a result, Oderinde has been suspended and head coach Willie Taggart has issued an apology. Oderinde previously worked for Taggart at South Florida.

“I have visited with the three young men involved in the incidents in the past few days and I have been in constant contact with their families, offering my sincere apologies,” Taggart said in a statement. “As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first. I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university.

“I want to thank our medical staff and doctors for caring for all of our young men, and I want to apologize to the university, our students, alumni and fans.

Added AD Rob Mullens: “The university holds the health, safety and well-being of all of our students in high regard. We are confident that these athletes will soon return to full health, and we will continue to support them and their families in their recoveries.”

Additionally, Oderinde will now report to director of performance and sport science Andrew Murray instead of Taggart.