NCAA President Mark Emmert took the stand as a witness in the Ed O’Bannon antitrust lawsuit Thursday in one of the more anticipated days of witness questioning in some time for college sports fans. While on the stand Emmert had his moments he would likely wish to have back, but the statements made by the president of the NCAA, an organization that has been under attack from all angles in recent years, are now officially on the record and are fair to analyze.
One of the more notable statements from Emmert, aside form suggesting players should not be paid for playing or for their likenesses, was regurgitating the idea that paying college players would destroy college sports. It is an idea that has been flying around for a while, but few seem to take it too seriously as a threat to the pillars of college football, basketball and so on.
“To convert college sports into professional sports would be tantamount to converting it into minor league sports,” Emmert said, according to the Associated Press. “And we know that in the U.S. minor league sports aren’t very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience.”
Honestly, that last statement likely varies by organization or franchise, but so does attendance at college football games.
“It’s one of the most fundamental principles of the NCAA and intercollegiate athletics,” Emmert said. “They have always seen and assumed that intercollegiate athletics is about the notion that these are members of the student body. They’re not hired employees conducting games for entertainment. They’re not a random group of folks that just come together to play sports.”
One of the flaws in Emmert’s logic is a failure to recognize the NCAA of 2014 is not the same NCAA that was needed 20 or 50 years ago. Perhaps the NCAA as a whole has failed to evolve and keep pace with the changing landscape in collegiate sports. The student-athletes are more in view than ever before, and the TV money that flows as a result has grown exponentially over the years as well. Meanwhile, the NCAA’s logic appears to say if it was good enough in 1950, then it should be good enough now. That just cannot be the case.
Whether you believe players should be paid or not, the one thing that appears to be something everybody can agree on is the NCAA is in dire need of adapting to a new world. It is an organization that has shown its cracks, but it is not beyond being repairable. The NCAA can still play a role in college sports today, and it should remain a fixture in the sports scene. Changes are already in the works, and that could be a good thing. Emmert even deflected some questions about the NCAA’s role when asked about bowl games. The NCAA does not run bowl games, but with conferences beginning to take larger roles in organizing bowl games, even that statement can be put under some scrutiny.
The world is changing, but the NCAA and Emmert are not keeping up. That was put under a microscope on the witness stand Thursday.