The Final Four is ongoing, and as such NCAA president Mark Emmert is making the media rounds during his organization’s crown jewel. On Saturday, Emmert conducted an interview with former ESPN college basketball reporter and current in-house NCAA basketball writer Andy Katz, and the conversation inevitably turned to amateurism.
Which, of course, means why the NCAA’s version of amateurism must be preserved.
“If you are going to pay salaries to male athletes you’d have to do the same thing for female athletes,” Emmert said. “The other argument is that if you were just going to pay football and basketball athletes… the way athletic departments are going to do that is they’re going to eliminate other sports.”
Watch for yourself below.
Emmert’s comments are groan-inducing for two reasons.
First, he purposefully obfuscates the issue by suggesting the only way to pay college athletes is for colleges to pay their athletes. The Olympic model is the most popular alternative, which skirts around both financial issues, labor and tax law and Title IX issues by allowing the star quarterback and the women’s rower the same opportunity to earn whatever endorsements the market will bear. Emmert knows this, but chooses to pretend it doesn’t exist in order to make a change to the status quo look impossible.
Second, Emmert’s argument frames the NCAA model as a moral imperative that football and men’s basketball players compete for free so that tennis and swimming can exist. Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Nick Chubb and untold others brought in millions of dollars to their universities. If the NCAA were to allow the paying of players and if their respective schools chose to use the money — money that they help bring in — to pay their salaries that was previously spent on the tennis or swimming programs — instead of, say, reducing coaching salaries or administrative glut — well, why is that Baker Mayfield’s problem?