If money equals popularity (and it does in the world of sports), then the multi-billion dollar media contracts worked up between major college football conferences and leading media outlets is confirmation of what many of you already know: college football is arguably the second-most popular sport in America only behind the NFL.
It’s also up there in the highest echelon of the most dysfunctional.
Be that as it may, major college football is still a product that we can’t get enough of (see bowl games), even though its postseason format is, if nothing else, financially irresponsible — the BCS is nothing more than a middle man, a wholesaler that marks up prices for its benefit — and the rules of the business are so numerous and largely unenforceable that violations are piling up faster than the enforcement staff — the NCAA — can keep up.
2011 was the year where it all reached a head. It’s not that the scandals at Miami, North Carolina, Ohio State and USC were unprecedented. Rather, they were signs that the wealth of the sport had caught up to and surpassed the philosophies on which it was established.
So, the Association and the BCS powers, albeit begrudgingly, recognized something had to change. The NCAA and its over 300 Division 1 members have discussed slimming/adjusting the rules to reflect modern thinking, and the BCS has met, and will continue to meet, over how the current postseason format can be altered.
But change is slow and oftentimes done one click at a time. So a former agent, Josh Luchs — the Sports Illustrated tell-all guy, if you remember from a 2010 interview — proposed a radical idea: let the good players in all collegiate sports– you know, the small percentage who will likely be going pro — receive loans from agents.
Before you read on, check out the proposal from Luchs in this SI piece. Like a converted con man who helps the FBI crack future cases, a la “Catch Me if you Can”, Luchs lays out 11 points as to why receiving agent loans before a player goes pro works.
(Also, if you’re interested, here’s Andy Staples‘ take on the excerpt, which comes from Luch’s book, “Illegal Procedure: A Sports Agent Comes Clean On The Dirty Business Of College Football.”)
Of course, it’s an idea that will almost certainly never be approved as long as the NCAA has anything to say about it. The Association’s duty is to protect the amateurism ideal of collegiate athletics; allowing players to work with agents while still in college would do just the opposite.
Now, in fairness, the NCAA isn’t just an evil empire that works tirelessly to ensure starving college athletes aren’t paid a dime more than necessary — even though sometimes it feels that way. On the contrary, I believe the NCAA genuinely cares about the well-being of student-athletes. It’s an organization that also serves its members. New legislation has to be approved at the institutional level.
It just so happens that some of the rules are outdated when you consider how much the NCAA banks off the services of athletes. And if the concept of paying athletes, or simply allowing an additional stipend beyond the value of an athletic scholarship, is going to meet as much opposition as it is right now, perhaps a practical alternative is to put the decision in the hands of the athletes themselves.
It’s not like they have much of a say anyway.
College football operates as a free market economy. Supply and demand dictates everything from TV contracts to ticket sales. Shouldn’t the athletes who work hard, get injured and miss class while they travel across country to play an opponent in a new conference they have no business being in be allowed operate the same way?