Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The NCAA: Still Evil

The NCAA is the rare organization that seems to get increasingly evil the more I think about them. Read this article in the Huffington Post about their latest crusade against student athletes.

I understand the sentiment involved in not allowing student-athletes to make money. It’s stupid and evil and wrong, but I at least understand the madness that makes people think this way. The ban on agents, lawyers and advisors is madness of a different sort. Here the NCAA is not just seeking to financially exploit players, but also to keep them as ignorant as possible about their options.

What is the point of this? Why can’t student athletes receive professional advice (unless, of course, the giver of that advice is barred from actually sitting in on 3rd party talks, which is pointless)? Here are some facts (or at least opinions which nearly everyone agrees with).

1. 18-21 year old kids are not the best decision makers, and are, in general, especially ill-equipped to think long term. I’m not saying this is true of every college student, but it is true more often than it is not.

2. Most students are not faced with the potential to make millions of dollars right out of college. Top-flight student-athletes are. Moreover, their prime earning years will occur in their early youth. Not having professionals assist you in this situation is ridiculous.

Moreover, financial planning for an athlete can take different forms than it can for the average person. Take Tim Tebow, for instance. Most scouts seem to agree that he isn’t much of an NFL prospect at quarterback, but according to everything I hear, he insists on playing there, at least for now.

What if Tim Tebow had an agent since he graduated from high school? If his long term goal is to have a long, prosperous NFL career, would an agent have advised him to gain experience as a fullback or TE? That may sound insane as playing quarterback for Florida (as one of the best college QBs ever) is probably a big deal to you, but it’s not going to pay his bills long term. It is in Florida's best interest to have Tebow at quarterback, but is it really in Tebow's best interest?

There are probably a lot of QBs who just don’t have the arm or the decision-making skills to play quarterback in the NFL who could benefit from someone telling them to play WR, even if they really want to play QB.

There are probably other examples in other sports. (Baseball, in particular. If you’re a middling prospect at 3rd base, but you have a nice fastball and you’re left-handed, maybe a position switch is in order. Of course, I get the sense that baseball is better about this because of the existence of the minors. Football has no minors.)

The Poor Running Back

Finally, as we learn more about football’s effects on the body, the NCAA’s ban on player compensation looks increasingly insane. Even if you think the famous Football Outsider “curse of 370” is overstated, it’s pretty clear that running backs can’t take as much wear and tear as some other positions, and that every time they are tackled in college, they are potentially losing money. Moreover, every time some kid suffers a concussion in college, he is costing himself money as well as his future health.

Football is dangerous. As athletes continue to get bigger and faster it gets more dangerous, and as we learn more we’re finally starting to understand just how dangerous it is. The average NFL player plays just 3.52 seasons and loses two to three years off his life expectancy for every season played, and we’re asking college kids to forgo compensation and advice for that.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the NCAA wants to keep its money while keeping its golden goose in the dark about just how long it’s going to be able to keep laying those eggs. They remain evil.

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