When you outlaw something that people want, people will still get it. It could be birthday cake or heroin, it really doesn’t matter. The important thing to understand is that black markets exist without the normal rules and regulations, and most importantly, without a civilized way to resolve disputes.
The NCAA really is an evil organization. It doesn’t care about the fate of the student-athletes it is supposed to be protecting. It actively exploits them for millions of dollars. It punishes them for activities that are not only perfectly legal for every other member of society, but also perfectly legal for all other personnel involved in NCAA sports (coaches, assistants, admins, etc.).
It allegedly does this in the name of “amateurism” and anachronistic concept from a time when it was considered gauche for a gentleman to accept payment for sport (or for anything else other than old family money). In reality it does this because it makes a bunch of people rich.
So Ohio State got busted doing what almost every Division 1 program does, and the activity itself is something I have no problem with (that is, taking money from boosters/trading memorabilia for tattoos, etc.). And I’ve been poking some fun at them this week on Twitter I realize that it easily could have been my school. So is it fair to make fun of a program that gets busted, especially if the system is evil and corrupt? I look at it like this:
Blame Level One: The NCAA.
It’s evil for all of the previously stated reasons (and a thousand more), and it creates a system where everyone is competing to be as criminal as possible without getting caught.
Blame Level Two: The Coach/AD/Athletic Staff.
The reason I think it’s fair to pick on the program that got caught is because in a black market, the “winner” is generally the most corrupt, most aggressive player. The biggest crime boss, if you will. You get the best players because you game the system better than anyone else, and really, it’s as simple as that.
Blame Level 3: The University Administration.
They turn a blind eye, even though they know what’s going on.
Blame Level 4: The Player.
They’re mostly just victims of a needlessly complicated overly restrictive system and it’s illegal for them to even get advice on how to best handle their careers. On Mike and Mike this morning Golic said that he blames the players first. That’s ridiculous. The NCAA is ruled by a bunch of old, smart businessmen who know perfectly well what they’re doing. Jim Tressel is a grown man, perfectly aware of the rules, who knew exactly what he was doing. The players are stupid kids (note: when you are 19-22, you’re a stupid kid) who are expressly forbidden from making any extra money. I’m fairly sure that if I was in their position I would happily take a few extra bucks on the side, because it’s not wrong. In general if something isn’t wrong I have no problem doing it.
And if the players want to play in the NFL they have no other choice. If you’re a baseball player or a hockey player with professional aspirations, you have a few options besides college. (This is becoming truer for basketball as well.) If you want to play football, they’ve got you.
Some people I’ve talked to seem to think that you can’t blame anyone if you think the system is corrupt and you should blame the players if you believe the system is just. That’s silly. The system and all of its active participants are corrupt to different degrees. We should put blame where it is appropriate.
11 minutes ago