Bilas Pumps A Few More Nails Into NCAA’s CoffinPosted by BHayes on August 8th, 2013
The NCAA has taken a pretty solid beating over the past year or two, but the compromised state of college athletics’ governing body did not stop ESPN’s Jay Bilas from helping himself to a few good hacks at the association earlier this week. Oh, and I should add that said hacks were not the kind you would see outside a bar at three in the morning; these were well-reasoned, deserved punches thrown at a group becoming increasingly defined by their hypocrisy.
You may be best served by simply scrolling back through Bilas’ twitter feed to Tuesday evening, but to paraphrase his discoveries, if you entered the name of a recent college sports star (say Nerlens Noel, or Denard Robinson) in the search bar at shopNCAAsports.com, the site would lead you to a very specific set of results. In the case of Noel, the result was a page full of #3 Kentucky jerseys. For Robinson, it was a collection of #16 Michigan jerseys that appeared on the screen. Of course, fans are encouraged to buy this memorabilia from the “NCAA store” because they know which players wore these jerseys in real life, but the NCAA’s infamous stance is that they jerseys numbers are random, unattached to any particular student-athlete. In fact, as this USA Today article points out, one of the defendants in the suite of lawsuits pertaining to the NCAA’s use of college athletes’ names and likenesses said in a court filing that “products bearing college athletes’ jersey numbers do not represent actual college athletes.” Hmmmm, then is this a case of a really smart search function, or a really tone deaf NCAA? Well, the NCAA seemed to agree that it was the latter; the search capability was disabled just hours after Bilas fired his first shots.
Bilas also went on to point out that the NCAA had no issue listing the jerseys of Everett Golson (suspended), Shabazz Muhammad (forced to sit out games last season) and Tyrann Mathieu (kicked off team), despite each player’s NCAA-mandated punishment. Of course, before Tuesday night, all it took to find these jerseys was a simple search of the player’s name.
While fans probably didn’t need another reason to pile on the NCAA, and it is unlikely that Bilas’ Twitter binge has any direct impact on the O’Bannon case or others like it, this exposé was simple but very powerful. It’s no secret that the NCAA has used student-athletes’ names and likenesses in the past (it was so weird when I would play NCAA College Football ’12 and Stanford had an amazing QB, just like in real life!), but good luck getting them to admit it. Their story may be a terrible one and their deception wholly transparent, but they’ve sat in their shelter and repeatedly pleaded ignorance without any tangible retaliation. It’s a given that they will either choose to ignore Bilas’ assault, or concoct another “explanation” that somehow maintains these jerseys are unrelated to the star athletes who wear them, but the critics – players, fans, media – had to enjoy this latest example of blatant hypocrisy exposed for all to see (especially the fact that the shop’s site operators scrambled to hide it as quickly as possible). For the first time in a while, it seemed like we were all in agreement that, yeah, this probably isn’t right.
With every passing day, the NCAA’s eventual demise feels more and more like the inevitable result of this battle. Each skirmish sends more and more fans to the opposing corner, and really, who is still left standing in favor of the NCAA at this point? At best, their supporters are neutral. The organization insists on sticking to ideals and principles that functioned well 50 years ago, when amateurism was a reality and mountains of money didn’t completely drive college athletics. Here in 2013 those concepts are better known as pure delusion, and kudos to the Bilastrator for again elucidating the NCAA’s fantasy – this time in a most damning fashion.