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.