Yesterday, NCAA president Mark Emmert took the stand in former UCLA power forward Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust trial against the NCAA. In the suit, O’Bannon asserts that college athletes should be compensated for their time, effort, and sacrifice, and the NCAA has been exploiting them for years.

Emmert has long-held that amateurism is the cornerstone of the NCAA, even as institutions rake in millions of dollars in ticket sales and make millions more on the merchandise they sell with the athletes’ likenesses. Perhaps in anticipation of the trial, they recently severed their relationship with EA Sports and the popular NCAA Football video game series, since it used the real jersey numbers and physical characteristics of players in the game.

The president had quite a few interesting comments yesterday, shall we say. Here are some of the highlights, with our reaction after:

“They want to know everyone is playing by the same rules. They want to know the other teams consist of student-athletes just like them.”

How does Mark Emmert know what goes on in the mind of an athlete? If I’m playing against Jabari Parker and I know he makes more than me, I probably know it’s because he’s a better player. He’s still my age. He goes to college. The only thing that has changed is that he is getting some money because of his talent.

“To convert college sports into professional sports would be tantamount to converting it into minor league sports, and we know that in the U.S. minor league sports aren’t very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience.”

Paying players doesn’t turn March Madness into the D-League. Come on.

“They have always seen and assumed that intercollegiate athletics is about the notion that these are members of the student body. They’re not hired employees conducting games for entertainment. They’re not a random group of folks that just come together to play sports”

Um, yes they are. You think a five star recruit picks a school because he heard about a great sociology professor? Please. Athletes most definitely are conducting games for entertainment. They just happen not to get paid for it.

“The coach has been a paid individual as long as there have been paid coaches, and student-athletes are amateurs. The fact coaches are getting paid more doesn’t change those relationships at all.”

John Calipari makes millions, but is still free to go wherever he wants if a better offer comes along. You think his players don’t know that? You think they’re OK with getting absolutely nothing while he constantly has people fighting to give him more money?

Emmert is radically opposed to any sort of deferred payment system: “It’s pay for playing, regardless of whether it’s paid today or paid tomorrow.”

OK, we get it. No money for athletes, ever. Just be happy the school allows you to be there.

“Member schools would certainly find that an uncompetitive situation and wouldn’t want to be a part of a championship that is driven by that.”

Is it competitive now? Are the little underdog schools actually able to compete with the top programs year in and year out? There’s a reason the same teams are in the Final Four every year.

Regarding establishing an athlete trust fund, they “would have the knowledge it was there, and they would try to use it, to monetize it, to borrow on it.”

Because college kids are incapable of making any sort of responsible decision, right?

Regarding exploitation of athletes, “I am talking about third parties who would take advantage of them, like agents and financial advisers, people who would use them as shills for products.”

Um, isn’t this exactly what the NCAA does?

“You’re focusing on the word ‘hypocrisy’ more than necessary.”

The fact that you think “hypocrisy” should be focused on at all is a little troubling.


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