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ESPN incites NCAA mob.

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Here is possibly the worst article presented as a news item since Gutenberg.  But as of 4:00 PM yesterday, it rated as an ESPN headline.  As of this morning it had over 2300 comments.

I can’t believe I’m going to try to get to the bottom of what they’re trying to report because — really — I know this is troll bait.  But I’ll dig in because:

  1. It introduces an NCAA conversation I’ve wanted to have, and;
  2. It’s just so bad.

Here’s the text of the article:

A member of a women’s golf team at a West Coast Conference school has been sanctioned by the NCAA for washing her car on campus, according to University of Portland basketball coach Eric Reveno.

Reveno tweeted about the violation Wednesday after he learned of it during conference meetings, culminating his message with the hashtag #stopinsanity.

“Just heard about two NCAA violations in WCC. 1) athlete using Univ. water to wash car, 2) coach text recruit ‘who is this?'” Reveno wrote.

The WCC school in question self-reported the extra benefits violation to the NCAA, Yahoo Sports! reported. Yahoo also reported the NCAA asked the golfer to pay the school $20, which they said was the value of the water and hose.

I’m no Scripps J-School alumnus and even I can see some problems here.  What is the golfer’s name?  Which WCC school does she play for?  How did event come to be found a violation in need of sanction?  Was there an NCAA g-man staking out a car wash?  For $20 was there the interior vacuumed?  Did she tip the towel guys?  Where’s the link to the Yahoo Sports* story?  Has Yahoo! changed the placement of their trademarked exclamation point?  Where’s the link to the Reveno tweet?  Is #stopinsanity a thing?

And the main question ESPN:  when a basketball coach uses a #stopinsanity hashtag to tweet about a different school’s self-reporting of a golfer for a trivial NCAA violation… aren’t you being manipulated for a specifically anti-NCAA agenda?

Or is it your anti-NCAA agenda?

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Also: 18-45 in past two years.

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Meet Eric Reveno.

Meet Eric Reveno, self-promoting college basketball coach.  When your twitter home page doubles as a resume you’ve crossed some sort of line and wandered beyond ‘savvy use of social media.’  Hey bro, that online seminar you attended about improving your brand?  They really were talking about sprucing up your LinkedIn profile.

[UPDATE:  I am informed by friends closer to the University of Portland program that Reveno is a decent guy.

Reveno is good guy.  Like “so good that he’s going to get swallowed by his profession and eventually fired because he can’t compete with snake-oil salemen like Calipari” good.  He’s an entertaining interview if you watch their games because he’s such an engineer (I think one of his degrees is in engineering, if I’m not mistaken) that he actually tries to answer those sideline reporter questions sincerely, and ends up answering before he fully forms his response.  It’s tremendous to watch.

But he’s also definitely the opposite of self-promoting coach or one who would use those circumstances to promote his program.  He seems like a guy who is actually wildly uncomfortable with all the non-coaching aspects of being a coach, so if he comes across as self-promoting, it’s just as likely because he’s awkward.

So I stand corrected there.  Will leave original snarky post intact for consistency’s sake.]

In seven years at Portland he’s 96-126.  No NCAA Tourney appearances.  His teams have finished like this in conference:

  • 2007:  7th /of 8
  • 2008:  7th;
  • 2009: 3rd;
  • 2010:  3rd;
  • 2011:  5th;
  • 2012:  8th;
  • 2013:  7th.

So the guy is probably feeling some pressure.

This isn’t too hard to figure out:  would you rather spout meaningless hashtags to an eager mob or talk about that 18-45 win-lose record over the last two years.

Thus we find this bizarrely random, remarkably info-less tweet about someone else’s player at someone else’s school in someone else’s sport:

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Huh?

Like.  Wha?  What is this, what does this mean, what are you saying?  Wait, I see ‘stopinsanity.’  That explains it.  You’d have to be a jerk not to want to stop insanity.

But what actually happened and why are we getting this news from Eric Reveno?  Regrettably, subsequent tweets offer even less info accompanied by a useless mission statement.

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Thanks for clarifying?

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Easy for you to say: Mike Leach is in the Pac-12.

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Twitter is just not the right venue for this.

.

Since it appears Coach Reveno is still suffering English syntax jet-lag from his four years of pro hoop in Japan, let’s put him in the rearview mirror and talk some NCAA.

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Lots of darkness-cursing; no candle-lighting.

The Reveno fuss is emblematic of the problems in the NCAA Student Athlete discussion:

All bitch, no solution.

Hey:  did you realize that NCAA schools make money from television contracts and stadium revenues and apparel sales while the players are required to abide by rules designed to provide an amateur standing for athletes that can enforced equally for all NCAA schools?

Why yes, I did realize this.  I think everyone does.

But the narrative is more commonly reported like this:

Hey, did you realize that NCAA schools make money from television contracts and stadium revenues and apparel sales while the players are required to abide by rules designed to provide an amateur standing for athletes that can enforced equally for all NCAA schools get nothing?

Well that’s not quite true, is it?  I’ve got two in college now and we’re north of $100K/year.  I assure you, that’s not nothing.  And not to get meta in a sports blog again, but there’s some benefit to having your first moving-away-from-home experience in a controlled environment and shared with other students undergoing similar life changes.  This too is not nothing.

I think it’s harmless too.
But yet — it IS a perq not available at Rutgers.

Click

There is inequity.  At some schools, some sports profit greatly.  Of course much of those profits fund less profitable unprofitable sports programs.  (Sure some of those profits fund expensive coaches, but that’s circular since successful coaches yield exponentially greater profit.)

Yes.  There is a problem when athletes’ performances drive revenue back to schools in sums vastly greater than the value of their scholarships.

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NO ONE DENIES THIS.

So what do you propose for a solution?  The Captain Obvious act is old and unhelpful.  Just off the top of my head, here are some suggestions to address the inequity and you tell me if any of them are superior to the current system:

  • Pay athletes.  Breaks any facade that large schools and small schools should compete against each other.  Alienates student athletes (even more) from regular students diminishing one of the benefits of going to college.  Impacts non-revenue sports because the pie is the same size, athlete salaries are a new slice; the other sports will get less (or be cut altogether).
  • Lighten up on the merchandising rules, let athletes profit.  Same deal as above:  rich schools get richer.  The recruiting edge for successful schools grows and the idea of a level playing field among NCAA member schools is shot.

    On the plus side of the ledger for the NCAA: the Paterno family is suing them.

  • Eliminate apparel contracts with member schools; all apparel contracts go into a pool distributed among member schools.  I like this idea but good luck making this happen… there are no Wellington Maras on the horizon.  The Nikes and UnderArmours and Adidases are as corrupting TV contracts (weird how ESPN doesn’t examine the impact their advertisers have on this dilemma isn’t it?).    If NCAA wants to try for a semblance of parity among schools, revenue sharing of apparel contracts is a start.
  • Bust up the NCAA altogether, let high schoolers go pro.  This is the libertarian solution and in theory most fair.  If you look at the NCAA as nothing but a farm system for the NFL and NBA and are ok leaving thousands of athletes to the tender mercies of Drew Rosenhaus, this is fine.  But I don’t know about you, but I enjoy the hell out of college football, flawed though the system may be.  And if exploitation of athletes is the problem we want to solve, I think this solution will make it worse.

I don’t think any of these make anything better than the current system.  I’m open to hearing suggestions but I caution:  the view from here is that paying athletes will create a lot more problems than it fixes..

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Not saying I have an answer.

But I am saying that if you want to do some poor-exploited-athlete talk here, bring a proposal with you.  Try to have a fix that doesn’t make things worse.

Reporting on an unsourced $20 car wash corner case does less than zero to address the issue.

_____

* I can’t find a Yahoo! story on this.  They’ve [wisely] spiked it.  Props to Y!


16 Comments

  1. tmoore94 says:

    I could see the youth academy setup working for schools in the high-powered conferences in basketball because in some ways that culture is already there in AAU basketball and other travel teams.

    If Duke had a series of Under-18, Under-15 and Under-12 teams that played under the Duke banner and learned how Coach K wants them to run his system, with the understanding that the best players will be on scholarship at Duke once they reach college age, you could see some advantages to that. It would take some of the sleeze out of youth basketball and hold the schools somewhat accountable for the teams in their youth system. With a structured program it might even elevate the talent level of the college (and subsequently NBA) game as players would be taught the proper skills while they are in their formative years.

    It would still cost a lot of money and wouldn’t really solve the problem of financial issues at the college level, but you could see it working.

    Not sure it would translate to football, though, as players don’t normally play that sport year-round like they do in basketball.

    As to what to do once the athletes are in college, I’m not sure but the way the current system is structured is certainly not fair and it is hypocritical to the core.

    If a player is good enough to play in a professional league after just one or two years of college, people act like they are somehow betraying the school. But if you were a musician on a scholarship and the Cleveland Orchestra taps you to be first chair, or as a computer major if Apple hires you six weeks after you start college because you are that brilliant, people will think it is just the greatest thing.

    Not being able to make any (or very little) outside money while a student-athlete when a regular student can do anything they want also seems unfair. If booster Bob wants you to come in one day a week during the summer to wash the cars at his car lot but he pays you for a full week of work because you are on the football team, does that really hurt anyone? I know it is supposedly “not right,” but isn’t it in many ways a victimless crime? It may open up a whole mess if you let anything go, but its naive to think that type of activity doesn’t go on anyway and the hypocrisy bugs me more than getting upset at a couple of kids getting a $100 handshake from an alum.

    It seems strange too that the CEO of Under Armour can pay the admission fee to the Big 10 for Maryland and that is somehow OK, but if I were to mentor an athlete at Kent State who is a communications major and I buy them lunch at Ray’s it could be trouble.

    Maybe the booster model is the way to go for schools that can do it. If Phil Knight wants to fund the entire football program at Oregon, or T. Boone Pickens wants to essentially buy the athletic department at Oklahoma State, then let them do it and reallocate the money that the schools would have spent on athletics to something else.

    Who knows? The NCAA is such a mess that maybe it truly is too large and too broken to be fixed.

    • jimkanicki says:

      yeah thanks for chiming in, if one is looking for a market-driven model without colleges in play, soccer is it, is it not?

      i’ve never quite understood the ‘youth academy’ structure in pro soccer. bear in mind, it wouldn’t be coach K’s program because then we still have the student athlete conundrum. it’d be mike brown’s program. how early do kids enter programs and is it geo-based? eg, is that why rooney was at everton? at what age to the players start moving around to other [better] programs? at what age are their contracts/rights able to be transferred/sold?

      on the booster aspect,, well first SMU will be pissed. but second, i think that route would call for a review of D1 teams. like: should kent and wku continue to participate under the same rules as bama and osu? how is the threshold set for who’s in and who’s out… booster fundraising? and again, the tendency is to look at football in a vacuum like a profitable football program doesn’t support wrestling and swimming and women’s hoop, etc.

      i’m still not seeing a fix for the problem that doesn’t create more and potentially worse problems.

      • tmoore94 says:

        The academies are definitely not based on geography – Lionel Messi is from Argentina but he was selected for Barcelona’s youth academy and he (and his family) decided he should go to Spain. It’s a nice story if the local club can see a local kid go through the academy and make it to the parent club, Rooney is one example, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher at Liverpool are other well-known ones, but that is sort of just icing on the cake.

        The academies work to identify talent and then the players move through the system playing at age-appropriate levels with two goals in mind: one to develop the parent club’s next star and also to develop more players than you can use and sell the extras to other clubs for transfer fees.

        Here’s a good article from the NY Times on how the program works at Ajax: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/magazine/06Soccer-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        The closest American equivalent is minor league baseball, only if the minor league clubs extended all the way down to Little League.

        Going back to the NCAA, again, I think it may be a system that is beyond repair. There is little to no transparency now and everyone involved pretends that all Division 1 schools operate under the same set of rules when the opposite is true. There are people who have never set foot on the Ohio State campus and could probably never even get into the school that will send the football team financial support because they want to think they are a part of it, but that doesn’t happen at the smaller schools.

        And are there really any profitable football programs? I know the model is supposed to be that because the football team brings in 100,000 people on seven Saturdays a month that means the school gets to have a volleyball team, but the football programs also suck up a lot of money.

        I don’t know the answer.

        • jimkanicki says:

          interesting. i was going to ask about specifically about how the brazilians and argentinians implement.

          in the whole Gee kerfuffle, i thought his comment about super-conferences bolting the NCAA was the most news-worthy item. here’s the NCAA’s mission:

          The NCAA is made up of three membership classifications that are known as Divisions I, II and III. Each division creates its own rules governing personnel, amateurism, recruiting, eligibility, benefits, financial aid, and playing and practice seasons – consistent with the overall governing principles of the Association. Every program must affiliate its core program with one of the three divisions.

          if big schools leave the NCAA, they’d be free to change the student-athlete rules and one would think some of the rule changes would center on eligibility and athlete compensations.

          we know one program that is profitable: Notre Dame. it’s beyond sad that Gee had to retire for speaking the truth — no not about ‘cant trust catholics’ which was obviously tongue-in-cheek. but ND are not good partners and they do want their cake and to eat it too. ND keeps its football revs and builds its hoops program on the back of Duke/UNC. some partnership.

          • tmoore94 says:

            I’m certainly no Notre Dame fan, but they only get away with keeping their football revenue because the other schools allow it. If the other big schools just got together and told ND they need to get with the program or else, they would have to capitulate.

            It’s the same thing with the Big 10, which is one of the conferences holding up a real playoff system in football. If the SEC, Oregon, USC, the Big 12 and a few other schools (like Florida State, Miami) got together and said we’re doing this, you’re either with us or against us, the Big 10 would fold. Outside of Ohio State, the conference is irrelevant on a national scale in football.

  2. Late to the game, but Damn – Well Said, Max.

    Having both worked in the Education INDUSTRY (which is what it is) and of course, having changed careers and taken out student loans, I fully realize how the “higher moral ground” argument is total B.S. Of course it doesn’t help that government loan subsidies are so high, which means universities can keep raising tuition rates. On another note, the game that makes me really sick is how schools bait first-time college students into worthless programs. As long as the school gets their money, that’s all that matters.

    Back to Max’s point – It is beyond hypocritical to suspend programs and players for not following prescriptive rules – while the universities make an absolute fortune off what is essentially free labor.

    For those who would argue that “student athletes” are getting a “free” education, I would contend that the costs of this education is probably covered by a tiny fraction of the TV money, attendance and merchandise revenue that most schools generate. And if the universities were so concerned about the education of these athletes, you wouldn’t see these players taking worthless “University Survey” and “General Degree” classes. They would be steered towards actual valuable curriculum.

    As for this last point, something else that is troubling is how sports telecasts, packages, networks, etc. are driving the cost of cable skyward. Since an advertiser would rather spend money on sports – as opposed to controversial political talk or anything remotely original or thought-provoking – the value of sports keeps increasing. It’s a separate issue, but the two do merge to help fuel a money monster.

    And of course, this means that huge media monoliths will vastly overpay for broadcasting rights and such. And viewers (or those who want to be) will have to pay more and more and more to watch (look at how cable prices have risen over the last few years). Universities will do what universities and corporations will do – which is pocket a fortune, while cutting costs and claiming that they are broke.

    Anyone else see a disturbing parallel between ESPN letting 400 workers go and practically every big university everywhere cutting faculty and workers? And then each hikes subscription rates/tuition?

    It’s sad, but this is the shareholder type of environment we live in. Companies can overperform, but there’s only a few people who truly benefit. Same goes for the thousands of college athletes.

    Yet those athletes who take a free plane trip, tattoo or get paid for their own autographed jerseys are the problem.

    • jimkanicki says:

      yeah, this is a big issue covering a lot of ground. i started to reply to max several times and was heading toward 500 words in all directions so i just went with ‘like button.’ i’m not really happy with this post because it’s a bit of a drive-by.. but i also wanted to get it out on the table. if you can think of a way to collab on the comprehensive NCAA thing, i’m in. so many angles. i’ve hit a block just structuring an outline.

      on the ESPN layoffs, i’ve worked for companies who would do a 10% reduction-in-force every five years just to -sorry- cut deadwood and create some opps to inject new blood in the org. don’t know if that’s the case at ESPN but wouldn’t be the worst thing for them.

  3. Max says:

    I have student loan debt. My wife has more…I work for a corporation that made a couple billion dollars last year. My salary was approximately 1/100,000,000 th what they made. They dont pay everyone more when they make more money. I signed up to make a certain salary, and that’s all I get (and it’s not equal to what a full ride at many Big Ten schools likely costs once you figure in room and board…have you seen the training table meals at big schools like ‘Bama, OSU or Michigan?). I had to go to school to get this job. Without a degree, I would have never been considered. To act as if the opportunity to walk out of a school with a Bachelors degree and zero debt is somehow some sort of pittance is offensive to those of us making student loan payments every month.

    I think they should go the other way with it and get the money out of the NCAA. Stop the apparel contracts and these mega tv deals. Since the only thing people with power to make decisions care about is money, that will never happen. This is what happens when the almighty dollar becomes the most important thing. Often times in life we are faced with a choice of what we “should” do and what we “can” do, and the “should” decision (i.e what’s actually best) gets pushed aside for the “can” (i.e can make more money) because so many people think the best answer is the one with the fattest bottom line.

    I think a good first step would be removing the “non profit” status from the NCAA and colleges. Anyone who has been in an argument in a Bursar’s office knows that these schools are in business to make money, and the concerns of the student are secondary (at best). Treating these institutions as some bastions of higher moral ground is our first mistake. They are all businesses.

    • bupalos says:

      >>>I had to go to school to get this job. Without a degree, I would have never been considered. To act as if the opportunity to walk out of a school with a Bachelors degree and zero debt is somehow some sort of pittance is offensive to those of us making student loan payments every month.>>>

      You feel your bachelors degree proved valuable to you. Do you think Maurice Clarett’s is equally valuable to him? This whole argument gets totally distorted if you do not recognize that the college experience (pre- during, and post) of the vast majority of big-time big-sport college athletes looks NOTHING like the rest of the student body. Absolutely nothing. There is 0 correlation here, and the confusion is simply based on the initial lie that the universities are telling; that these are their students, who happen to play a sport.

      The first tier uni’s are plain and simply running professional sports programs. The only difference is they “pay” their athletes at a fraction of their market value, and in company store dollars. And they kick back some portion of he profits that they cannot launder through salaries and administrative costs to other student’s benefits (which they use as a marketing advantage for the rest of their operation).

      I’m not sure how one removes the money from college sports. There are millions and millions of people who want to watch it, and unless there is some magic formula whereby that kind of market can be rendered monetarily valueless, the only question is who cashes in on that value. I’d estimate that the current answer is about 70% administrators, 20% non-player students, and 10% players. I’m not sure what the exact right mix would be, but I’m pretty sure this current mix is very generally upside down.

      • jimkanicki says:

        otoh, ohio st’s varsity 8s took 3rd to allow OSU Rowing to take the natl crown last weekend. point being: there is a greater athletic good being served beyond the football program. in looking at college athletics, i think the tendency is to overlook the benefits provided to the other programs and athletes.

        i also think that a little deferred gratification, self-sacrifice toward a goal, sense of duty to a team and the community of your alma mater are valuable lessons for a young person to become acquainted with (if not learn outright). these are not just nice things… they’re critical pieces for maturation/development. but they get swept away in the simplistic get-mine-now fact of individualism inherent in… wait for it bup… unfettered capitalism.

        i dont think it’s wrong enforce such guidelines (ie, you gotta go to college before the pros) while at the same time i acknowledge that it’s a fundamental restraint-of-trade to prevent an individual from earning a lawful income however he sees fit.

        gordian knot stuff here.

        • bupalos says:

          I’ll accept that playing div I football may have benefits in and of itself to a player. It may have drawbacks too. Whether that’s zero sum or better is not what I’d care to debate. The issue is that lots and lots of other people are making cold hard cash off this deal. There is simply no way to justify the million dollar salaries (and tens of millions of lesser administrative dollars) that get eaten up by others while the athletes themselves (that are absolutely full-time employees in every sense but the name) are just left with the intangibles you are touting, and their hopeful NFL lottery tickets, and their company-store certificate for one free education, to be earned in whatever time is left over after the 40 hour NCAA workweek, with whatever mental resources these “students” have.

          I’m open to a lot of different directions that this could be reformed, but anything that doesn’t start by acknowledging that the current system is a combination of fraud and theft (even if there is some virtuous kickback to buy the indulgence) is a non-starter for me. And the poster-argument for this whole fraud is that the “student-athletes” are already compensated with their scholarships. So it sets me off every time I seeit.

          • jimkanicki says:

            so you favor a system where the individual keeps all he earns without a central authority confiscating a portion to be redistributed to well-intentioned community betterment programs. well i feel ya on that.

            i’m not hearing a suggestion. the money is there and won’t go away. paying athletes on campus doesn’t seem viable. i’m picturing braxton miller rolling up in a range rover to the crew team’s car wash fundraiser to pay for their trip to nationals in indiana. doesn’t quite promote the multi-cultural integration with people from different backgrounds that is -imo- the most valuable aspect of college.

            thinking on this, best i got is to tally up the net income a sport generated over an athlete’s varsity career and allocate x% to a trust fund which the athlete can cashier at say age 25. but even in this system, your offensive guard gets the same as cam newton so the elusive fairness thing is not found.

            like i say, i think the exploitation thing is overdone. we’re not talking about jurgis rudkus here.

            • Anonymous says:

              I actually think my preferred solution would be a market-based one. That is, just let bsktball and football follow the mlb model as far as draft and minor leagues, and disallow all scholarships. Why is that form of “pay” ok, but other forms not?? The collegiate mandate in football is completely incomprehensible except as a scheme to enable white collar theft on both the collegiate and pro level.

              Now I’m not sure where you get the idea that they’d get this tax free…I certainly do think a portion should be confiscated by the jack booted thugs that build bridges and educate children and investigate the environmental ills that kill honeybees and all that.

              We’re not talking about exploitation IMO btw. We’re talking about theft. And fraud.

              • jimkanicki says:

                😀 welp… so we’re looking at the soccer model and that’s fine. did you know wayne rooney started playing for everton at age nine? i simply don’t know enough about that system to comment on the hazards of the system. (titus? thoughts?) but i’m not convinced that such free-for-all coupled with the billions of dollars generated by ncaa schools that abhor vacuums would provide a better system if the overall well-being of the athlete is a goal.

                btw, i wasnt saying anything about taxes. i was pointing out the irony that i’m promoting a collectivist system here while youre promoting the individual good.

            • Anonymous says:

              There’s only “irony” in me espousing “individual good” if “the common good” and the good of the individual are opposites. They are not. I understand this is pretty much the heart of the self-obsessed modern right wing dementia from which ayn rand and the better part of the republican party suffers (and by better part I don’t mean larger part. I mean the part that isn’t just in it for the moronic jingoism, nostalgic ethnocentrism, or social darwinism–or social darwinism’s lazy dimwitted cousin known as prosperity gospel. But that’s all kind of beside the point.

              I have little problem with your cam newton scenario. You need to state why its preferable to have cam’s value distributed to valueless administrators who wet their beaks all they can before letting the rowing team eat the leftovers, mostly for show and for marketing to other paying customers. But your solution of the trust fund is the next best thing to simply ending the fraud altogether. And as for “fairness,” why not just have the unis sign players to a percent of the trust with the same kind of salary cap, revenue sharing, minimum salaries and franchise tags that exist in the NFL. I really don’t see what the argument not against this would be, other than it making the current fraud of “student athletes” even less believable, and the administrative theft which drives the current system more visible and difficult.

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