NCAA better at selling than regulating

November 17, 2011


Your holiday shopping is now a little easier, thanks to the good folks at the NCAA. They’ve found a mission they can rally around, something to make sure their organization remains relevant.

Pick a school, any school, and a couple clicks of the mouse is all it takes to get anything from pajamas to iPhone covers adorned with the mascot of your favorite institution of higher education. For Penn State alone, there are 603 different items from Santa hats to boxer shorts to show your loyalty to the Nittany Lions.

Just $4.99 flat rate shipping.

Sadly, there are no Joe Paterno replica dark glasses in stock.

There are, however, T-shirts proclaiming Pittsburgh a proud member of the Big East Conference. Get them while they’re still hot, because they, like Pitt, are going fast.

It’s all available online, in time for the holidays and for any football player who might have an extra, say, $2,000 burning a hole in his or her pocket. Sell enough of it, and the NCAA might even have enough money to fly a staffer to Happy Valley and see if all the stuff about the Penn State football program is really true.

If that trip is too tough in winter, maybe someone could head down to Miami, where the scholarships come complete with invitations to parties in mansions with local lovelies.

Or maybe just get in a car and keep driving west until they find the Big East. That could be in Idaho, of all places, where the NCAA’s laissez faire approach to its subjects is on full display.

Maybe by then the NCAA will have figured out that it’s minding the wrong store.

T-shirts and cuddly mascots it can handle. When it comes to the other stuff, the NCAA doesn’t even seem to be trying.

The biggest scandal in a sport littered with scandals wasn’t enough to bring the organization off the sidelines. Letting the legal process play out is a noble idea, but the NCAA abdicated its responsibilities once again by allowing the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State to unfold with little more than a prepared statement out of Indianapolis.

The same agency that once tried to oust former basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian from UNLV simply because they didn’t like him stayed on the sidelines as Penn State sorted out the whole sordid mess itself.

Regulate college athletics? Please. It’s hard enough helping schools count the hundreds of millions of dollars they’ve got coming in from new television deals.

The NCAA isn’t above slapping the hands of its members on occasion, as it did the other day in taking away a scholarship from Oklahoma and making the school forfeit some wins because of basketball violations. That was low-hanging fruit, though, served up by the school in an ultimately successful effort to escape more serious punishment as a repeat offender.

The Fiesta Bowl fared even better earlier this year, despite a report that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on strip clubs, golf junkets and almost anything but the game itself by the bowl’s executive director. Not only did the NCAA do nothing — save for putting the bowl on a meaningless one-year probation — the Bowl Championship Series kept the Fiesta Bowl in its lucrative postseason rotation.

Meanwhile, schools are jumping from conference to conference in pursuit of TV dollars, and the NCAA still doesn’t dare to step in and try to restore order.

The big conferences and the TV networks run college football, not the NCAA.

The NCAA could take a stand on television contracts, huge coaching salaries and the runaway excess that is everywhere in the sport.

That it doesn’t may doom its own future since the organization stands to become increasingly irrelevant. Indeed, there may be a day when major conferences go off on their own in big money sports, and the NCAA is relegated to overseeing lacrosse and rowing,

Not to worry. There will always be plenty of T-shirts to sell.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.