The NCAA Is Trying To Wrestle Itself Out Of Power

The NCAA is intent upon sticking to it's archane rules to maintain what has come to be known as shamateurism. Each year, more cases are presented that deal with athlete eligibility or players earning money. Georgia's AJ Green couldn't sell his jersey. Half of the Ohio State team couldn't sell old jerseys or autographs for tattoos. Players can't sell tickets or make money from their likeness. The NCAA can do all of those things.

Some of this made sense, in some way, when it originated. It was intended to keep players from taking bogus jobs doing nothing or making basic appearances while getting paid. There isn't much doubt this goes on in some form anyway, but the rule had good intent (I think).

That isn't the case with Minnesota wrestler Joel Bauman. His eligibility is being revoked by the NCAA for money he made from music he put on YouTube and iTunes.

Since Bauman performed under his own name and identified himself as a Minnesota wrestler, the N.C.A.A. ruled Bauman ineligible for the remainder of the season. J. T. Bruett, Minnesota’s compliance director, said Bauman violated an N.C.A.A. bylaw prohibiting student-athletes from using their name, image or status as an athlete to promote the sale of a commercial product. The university asked Bauman to remove his name and likeness from videos on YouTube and Bauman refused. Told by Bruett that he could regain his eligibility if he used an alias instead of his real name, Bauman again refused.

The NCAA already takes away the easiest way for Bauman to make money — potential moral and fairness questions aside — but to say he can't make any money using his likeness, takes a step too far. 

One of these cases is going to be the straw the breaks the camel's back. Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA could completely change the landscape for athletes getting paid, or not being completely taken advantage of by the NCAA. The next stage in that case takes place on June 20. From there, we'll know a lot more about the fate of the NCAA.

Either way, the NCAA has not positioned itself favorably over the last 20 years. Heat died down after the Fab Five and Grant Hill raised issues about jersey sales, but criticism has risen during the big-money era of college football. Aside from tangible screw ups (completely botching the investigation of Miami, allowing players from Ohio State to compete in a bowl game only to suspend them later), the NCAA has remained steadfast in separating athletes from money, a stance that cannot continue with the amount of money being made or with the nonsensical $300 stipend the NCAA hands out to athletes who supposedly shouldn't receive anything.

Sooner or later, the NCAA will be forced to adapt or die. For now, adoption doesn't seem to be the decision, a scary proposition given the $ize, $cope and $olidarity the major conferences like the $EC now possess with big TV contracts. These schools could easily decide begin their own venture with their own rules while the NCAA office looks around and wonders where the money tree went.

Maybe they can wrestle over the rest.

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