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Monday, November 11, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If you thought a kinder, gentler, NCAA was emerging as it moves toward allowing athletes to monetize their own likeness, name, and image, you’re not paying attention.

The letters still stand for No Compassion At All and the organization’s paradigm remains intact, despite recent pressure and threats from a few legislative bodies. The NCAA proved as much last week, flexing its misplaced muscles against potential No. 1 draft picks in the NFL and NBA.


Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, a DeMatha High graduate, didn’t get to enjoy taking on the familiar colors of an old hometown favorite Saturday when the hosting Buckeyes routed Maryland, 73-14.

Young was held out of the game pending a possible NCAA violation. He offered an explanation on Twitter: “I made a mistake last year by accepting a loan from a family friend I’ve known since the summer before my freshman year at OSU,” he tweeted. “I repaid it in full last summer and I’m working with the University and NCAA to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

Unlike Ohio State, Memphis didn’t kowtow Friday when the NCAA deemed that star freshman James Wiseman is “likely ineligible” to play because his family received some moving expenses two years ago. Memphis fought back right away. It obtained a temporary restraining order to delay the NCAA ruling and started Wiseman later that evening. The 7-foot-1 center recorded 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks against Illinois-Chicago.

The family’s relocation assistance in moving from Nashville to Memphis came from Penny Hardaway, then a local prep coach but now the university’s head coach. The NCAA has viewed Hardaway as a Memphis booster since 2008, when the former NBA star donated $1 million to his alma mater for a new sports hall of fame.

“Their finding is arbitrary and capricious based on the law and the way the bylaws are written,” Wiseman attorney Randy Fishman told The Athletic. “Nobody would’ve dreamed Penny would be the coach in 2019. He helped somebody out when he wasn’t the coach, not knowing he’d be the coach.”

Young’s reported loan for a roundtrip ticket ($400?) to fly his girlfriend to the 2019 Rose Bowl, and the Wiseman family’s reported acceptance of $11,500 in moving expenses, indicate the NCAA’s wide range in harassing players.

The organization is neither fair nor reasonable in determining or enforcing its nonsensical policies.

You mean to tell me that the entire multibillion-dollar enterprise was threatened because a friend loaned Young a few hundred dollars? You want to argue that the playing field was unleveled because Hardaway gave relocation assistance in 2017 and subsequently coached Wiseman in high school?

The NCAA and its proponents insist that college athletes and non-athletes should be viewed in the same light. But the athletes consistently are treated differently, with more scrutiny and less justice.

Because money.

When the NCAA announced last month that it was changing the policy on athletes’ names and images, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) acted like the American way was under attack. “If college athletes are going to make money off their likenesses while in school, their scholarships should be treated like income,” Burr tweeted. “I’ll be introducing legislation that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to ‘cash in’ to income taxes.”

Sure, let’s focus on athletic scholarships, which according to one study are given to less than 1.5% of undergraduate students.

If you have an academic scholarship and also “cash in” off campus, that’s great. If you have a band scholarship and also receive personal loans, good for you. If you have any niche scholarship and someone gives your parents money for any reason, no problem.

Young is facing a suspension that could sideline him for another few weeks. Memphis is risking forfeiture of every game Wiseman plays, in addition to sanctions against the school and Hardaway.

Remind me again of the similarities between athletes and non-athletes.

Meanwhile, the NCAA looks worse than before, an astonishing feat. Several statehouses around the country already looked askance at the organization before it came down on the star athletes for highly suspect reasons. Acting in typical heavy-handed fashion is a terrible way to engender goodwill given the current climate.

Truth is, the NCAA couldn’t care less about Young or Wiseman, penalizing players like them merely to keep member institutions in line. Ohio State played along. But Memphis has rolled the dice in defiance, essentially telling the NCAA to go be intimate with itself.

Forget about kinder and gentler. With cracks in the armor finally appearing, it’s time for the NCAA to be smarter and wiser.

Don’t hold your breath.

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


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