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Why the NCAA has striking similarities to another industry

Ari Russell

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In light of the recent federal cases around illegal activities associated with sneaker companies and major college hoops programs that also revealed activities in college football I wanted to revisit a little something I had written several years ago. What also made me think of this was the recent news that Clemson has agreed to a major contract extension for Dabo Swinney giving him $93 million over ten years.

I have always been a vocal critic of the NCAA and how much of a farce the notion of amateurism is in major college athletics. Keep in mind this isn’t a serious analogy I was making, it was more to be funny, but I wanted to reshare it considering we are right in the middle of the NFL Draft and all of the news is certainly pertinent for this topic. So here you go:  

I don’t know about you, but I find something strange with how the NCAA conducts their enforcement business. Here we have a multi-billion dollar industry where the product doesn’t share in any of the profits but yet suffers the consequences if certain rules and regulations are broken. It has striking similarities to the drug game in that the way enforcement is conductive allows for exploitation and insulates those who profit the most.  

Think about it, the cartels own all aspects of the industry, from pricing to distribution, to protection from enforcement. Below the kingpins are middle men, who manage the day to day operations and make sure that all invested product turns a profit. The middle men have various people in locations that serve as heads of territory. The leaders of territory work for the middle men, as their profits are dependent upon the supply from above. The better they do in selling their product, the more of a cut they will receive.

The heads of territory have all sorts of folks below them that spread out responsibility within that terrain. Some will be looking after a neighborhood, while others are lookouts and runners. At the bottom are the customers, or in the drug game, the junkies. These are the guys who’s only stake in the game is to get high and they seek none of the financial rewards.

Now let’s look at the world of major college athletics. Here we have the college presidents who have all of the power. They control the pricing and distribution of the product. In addition, since they make up the NCAA, they have full protection from enforcement. At least in the drug game you have the FBI and DEA, even though they can be bought. In the world of college athletics there is no one overseeing the NCAA. School presidents and sometimes school chancellors are responsible for hiring Athletic Directors.

The ADs are similar to the middle men in the drug game. They recruit and hire leaders of territory aka coaches. Coaches in turn hire staffs to help them oversee their terrain. Below the coaches and their collective staffs are the players. Sure they get college scholarships, which has a tremendous amount of value, but they don’t actually benefit directly from the profits made on their backs. The compensation isn’t relevant to the profits made from their labor.  They are at the bottom of this food chain.

Okay my analogy is full of hyperbole and I’m kind of being tongue and cheek, but let’s look at enforcement. How often do drug kingpins go to jail? Hardly ever and when they do it is for something like tax evasion. Middle men sometimes get caught and they can suffer the consequences. The leaders of territory get caught a lot too, but they usually are at a high enough level that their punishments are usually reduced, especially when they cooperate with law enforcement. They also have the resources to hire quality council which can mitigate the damage.

The customers in the drug game, or the junkies pay the heaviest price. They always get caught, and they always go to jail, sometimes many times. They don’t have the resources for proper council, and oftentimes are used as informants, which put them at even higher risk and make them even more expendable.  

In the world of college sports, school presidents never get in trouble. Athletic Directors get fired sometimes, sometimes for breaking a rule, but mainly for not performing well. Coaches get fired all the time, and sometimes are forced out of the game. The student athletes always get caught, and lose their eligibility. Sometimes they get in so much trouble that others that come after them get swept up in the aftermath and have to pay the price. We have countless examples of this. Even public opinion is imbalanced.

Notice how it seems many people blame the kids and their families for getting caught and hardly are critical of the people at the top? Similar to people blaming the junkies and are okay with them receiving harsh penalties and seemingly give the kingpins the passes.

Tell me where this makes sense? Tell me why it has to be this way? The issues are larger than Coaches and ADs. It starts at the very top, at the people who make up the NCAA. The school presidents are the real problem, and until they can be held accountable, the NCAA can create all the rules they want, it will never clean up this mess.

There is no watchdog over the NCAA, the school presidents write the rules to protect themselves. The are completely insulated. The exploitation will continue as long as society allows for it. There is indeed recourse to make proper changes, just not sure the will.

But that could change.  

Born in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C., Ari Russell watched the rise of the 1980’s Miami Hurricanes and knew that he had to be part of the “U” someday. After graduating from Coral Gables, Ari rose through the ranks of the former XM Satellite Radio and then Sirius/XM as college football executive producer. He later spent 2 seasons as the publisher of the website “Beyond U Sports” focusing on major college football/basketball. Ari brings a great perspective on everything Miami, including the Dolphins to F.F.I.

CFB

FAU-FIU “Shula Bowl” part of our Saturday primer

Jamil King

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As week 11 rolls on today, we have two teams looking to bounce back from losses. One team looking to continue a winning streak, and a rivalry down south. With UCF already losing at Tulsa Friday night, as well as USF losing Thursday night at home to Temple, things are off to a rough start in the state.

Florida State is set to play its first game post Willie Taggart. Odell Haggins will coach as the interim for the second time in 3 years. As far as the actual game goes, the Noles defense will need to be up to the challenge of stopping the Boston College running backs. A.J. Dillon leads the group that is a top 5 rushing attack averaging 280 yards a game.

FSU will be without star DT Marvin Wilson due to a broken hand, further depleting a group that will be relied heavily upon. David Bailey, the back up running back, is also a big back like Dillon and will receive about 10- 15 carries and could also be a real problem for the Noles. As far as the offense for FSU, we know it begins and ends with Cam Akers. After a slow day last week in a loss to Miami, we learned he has been battling an injury.

The Noles need an effective Cam Akers and, more importantly, a functioning passing attack. Boston College can be beaten through the air allowing almost 300 yards a game. This game has the makings to be a shootout and could be a sneaky good game in the early window.

The Florida Gators are also looking to bounce back this weekend. They lost to rival Georgia last week and all but ended their chance at the SEC East title. Now they will focus on getting back to a New Years’ six-game. They will host a Vanderbilt team that only averages 17 points a game. Expect the Gators who have been saying they will be playing mad to come out fast.

The defense should be swarming and especially on third down where they were gashed last week. On offense, look for them to get the running game going. Last week against Georgia it was nonexistent. The Gators are heavy favorites at home and should be able to win this game with no heroics.

The Miami Hurricanes are looking to go on a three-game winning streak. Jarren Williams has given the offense new life since throwing the game-winning touchdown at Pitt. They will now face a Lousiville team that is better at offense more so than defense. Expect the canes to get DeeJay Dallas involved early to help set up the play-action to guys like Jeff Thomas, K.J. Osborn, and Brevin Jordan.

On defense, the Canes will need to key in on Chatarius Atwell and Javian Hawkins. Both guys are playmakers with the ball in their hands and will have the ball a lot. If the Canes can stop those two, then they should be on their way to another win and an excellent rebound after the Georgia Teach game.

We saved the best for last, with a rivalry game down south between FAU and FIU in the latest edition of “The Shula Bowl.”

Both teams are coming off of wins making the game more exciting. The Owls are also tied for the top spot in the C-USA east, and FIU will want to spoil the Owls season here. For FAU, the offense is going to go through QB Chris Robinson (above). The Owls are a better passing team, and Robinson has been the engine to that.

The FIU defense, though, has been dreadful against the run and good against the pass, meaning someone in the FAU backfield could find themselves in a vital role. For the Panthers, the offense is led by the run and by Anthony Jones. Last week it was Napoleon Maxwell who led the team in rushing, but both will be the catalyst for this team. James Morgan will need to make some throws, however, because the FAU defense has been better against the run than they have against the pass.

Both teams come into the game better at stopping the teams’ strengths meaning this could come down to coaching between Butch Davis and Lane Kiffin.

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CFB

C-USA fined FAU coach Lane Kiffin Sunday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

FAU Coach Lane Kiffin is known for being brash, and at times outspoken. And as it turns out, his criticism of the officiating in the conference in which his team plays, has cost him in the pocketbook.

This after Sunday night when Conference USA announced they were fining the third-year FAU coach for criticizing the officials with a social media post on Saturday evening.

First, Kiffin was unhappy with the officiating in his team’s Friday Night 36-31 loss at home to Marshall. It was the Owls first conference loss of the year. In the game, they were penalized 9 times for 90 yards.

After the tough loss, Kiffin told the media post game,

“I already made the decision I’m not going to get into officiating,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know if we lose money in this conference. We probably do, and I don’t have a lot anymore. I’m not going to lose any.

I’m about to say what I want to say, but I’m not going to. The assistant AD is back there shaking his head like, ‘Hey, don’t say what you want to say.’ I’m not gonna say anything.”

Kiffin though did add,

“The game might’ve taken five hours because every call took 10 minutes to figure out how to explain it,” Kiffin said. “I can’t get fined for that.”

Then, on Saturday Kiffin told the media that the Conference admitted that there were “inconsistencies” on several calls and non-calls in the game.

Later Saturday, Kiffin put out on Twitter a the meme of game officials with guide dogs, sunglasses and red and white cane poles:

That drew this response Sunday afternoon from the Conference and its commissioner Judy McLeod,

“Conference USA has specific rules and standards regarding sportsmanship which have been adopted by our membership,” said Commissioner Judy MacLeod.  “We have an obligation to enforce our rules, including the prohibition of public criticism of officiating.”

It is laughable that apparently the extent of their initial punishment is only a $5,000 fine, which is a small fraction of the money that the former Raiders and USC coach makes in Boca Raton.

And further, it’s well known that a coach continuing to complain publicly about officiating is less likely to get favorable judgment calls in the near future. And, that’s more important than a conference reprimand or small fine.

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