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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.

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Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.

Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.

Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.

Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.

Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter  in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.

Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,

 “We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”

Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.

This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.

The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.

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New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls

Florida Football Insiders

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.

First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.

The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.

Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.

Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.

As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.

The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.

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