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Why the NCAA has striking similarities to another industry

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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.


Quarterback uncertainty dominates state schools

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is for certain as we head towards the 2019 college football season, around the state of Florida most of the prominent programs have more questions than answers at their quarterback position.

This was magnified last Wednesday, when it was learned that UCF’s presumed starter to begin the 2019 season, Darriel Mack, Jr., had suffered a non-football injured broken ankle. And, he is now out indefinitely. That has now thrown a real curve ball into Coach Josh Heupel’s plan to have Mack be the guy, but potentially be challenged by Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush.

Now, it appears that it’s Wimbush’s job and Mack may end up being medically redshirted all together.

There is equal instability in both Miami and Tallahassee. And, in both of the cases of Florida State and the Canes, a veteran transfer may end up being in their mix immediately, as well.

For the Noles, after the January dismissal of last year’s starter Deondre Francois, junior James Blackman will apparently be the quarterback for this season. However, the pressure is on second year boss, Willie Taggart, and he secured left-handed Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook, who could become the guy very quickly, if Blackman falters or should get injured.

Meanwhile, in Miami the Hurricanes are excited for Ohio State transfer Tate Martell (photo above) coming to them and winning an NCAA waiver ruling to make him immediately eligible. Miami does have part-time 2018 starter N’Kosi Perry that they can go to at the beginning of the year, but it’s believed that Martell will eventually take over the offense of new coordinator Dan Enos and maybe, soon.

The other two prominent programs in the state both return an experienced starter.

In Gainesville, the Gators will turn things back over to senior Feleipe Franks for the third consecutive year. Franks improved under Dan Mullen and his staff in 2018 and even though his statistics weren’t tremendous, he won critical games at the end of the year against South Carolina, FSU and the huge “New Year’s Six” bowl win over Michigan.

Clearly, the Gators are in the best shape of all state programs and want Franks to help lead them to what they believe could be an SEC East Division winning season in 2019.

And finally, that USF Bulls will also return veteran quarterback Blake Barnett for his second season in Tampa Bay. Barnett played very well at the beginning of last season as USF and coach Charlie Strong started at 7 – 0. However, with Barnett banged up down the stretch of the year, the Bulls faltered losing their final six games.

Barnett won’t face a challenge from last year’s backup and part-time starter Chris Oladokun, as he has transferred out of the program. So, the hope is the former Alabama and Arizona State quarterback can recapture some of the form that we saw last season. Then, the Bulls should be a bowl contender again this year.

Still that’s not certain.

And in Tampa, Tallahassee, Orlando and Miami, they want QB answers, too.

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What does UConn leaving American for Big East mean for USF/UCF?

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Get ready for another round of potential chaotic conference expansion speculation and maneuvering. And for USF and UCF there has to be simultaneous excitement but also concern with the latest news.

First, a report on Friday night that the University of Connecticut (or UConn, as they are commonly known) is about to suddenly depart the American Athletic Conference and return to their previous longtime conference home, the Big East.

The website and publication “Digital Sports Desk” had the story first that the Huskies are on the verge of departing the American and being back with some familiar foes in the Northeast, as soon as 2020:

The outlet, which is based in Boston, reported that the only immediate holdup is UConn trying to figure out what happens with its flailing football program that went 1 – 11 and 0-8 in the American last year.

This is because, the Big East, since reconstituting in 2014, has gone back to its previous “basketball powerhouse” mentality of the 1980s in recent years. And, therefore, all of its members don’t rely on football any longer. Further example of this is: none of the current Big East members have a Division One football program.

The prominent basketball centered original members of the Big East like Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence, wanted to go back to the previous model and mindset.

Speaking of prominent members, UConn’s men won NCAA hoop titles in 1999, 2004 and 2009, while in the Big East and a fourth title in 2014. And, their women’s program under legendary coach Geno Aurieamma has won 11 National Championships.

With the others departing in 2014, the American Conference formed, with existing Big East teams like USF, Cincinnati and UConn joining up with schools like Houston, Memphis, SMU and of course, UCF on invites.

The American began playing football in 2014, as well, and has 12 football playing schools currently, including the U.S. Naval Academy.

More than likely, the Huskies will have to become a football independent at the Division One or FBS level at least in the short-term, and may actually consider dropping back to the FCS level, where they once played. This is because of the significant money drain that football can be on a program that is unsuccessful and losing money for a long amount of time.

Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant reported on Saturday morning that UConn is awaiting an official invitation but formal announcement could come very quickly that the Huskies will go back into the conference that they helped form in 1979:

Now, for the reality for the rest of the American teams?

Will there be new openings and opportunities forthcoming for schools like: Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, and of coursre, USF and UCF to jump to another League? The first and most obvious point is that another conference that has football has to start dealing invites.

And there’s not a guarantee that it will happen.

The widespread belief is that the Big XII, which currently is constituted with only 10 schools, would be that conference to invite at least two, but as many as possibly six teams to become a “super conference.” And therefore, it would make the Big XII much more attractive when all of its television deals are up in the early 2020s.

If going to 16 teams is the case, then the USF Bulls and the UCF Knights would be in prime position, as a Florida package deal to join in, with the likes of Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. It has been long speculated that Houston, because of its media market size and SMU (Dallas) for the same reason, would be offered.

And, the fact that the Cougars and the Mustangs are schools, who were previously with current Big XII teams, Texas, TCU, Baylor, and Texas Tech in the old Southwest Conference, would be the logical choices to fit in to the Big XII, if they only expand back by two more teams.

The Big XII also stands to have a massive new TV and internet multi-media deal for it’s schools soon.

Keep in mind that in March the American just announced television multi media rights and revenue deal for its member schools. And, the 12 year $1 billion deal with ESPN was supposed to entice teams to stay. Also, Commissioner Mike Aresco got the league member schools to agree to a more significant penalty for leaving and sign away, “grant of rights” for trying to leave for another conference.

That means that UConn or anyone else, gives up their all of their TV revenue and other outside of the conference money for the next few years, if they try to leave.

That’s why UConn essentially downgrading football anyway, makes more sense in this scenario.

UCF has won the American Conference Football Championship in each of the last two years (above) and represented the conference in a New Year’s Six Bowl game both times. They stunned the Auburn Tigers in the 2018 Peach Bowl in Atlanta, but lost a year ago to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. Both games were a massive financial windfall for the Knights and the American.

USF is also extremely attractive because the Tampa Bay television market is number 11 in the country and has a huge football fan base. The Bulls also have had recent success, including an 11 win season in 2017.

Meanwhile, the American could obviously add schools (like they did before) from Conference USA or the Sun Belt to replace UConn or any other members that try to leave.

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