It's a talk which America will never have. Nor, frankly speaking, is it a talk America could rationally have without Skip Bayless telling us where Tim Tebow fits into all of this.
Hell, just by bringing up Title IX, I've already drawn a line in the sand and accrued some people who disagree with me due to hubris alone. It's something I won't lose any sleep over though, because it's time somebody said something about the giant white elephant drinking whiskey in the corner of the "College Football Reform" room.
He's been over there all night, drinking Jack Daniels on the rocks with one eye closed, and he has been making lewd jokes to anybody unfortunate enough to listen to his ramblings. It's unseemly and it's time to deal with this louse.
The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act (as the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 were renamed in 2002 in honor of the Congresswoman who spearheaded its passing) is as archaic and in need of reform as some of the NCAA's ridiculous bylaws.
In a perfect world, "college sports" would be a euphemism for "intramurals". I know that alone is a hard concept for most Americans to wrap their head around, but it's true. College sports -- which basically started as glorified intramurals in the 1800's -- is something which I think has spiraled far beyond anybody's wildest dreams. We live in the era of TaxSlayerPro.com and Beef'o'Brady's pimping their brand and paying teams with bags of "swag" headlined by a $100 Fossil watch. Something called "The executive director of the Fiesta Bowl" makes north of $600,000 annually. (And let's be real here, what in the hell does the Fiesta Bowl director do all year besides pick the two best revenue generating teams from a pre-made list generated by a shadowy syndicate of computers?) We live in an era where the NCAA is just now getting around to putting a rule into writing which makes it "illegal" for people like Cecil Newton to seek fair compensation for his son. And this is the organization which is supposed to get itself out of this moral cesspool?
I hate using phrases like "moral cesspool" -- mainly because I'm not a beacon of morality myself -- but even casual college football fans would probably agree the term fits. So, we can go on mythicizing college athletics as "student-athletes" riding unicorns through fields of daisies or we can be adults and treat it like the billion-dollar industry it is. To bring the true reforms needed to the sport, college sports need to deal with Title IX.
The entire notion the NCAA rests its moral laurels on is the purity of the "student-athlete". In March of 2008, Terrelle Pryor and I both brought our vast academic talents to The Ohio State University. I transferred in with a rock solid 2.5 GPA. Terrelle Pryor announced his intentions to come to Ohio State on a national press conference. I drank beer at Eddie George's Mediocre & Kinda Overpriced Grille and wondered if "The University of Ohio State" was the same thing as "The Ohio State University". I'm sure Terrelle had a lot more friends and well-wishers when he came to campus than I did. And he earned that. After all, nobody was paying sixty dollars for my jersey or coming to watch me do anything. It's intrinsically impossible for the NCAA's definition "student-athlete" to exist in an environment as commercialized as college football is today. (I can't even come here without somebody peddling Alabama championship gear. I am convinced some rich Alabama troll bought all the advertising on all websites.)
So, given that, why must the elite athletes continue to bring LITERALLY billions of dollars to people -- and not be able to harvest every penny that they've earned? Especially when that sport is something physically taxing like football where the average professional career lasts 3.5 years?
Imagine a weed growing between two cement sidewalk tiles. The weed, of course, is the BCS and the fat TV contracts which have grown out of "amateur" athletics. This weed is fueled by human greed... so it will continue to grow unless its radically attacked. The BCS rainmakers have already observed the national opinion tides shift against them, they have already tried to appease the masses by signaling they're willingness to move to a "plus one" play-off system. This would maintain their current revenue streams for at least the next 20 years. Meanwhile, the black-market behind NCAA's mirage will continue to grow. This is a system which has been around since kids were getting killed playing football. And it's going to suddenly be curtailed by an obviously out-of-touch and behind-the-times as an organization as the NCAA has consistently been proven to be? This is the equivalent of pruning the weed and asking it politely not to grow.
While people are right to be concerned with the weed, people are forgetting the sidewalk itself. The sidewalk, like Title IX, was built with good intentions in the 1970's. But time has worn on the sidewalk and it clearly needs to be widened to accommodate 21st century traffic. Nobody can fault the original makers of the sidewalk in the 1970's for not foreseeing an explosion of shitty sub-developments on the east side at the turn of the millennium.. but society has outgrown their contributions. So, why not just replace the entire sidewalk now when it's clear we need a new sidewalk? If nothing else, wouldn't it be the best way to deal with that petulant weed once and for all?
Why should the breadwinners of college athletics have to support a men's rifle team? If nobody is coming to watch women's lacrosse, then why should money from the football program go to paying scholarships to them? Whatever route in defense college sport mythologists chooses to take, it usually ends up with "Wellllllll.... then you're talking about Title IX."
You're damn right I'm talking about Title IX. To be clear, I'm only talking about it with regards to college sports. While high school sports are becoming more commercialized by the day (all that's missing from Noah Spence's picture is a cackling UnderArmour marketing executive), at least their student bodies have to be there by law. But college is a choice. If somebody like Ohio State has built a brand over the last 50 years on the backs of people like Noah Spence to the point they can get 105,000 people to pay to watch them play Indiana, why should that money have to go to a 5.2 million dollar boathouse?
In the 9th grade, I made the freshmen basketball team but I never played. Then, like most unathletic white guys, I said to myself, "You know, I don't think I'm ever going to play in the NBA. I'm not sure why I'm wasting my time practicing basketball 2 1/2 hours a day." We all have to one day accept our own limitations or the niche of something we like. I wish I could get a scholarship for playing FIFA 12, but I can't. So why should the money generated by Noah Spence and his cohorts go to the lacrosse teams nobody pays to see so NCAA fatcats can hide behind their tax-free money train?
This doesn't mean colleges would have to abolish non-revenue generating sports, but at least they could have the choice to decide which sieve to bring aboard their ship. It may sound brutal, but it's true. It's time to remove the shroud of amateurism from college sports and treat it like adults. The McDonald's in the Servex center isn't expected to share its profits with Larry and Sandy's Cupcake Factory, so why should elite athletes have to share the money they alone generate?
I've stated I'd like to see American football mirror the labor laws European soccer clubs use. If the Title IX swim-float shackles were removed from college sports, Ohio State could use its vast empire to open football and/or basketball academies in places like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus; or even in recruiting hot-beds like Southern Florida. From there, you could train/educate the kids and provide a structured, professional environment without things like "street agents".
You could stock an entire Wal-Mart with things that have had the Ohio State logo slapped on them, so Ohio State can't pretend to have shame over something like this. To take it a step further, Universities could even have coaching/recruiting arrangements with schools, allowing high schools to taste some money from the golden financial eggs they incubate for four years. The Ohio State University is already in the academic academy business, so this idea isn't that radical. I'd also bet these college football factories could produce academies that would be a lot better than the high schools a lot of their players come from. This is, after all, about "education", right?
Elite college sports -- aka the only kind people watch en masse -- isn't about heart or any other kindergarten adjective college sports eulogists use. It's all about like most everything in this country is about anymore: money. I think every college tradition has been trampled on and desecrated in the rush for every college to secure their seat within these new super-conferences. The NCAA allows new conference championship games and "plus one" play-offs... as if they're the ones risking bodily injury or putting in the sweat and tears. There are literally billions of dollars going into these TV contracts. Look at the money swimming around these institutions... and it's wrong to punish kids for tasting the fruit. This isn't the Garden of Eden, after all. It's only going to get worse going forward... so why not just wrangle this beast now and get it over with?
For the record, I'm okay with it all being about money. After 25 years of living in America... I'm used to it. But, instead of pretending college sports is some holy grail of morality, I'd rather treat it like and stop dressing it up. Title IX is the bedrock of the house of cards the NCAA has built, so it too must go. It has outlived its place in collegiate athletics.
None of this would stop colleges from offering scholarships, but at least it'd allow the gloves to come off about college football. Say Camron Newton would rather take $400,000 to sign with Auburn and pay his own way through his studies if he so chose? And what would stop somebody like Joe Bauserman taking scholarships from Ohio State, if that's how the University of Ohio State wanted to get pay their labor? Isn't that the American way?