NCAA's choice: Pave a new road or become roadkill

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald on how he is dealing with the upcoming unionization vote.

Mark Emmert played Chicken Little over the weekend, which is what you would expect from someone heading up the NCAA.

Emmert is the president of the NCAA, which staged its championship game in front of 80,000 fans who paid to sit in a billion-dollar stadium while a network paid billions to broadcast it around the world, all thanks to unpaid gym rats.

And Emmert can’t figure out what the problem is?

You’d swear that NCAA stood for National Clown Administrator Association.

Asked about the victory by Northwestern football players when the National Labor Relations Board declared them university employees and gave them the right to unionize, Emmert declared it “grossly inappropriate’’ and said it would “blow up’’ the collegiate model of athletics.

Good. Real good. The current collegiate model of athletics fueled by greed and arrogance should be blown up.

The NCAA is under assault from all sides. It lost the Northwestern case. It is losing the Ed O’Bannon case, which would give athletes a cut of the cash made off their images. And the NCAA is facing noted labor and sports attorney Jeffery Kessler in federal court over, yes, inevitably, paying players.

No 1 Rule In Life: Follow the money. The NCAA is making billions on the backs of unpaid football and basketball players. The NCAA claims a scholarship that entitles them to a free education is payment enough. The NCAA is full of it.

The NCAA knows the term “student-athlete’’ is ridiculous. There’s nothing amateur about the program. College programs are run professionally and the NCAA markets TV and promotional rights with shark-like professionalism.

College presidents always sound blinded from the outside world when it comes to the inequity in athletics, but judges and juries likely will call them out from behind the mountains of Benjamins and explain the new facts of distributing the billons upon billions being raked in.

The NCAA might then be done with sports, or it will pay athletes who generate revenue. That sounds like a basic lesson taught in college business classes, doesn’t it?

Listen, nobody said playing sports are a requirement at college. Academics are the only requirement at college, and too often sports’ massive revenues dictates what happens with academics.

Let the NBA and NFL pay for the farm systems that college sports became. Level the NCAA sports arms that have television contracts. Start all over because the NCAA cannot solve its issues. Just look at all the Band-Aids and trouble and embarrassments the NCAA suffers in trying to fix the unfixable.

I’m not saying the people there aren’t well-meaning, but this is a whole bunch of “pay no attention to the men behind the curtain.’’

Blowing up this model of college sports would be just fine, Mark Emmert. Develop a model that respects the labor that sacrifices body parts. How could long-term health care not be a gimme in this whole deal all along?

NCAA schools have a lot of smart thinkers on campus. Some of those people have to be able to come up with a workable model for a new sports world. Or maybe there have been many proposals, but none of the schools or conferences under attack want to give up their share of the billions.

Stubbornness doesn’t work anymore. Clinging to outdated ideas is a dead-bang loser in a society bent on rectifying injustices, especially when the have-nots get a shot at the bloated haves.

It’s a whole new game, even if the NCAA refuses to admit it. Institutions of higher learning need to teach, and sometimes be taught a lesson.

CHICAGO

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