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True reform isn't part of NCAA's agenda

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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I’m not buying it, the notion the NCAA is gearing up to enact legitimate, fair reform.

It’s great that NCAA president Mark Emmert and some of his cronies are meeting in Indianapolis to discuss ways to drag the NCAA and its rule book into the new millennium.

But the whole thing seems too orchestrated, right down to ESPN, the NCAA’s primary television partner, plotting an across-all-platforms, public-relations campaign to convince the public and potential college athletes that the reform is real.

“Not knowing the results of their findings or what they’re going to say, going off my history with the NCAA, I think everything they do will be cosmetic,” said Sonny Vaccaro, one of the revolutionaries most responsible for forcing the NCAA to consider change. “I hope it’s not just raising the scholarship limits, which would be a good start. But it’s not where they need to go.”

Vaccaro — a former shoe company pitchman, summer basketball pioneer and now consigliere to Ed O’Bannon’s historic lawsuit against the NCAA — bit his tongue when we chatted late Wednesday night. Vaccaro wants to hear what Emmert and Co. say before he passes judgment on their two-day summit.

I’m not as disciplined as Vaccaro.

I can smell and see the smokescreen coming.

The NCAA and its media partners have no choice but to polish the pig they’ve been roasting the past 30 years. The public is no longer buying it.

The administrators, executives and coaches are making too much money to continue the facade that college football and basketball are partially academic endeavors. The TV contracts, like the $300 million deal Texas struck with ESPN, are too rich. The TV deals might be rivaled by the deal with EA Sports.

The depositions and discovery from the O’Bannon lawsuit are going to create a new wave of information about just how much money the NCAA is pocketing off its free labor.

Yeah, on the public-relations front, things are going to get worse for the NCAA. That’s a pretty incredible statement given the fact the cartoon “South Park” did a spoof of the NCAA analogizing its policies to crack-baby basketball.

(I’m sorry I can’t properly describe the “South Park” episode. But it was one of the most hilarious and poignant moments of television I’ve ever witnessed. It was like “The Wire” splashed with “Arrested Development.”)

I’m skeptical of what Emmert and the NCAA are planning because I believe they’re doing what they have to do rather than what they want to do. Motives impact policy. If your heart isn’t right, it affects what’s in your head.

The NCAA doesn’t want to be fair to its football and basketball players. It wants to stop being barbecued. It wants to stop being a national laughingstock. When you say you work for the NCAA now, you’re just as likely to be given a side-eye stare as you are to be hit up for tickets.

 

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Lucky for the NCAA, it has a powerful co-conspirator, the media. Many of us don’t want to be fair to the athletes either. We don’t respect or like them. We can’t relate to them. We’re jealous of their success and profile. We can’t see things from their perspective.

And, truth be told, we love the fact college football and basketball are rife with easy-to-expose corruption. We love putting “dope on the table,” holding a news conference and beating our chest about the latest coach busted for making too many phone calls, sending too many text messages or holding too many practices.

I mean, seriously, we painted Kelvin Sampson as the Osama bin Laden of college hoops because he liked talking to recruits on the phone. Rich Rodriguez was demonized for keeping his players too busy.

Being the volunteer police force for the NCAA is one of the quickest ways to build a profitable rep as a sports journalist.

We’re scared of change.

That’s why I don’t believe real change is coming. Emmert doesn’t have to enact real change to satisfy the media, so he won’t. He’ll do just enough to give ESPN the headlines it needs to package it as “historic” change.

I hope I’m wrong. But I doubt it.

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