Greedy NCAA still exploiting athletes

I’m hoping this is the week the mainstream sports media are shamed into severing ties with the NCAA.

If the NCAA has a co-conspirator in maintaining its unethical and immoral status quo of upholding the amateurism myth for its football and basketball players while everyone else profits, it is the mainstream sports media.

We are the volunteer watchdogs committed to making sure none of the billions of dollars generated by NCAA Division I football and basketball reaches the filthy, dishonest hands of the young men who earn it.

The media, even the notoriously left-leaning New York Times, have sided with the NCAA over protecting the interest of the teenage boys the multi-billion-dollar, nonprofit institution exploits.

The NCAA rule book and athletic scholarship that dictate a high school kid surrender his rights in perpetuity are treated as sacred by American media organizations. Exposing a player, booster or coach breaking an NCAA rule is a surefire way to garner a promotion or coveted journalism award.

I’m hoping that culture changes this week.

PBS and HBO, television networks with no financial ties to the NCAA, are airing hour-long shows Tuesday and Wednesday that will examine and put into perspective the hypocrisy and immorality of NCAA schools generating untold billions under the guise of amateurism.

PBS’s “Frontline” and HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” both use former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon’s historic lawsuit against the NCAA as the jumping-off point to hammer the NCAA.

O’Bannon’s lawsuit challenges the contract the NCAA forces its athletes to sign that forbids the players from ever earning a dime from their college careers.

I participate in the HBO show. I’m part of a roundtable discussion with Gumbel, former CBS broadcaster Billy Packer and former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. The HBO show is powerful, and it provides information that should make it easy for the public to digest the unfairness of the current NCAA setup.

Because of technological advances, video games, online shopping and the explosion of sports-related TV programing, NCAA schools now collectively derive billions rather than millions from college football and basketball.

John Wooden earned around $35,000 a year coaching UCLA. The best coaches today earn $4 million-$5 million a year.

Have the benefits to the athletes escalated at the same rate?

The system is broken. No one believes in the integrity of the NCAA rule book. Most fair-minded people don’t believe the athletes are getting a fair shake. Many of them are unprepared to be educated in college, and the demands on their time compromise their ability to catch up or keep pace academically.

While we in the media work as the NCAA’s volunteer enforcement staff, we’ve failed to adequately question college presidents for allowing the expansion of the college football schedule to 14 games and the college basketball schedule to as many as 40.

We’re derelict in our duty to protect the weak and afflict the rich and comfortable. It requires little intellect and even less effort to report on the alleged ethical lapses of teenage athletes from difficult family situations.

In the HBO show, former college basketball coach Tom Penders calls recruiting a “sewer” of money and “street agents.” No one says a word about the sewer of money and “office agents” who are constantly prowling for new cash and contracts for coaches.

The kids are disposable. They’re totally controlled by the NCAA rule book and dictator coaches. They have little value to the media. We in the media can’t resist exploiting them. We’ve wasted two decades of energy pushing college presidents to add a playoff system to college football.

Could we spend a year or two pushing college presidents to do the right thing for football and basketball players?

I’m hoping this week is the start of that process. I’m hoping the HBO and PBS shows change the collective conversation about the NCAA. Amateurism is an outdated concept. It was blown up by television and its money 35 years ago. It’s now time to blow up the NCAA rule book and start from scratch.

Smart people need to figure out a way to financially compensate the football and basketball players who generate the cash. Title IX is not a legitimate excuse to maintain the status quo. This is America. The people who produce the profits are supposed to benefit from those profits.

Room, board, books and tuition are no longer remotely a fair exchange when coaches and administrators earn lifetime financial security every one to four years.