Story By Ken Krayeske • 1:25 PM EST
The National Collegiate Athletic Association pretends to exist for the benefit of student athletes, but every passing day reveals the subtle and obvious exploitative games the NCAA plays to extract profit for coaches, athletic departments and corporate sponsors from these amateurs.
This past week, an Ohio judge cried Constitutional foul and struck down the NCAA's rule preventing young superstars from obtaining legal counsel in negotiating contracts, according to a February 12 report in the New York Times.
"For the 360,000 student-athletes in the N.C.A.A., it’s the tip of the iceberg that they actually have legal rights," said Richard G. Johnson, the lawyer for collegiate baseball pitcher Andrew Oliver.
The NCAA declared Oliver ineligible as an amateur because after the Minnesota Twins professional baseball club drafted Oliver, he retained an attorney to help him negotiate a contract. The NCAA said it was a no-no.
But as the Times said, "Erie County Judge Tygh M. Tone ruled that an N.C.A.A. rule, which renders a student-athlete ineligible for collegiate competition if he or she has a lawyer present during contract negotiations, was illegal because it interfered with an athlete’s right to legal representation."
Obviously, when universities negotiate their multimillion dollar deals with coaches like UConn's Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun, both sides have counsel. Or when UConn negotiates a marketing deal with Nike for apparel, lawyers handle the details.
And in today's New York Times, UConn's athletic director Jeff Hathaway makes clear that UConn sports is nothing but a business. The Times wrote about the twin successes of UConn men's and women's basketball teams, as both are currently ranked number one.
"Two No. 1 teams at the same time really become a way, in part, to brand the university," Hathaway said Friday in a telephone interview. "And I mean that from a standpoint of excellence. When people think of two No. 1s, the University of Connecticut, obviously you think of excellence, you think of commitment. Those are the same thoughts we want people to have with the university with everything we do."
Ostensibly, Hathaway and his athletic director cohorts argue that this increases the visibility of the school, and it then attracts the best students and faculty from across the world.
It's not just UConn that sees athlete-entertainers as a means to boost university prominence. How else do we interpret the billboards on I-91 advertising Quinnipiac University athletics? Basketball and hockey scenes grace the giant posters, enticing passers-by to purchase tickets.
This competitive ethos ignores the damage to academics, when students are means to the ends of profits.
For example, would Geno Auriemma have a restaurant at Mohegan Sun were it not for his success trundled from the backs of hundreds of student athletes, who have not made a red cent from his namesake eatery, but who contributed to its success, by contributing to Auriemma's name as a brand?
News outlets like ESPN and the Associated Press covered the June 9, 2005 anouncement of Auriemma's basketball-themed restaurant, because it breached potential lines.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma is opening a restaurant inside the Mohegan Sun casino.
The move, announced by Auriemma on Wednesday, is being discouraged by the NCAA, which doesn't like the idea of a coach being linked to a gambling establishment. It also comes amid growing scrutiny in Connecticut of coaches entering outside contracts.
Of course, the short AP report doesn't delve into the details of the contract, or of what other contracts merit deeper looks. The website for Auriemma's Fast Break includes pictures of Coach in action.
If the Congressional hearings over steriods make you quesy, don't expect the House of Representatives to convene inquisitions on the cost of burgers at Geno's place, as Geno once gave $1,000 to Congressman John Larson in 1998.
Calhoun, too, once owned an eponymous eatery in downtown Hartford. Calhoun's sports bar has since shut down, but the sum total here is that these coaches benefit from the efforts of amateurs. The NCAA might frown upon it, but they won't regulate it, because it is far too profitable for those who run the system.
These amateurs have no rights in the NCAA system, and the questions must be asked about the questionable business dealings that occur in the upper echelons of the NCAA.