NCAA Ethics Violation: Bagels with Cream Cheese

22:22 Fri 21 Aug 2009
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The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletics Assocation, the governing body for American college sports. One of the responsibilities it has taken upon itself is the policing of student amateur status, to make sure that colleges do not entice star athletes to join their progams with money or other bribes. I already considered this a ridiculous situation, but realized today that I underestimated just how ridiculous it was.

For the major American sports of football, basketball, and baseball, the college level are essentially the minor leagues, development areas where young players get a chance to play and can gain experience and be assessed in terms of their suitability for professional play. (This is less significant for baseball.) However, football and basketball at the college level are fully-fledged national sports obsessions in themselves, and as such are huge money-making endeavors that rival the professional leagues. They are significant cash cows, and in many ways the NCAA system is set up to make sure that this cash is distributed to just about all parties involved except the players. The players get scholarships. Sure, tuition is expensive (far too expensive) in the US, but even if the scholarships are worth $400,000 (and I suspect it’s significantly less), for players at big football colleges to get $100,000 per year while coaches get $4,000,000 per year is simply ridiculous.

With so much money in the system, the colleges, especially the ones with big sports programs, desperately want to attract talent to their schools, and would love, in individual cases, to be able to bribe players onto their teams. The NCAA, behind the smokescreen of “ethics” and “the spirit of amateurism”, is really protecting the colleges from themselves by attempting to prevent any highest-bidder situation from arising. They take this seriously, they take the image of “ethics” seriously, and furthermore they have piles of cash with which to fuel a bureaucracy to deal with the “ethics” in question.

Which means that they get right into the minutiae of what constitutes acceptable provision for the needs of athletes versus what constitutes forbidden rewards or inducements. A recent Tweet from the basketball coach at George Mason (a mid-major school in terms of basketball) stated: ”NCAA rule allows us to provide players bagels but no cream cheese or butter.” The existence of this rule has been confirmed by the associate Athletic Director of another university.

Here are some other transgressions, these occurring at the University of South Carolina:

  • A men’s basketball athlete was provided impermissible entertainment
  • A football coach sent a text message when he was not supposed to
  • A student athlete was provided an impermissible snack

Apparently the snack was bagels plus fruit provided at a time that was not breakfast, lunch, or dinner. No cream cheese was mentioned, so it would appear that bagels with cream cheese or bagels at the wrong time would constitute a violation.

That this system is a joke (an exploitative joke) is already evident, and that is the case for reasons far larger than those discussed above. They do make the joke clearer and funnier, however.

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