Former Richmond walk-on another example of the problems with amateurism

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Do you know what the foundation for amateurism is? Where it all started?

Back in the 1800s England’s uptight upper-class was quite competitive when it came to the sports that England’s uptight upper-class played in those days. As those sports became a bigger deal, men that worked as manual laborers and in factories wanted to compete. Given that they had spent their entire adult lives doing physical labor, the working class happened to be better athletes than England’s uptight upper-class that spent their afternoons drinking tea.

Some of those events had cash prizes. Some sports offered broken time payments, or cash to replace the lost income for taking the time to participate. England’s uptight upper-class didn’t like seeing their sports dominated by smelly working class folks, so they created amateurism in an attempt to purify the game, claiming their intent was to prevent maximizing profits from becoming the sporting ideal while, in all actuality, it was to keep those that couldn’t afford to play from playing.

Oxford and Cambridge picked it up. Harvard and Yale followed suit, and pretty soon, college athletics was built entirely around the classist ideals of England’s uptight upper-class.

At its soul, amateurism is an exclusionary principle.

It’s sole purpose is to prevent those that are good enough to be making money off of their ability from making money off of their ability, because capitalizing monetarily on one’s talent and hard work isn’t at all American. We’re a socialist nation, after all. Capitalism isn’t something we pride ourselves on.

Never before has the NCAA seen this much pushback against amateurism. If the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit isn’t scary enough, the NCAA seems to be getting embarrassed on a weekly basis by folks like Jay Bilas, who this month revealed proof that the NCAA was selling jerseys based on the likeness of their athletes.

Nothing has created as much attention, however, as Johnny Manziel and the Summer of Signatures.

Long story short, in the span of about three months, Manziel went from a redshirt freshman anonymous enough to be able to use a fake ID to the biggest name in college football. Fed up with the money that Texas A&M was making off of him, Manziel decided to start selling his autographs to memorabilia dealers, which is strictly against NCAA rules. All of this came to light at the end of an offseason that saw Manziel’s nationwide summer of partying get the kind of coverage normally reserved for Tim Tebow or Kim Kardashian.

In a vacuum, it seems crazy that Manziel cannot get paid to write his own name when the SEC’s massive TV deal is supported by players like Manziel, Texas A&M is receiving a reported $37 million in publicity thanks to his Heisman campaign, and the school is going things like auctioning off $20,000-a-plate charity dinners just for the right to break bread with their star QB.

And his college career is in jeopardy for pocketing a few thousand bucks for signatures?

I hate it. I hate everything about this rule, even if Manziel has reached a level of spoiled douche-itude that makes it tough for me to like the kid.

But in the real world, this probably doesn’t hurt Manziel, or any other star college athlete, all that much. The truth of the matter is that only a tiny percentage of student-athletes have any real market value — many of whom are football and men’s basketball players, and even then, it’s an overwhelming minority — and if you’re good enough that you would be able to profit off of your own likeness, chances are pretty good that someone has found a way to get some spending money into your pocket. Maybe it’s a booster keeping the team’s best players happy or an agent starting his recruitment early. Maybe it’s free bottle service at a club. Maybe it’s free tattoos or a no-show job or Ricky Roe duffel bags coming in at the start of every semester. I’ve heard enough stories to believe that the guys that are worth enough to get paid are getting paid.

I’m cynical, yes, but I genuinely believe that’s the truth.

Amateurism is wrong and exploitative, but it can’t hold back Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

The irony?

The people that amateurism actually hurts are the real student-athletes that it is designed to benefit.

People like Jonathan Benjamin, a walk-on for Richmond’s basketball team. He was a motivated and bright marketing student looking to start his own clothing line, but he had to halt the advancement of his business because he took pictures of himself posing in the clothes that he created lest he risk being ruled ineligible.

Think about that.

How about Joel Bauman? He was a wrestler at Minnesota before giving up his scholarship so that he didn’t have to take his name and face out of the music that he was creating, because that violated NCAA rules.

A walk-on at Richmond and a wrestler at Minnesota.

I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And it’s all so the NCAA doesn’t have to pay taxes. So schools can be the beneficiary of a booster’s check instead of the players. So that the money spent on donations for season tickets can be considered a tax write-off.

When you think about the concept of amateurism and who it’s actually hurting, don’t let a spoiled rich kid that’s a descendent of a Texas oil baron be the first face that comes to mind.

Think about all the kids like Jonathan Benjamin and Joel Bauman that are being forced to choose between playing a sport they love and trying to build a foundation for their future, which is kind of the point of being a college student, isn’t it?

Student-athlete?

Amateurism is forcing kids like Benjamin and Bauman to choose between being the student they want to be and the athlete they want to be.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.