In the latest evidence of college football fans’ staggeringly pathetic childishness, a legal eagle out in Southern California has devised a plan to exact revenge on the NCAA for its misdeeds against the Men of Troy. In short, this tireless crusader wants to attack the Association where it’s most vulnerable: its tax forms, or lack thereof.
The argument put forward by Joe Shell, Jr., centers around the notion of due process. The NCAA claims the subjects of its investigations are guaranteed due process under its bylaws. Shell contends that the NCAA didn’t grant USC and Todd McNair those protections. Thus, the appropriate congressional committee should hold hearings to expose the lip service the NCAA pays to its guiding principles. Alternatively, Congress can just revoke that nifty tax exemption the NCAA enjoys.
Reading through USCFootball.com writer Dan Weber’s account of this plan to take down the governing body of college athletics, it struck me as odd that this loyal Trojan would have to take up this cause on his own. After all, his alma mater is really the aggrieved party here.
Wouldn’t USC at least have an interest in pursuing this plan if it could ultimately right the wrongs done in the Bush-Mayo case?
The easy answer is that the powers that be at Southern Cal recognize just how ridiculous the Shell Theory truly is. (Note that while the article mentions members of Congress who have received Shell’s brief, it doesn’t say anything about acting on it, let alone even asking for it.)
More importantly, though, this line of thinking illustrates just how little the vast majority of fans understand about how this whole game works. USC and any other school that lands in hot water with the NCAA have zero interest in getting Congress involved with any of this.
As I’ve previously discussed, the NCAA is a voluntary organization. The member schools can come and go as they please, and they essentially write the rules that the NCAA interprets and enforces. Any autonomy that the Association possesses in that regard has the implicit endorsement of its members.
There has to be a reason why the schools give the Association such latitude to conduct investigations and set penalties.
The NCAA serves a variety of purposes for its member schools, such as organizing different championships and overseeing eligibility of college athletes. One nice little ancillary benefit: the Association and its principles of amateurism enable the schools to perpetuate the idea that big-time athletics are part of their educational mission. Consequently, by its very existence, the NCAA helps provide schools with cover to avoid taxation and sharing revenue with athletes.
Part and parcel of the whole charade is an acceptance that the system needs both credible amateurism rules and an enforcer with some teeth. For this whole kabuki show to work, the member schools have to grant the NCAA some independence to drop the hammer. (Chalk compliance costs up to what those in biz call “risk management.”)
So, let’s bring it full circle. While fans and the media are quick to portray the NCAA and its member institutions as enemies, they’re more akin to partners. The schools willingly deal with the nuisance to dodge taxes and keep all that revenue for themselves.
“Due process” or not, does that sound like the kind of arrangement you’d want Congress scrutinizing if you’re USC?
And an even better question for fans: Why isn’t that what bothers you?