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Calling Bullshit

NCAA: Foul Play?

Calling Bullsh!t March 9, 2022 442 1


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Our guests

1517693758834
Joe Nocera

@opinion_joe

Business Columnist of Bloomberg & Author of “Indentured: The Battle to End the Exploitation of College Athletes

1517710529790
Dr. Ellen Staurowsky

@profstaurowsky

Ithaca College Professor of Sports Media, Roy H. Park School of Communications

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Dallas Hobbs

@dhobbs92

Activist & Student-Athlete of Washington State University

The NCAA talks a big game about education. But can they back it up?

Stated Purpose: To govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable, and sportsmanlike manner and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education, so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is Paramount.To govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable, and sportsmanlike manner and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education, so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is Paramount.

Pride doesn’t pay the bills. But for years, pride has been the only compensation offered to college athletes who play in the NCAA – the governing body of college sports. The NCAA claims to be defending the concept of “amateurism” which they assert is the only reason fans watch the games. Meanwhile, the billions they rake in benefit nearly everyone but the players. Even worse, once their 4 years are up, many student-athletes leave without even an education to fall back on. 

With the help of author Joe Nocera, professor Dr. Ellen Staurowsky and athlete/activist Dallas Hobbs, we analyze the NCAA’s playbook and propose a whole new game plan.

 

But the truth of the matter is that for many, many, many football and basketball players that education is extremely substandard, because the goal of the coach is to keep the player on the field, not to make sure he majors in something that’s usable after college – To put it bluntly, the players get screwed.

– Joe Nocera

NCAA’s BS score is

Show notes

  • CBS Sports explores how the future of paying college athletes might begin to take shape
  • Learn more about how Dallas Hobbs is using his position to advocate for his fellow players.
  • Take a deep dive into the NCAA v. Alston — the legal battle that made its way to the Supreme Court.
Episode Transcript

MUSIC: “Kovd” BY Fjell courtesy of Blue Dot Sessions

[SOT Dexter Manley] [Sigh] 

[SOT Person B] You’re doing fine. Just tell your story, just how it came about and don’t worry about that prepared statement there.

[SOT Dexter Manley] It’s kind of difficult but anyway…

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

That’s NFL star Dexter Manley, testifying before Congress in 1989. 

[SOT Dexter Manley]  Three years ago… uh…that I just began to learn how to read and write… 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO)

At the time, Dexter was 30 years old. Before going pro, he’d played for Oklahoma State University — somehow majoring in marketing while remaining functionally illiterate.

[SOT Dexter Manley]  I took an ACT test and I scored a 6…

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

He’d never received the right help for an undiagnosed learning disability, but he’d managed to mask the problem. He memorized how certain words looked, cheated on tests, and got girls to do his homework. And he passed his college classes, even though he couldn’t read the team playbook.

[SOT Dexter Manley]…and that really hurt me cause then I, I remembered back when I was in grammar school you know, what I was told and I just felt like that I am dumb and I am stupid. That I didn’t have the ability to learn and to learn how to read and write.

TY MONTAGUE  (VO)

The governing body of college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, claims that education comes first. But how can that be true for players like Dexter Manley — who go to college because they excel on the field, and leave utterly unprepared to do anything else? 

THEME MUSIC: “IN PASSAGE” by BLUE DOT SESSIONS

TY MONTAGUE  INTRO (VO) 

Welcome to Calling Bullshit. The podcast about purpose washing the gap between what businesses say they stand for and what they actually do — and what they would need to change to practice what they preach. 

I’m your host, Ty Montague. I’ve spent over a decade helping companies define what they stand for —  their purpose — and helped them to use that purpose to drive transformation throughout their business.

Unfortunately, at a lot of companies and organizations today, there’s still a pretty wide gap between word and deed. That gap has a name: we call it Bullshit. 

But — and this is important — we believe that Bullshit is a treatable disease. So when the bullshit detector lights up, we’re going to explore things that a company should do to fix it. 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

In this episode, we’re going to look at the NCAA, the institution that shaped college sports into what they are today. 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

The NCAA says its purpose is “to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner and to integrate inter-collegiate athletics into higher education, so that the educational experience of the student athlete is Paramount.” Man, what a mouthful!

But lately there has been quite a bit in the news about a darker side of the NCAA… 

[SOT C-SPAN (archival)] We will hear the argument this morning in Case 2512, National Collegiate Athletic Association Versus Alston and the Consolidated Case… 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

The NCAA has produced iconic matchups, launched professional careers, and made BILLIONS of dollars — but not for the students playing in these big games. 

The NCAA didn’t even allow schools to offer athletes scholarships until 1956.  Before that, the only compensation was pride… and for decades, the NCAA has had a long list of rules restricting payments to athletes. 

That’s finally starting to change. 

[SOT CBS Supreme Court Report] The Supreme Court has handed a massive victory to college athletes in their efforts to receive fair compensation. The justices unanimously rejected the NCAA rules limiting benefits colleges can provide athletes.

[SOT CNBC] things like laptops, science equipment, post graduate paid internships…interestingly the court ruled that by limiting these educational benefits the NCAA would actually be violating antitrust laws because it would make it harder for schools to compete for athletes. 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

And thanks to a separate decision earlier this year, athletes can now earn money by endorsing products and businesses — like the local car dealership or pizza parlor. 

MUSIC: “St. Augustine Red” BY Cafe Nostro courtesy of Blue Dot Sessions

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

But while these changes are a big deal for players who have, in many cases, been forced to live in poverTY MONTAGUE  Montague, many people don’t think they go far enough.  

A growing number of athletes and activists claim the NCAA is basically a cartel, fixing prices, and using the unpaid labor of poor, mostly black and brown athletes to rake in billions. The NCAA, on the other hand, says they’re just trying to preserve the idea of “amateur status” while helping student athletes get a college education. 

This is a complicated story, so let’s start with a quick history of the debate. It all begins in 1905. 

MUSIC: old-timey Yale fight song recording 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

Back then, college football looked a lot different than it does today. Teams used a formation called the “flying wedge,” where the players linked arms in a V shape and sprinted down the field in one big mass. And many of them didn’t even wear helmets! 

As you can imagine…a lot of people got hurt. Eigteen players died in the 1904 season alone. 

JOE NOCERA 

And basically, Teddy Roosevelt called in the presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which of course, were major football powers back then. And said, you figure out a way to clean this up or I will shut down football.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

That’s Joe Nocera, co-author of “Indentured: The Battle To End The Exploitation of College Athletes.

JOE NOCERA

You got rid of the Flying Wedge and they started to allow the forward pass. 

MUSIC: “Vernouillet” by The Sweet Hots courtesy of Blue Dot Sessions

TY MONTAGUE  (VO)  

The next big turning point in NCAA history came in 1948, after a series of sports scandals that involved bribes, gambling, and point shaving. 

Enter the “Sanity Code.” It said that any form of merit pay to a student in exchange for their services as athletes. In other words, they should not profit in any way.  

Sound bed: 1950s football footage

TY MONTAGUE  (VO)  

In 1951, the NCAA got its first full-time leader. And this is where the story gets really interesting. 

JOE NOCERA 

The thing you have to understand about the NCAA is it was almost toothless for 50 years. And it wasn’t until the mid-50s that a guy named Walter Byers, took it over and turned it into a powerful and bureaucratic and ruthless and, you know, one step removed from the National Rifle Association. 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

 Byers has been described as “a force of nature… secretive, despotic, and stubborn.” And he got right to work doing two things: finding creative ways to monetize America’s growing love affair with college sports, and ruthlessly enforcing the sanity code, which meant that athletes got none of that money. 

Today the NCAA is a money machine, generating an estimated 19 billion dollars a year. And despite years of litigation, until just this year, the players themselves, current AND former, were barred from profiting from their name, image and their likeness for life… and they still aren’t paid for the very labor that makes that 19 Billion dollars possible.  

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

After three trips to the Supreme court, after multiple athlete protests and lawsuits, after several attempts to organize the players and even unionize them to get them a fair shake… the NCAA maintains that the educational experience of the student athlete is paramount. So is that actually true, or is that just a bunch of bullshit? 

TY MONTAGUE  (VO) 

To get to the bottom of this, I called up JOE  NOCERA Nocera, who as you heard earlier, is the co-author of “Indentured: The Battle To End The Exploitation of College Athletes.” 

TY MONTAGUE 

Joe Nocera, welcome to Calling Bullshit. Thank you very much for being here today.

JOE  NOCERA:

Thanks for having me. 

TY MONTAGUE

So, I loved your book. It was a real eye opener. Starting out, I think like a lot of people I had this image of the NCAA as this hallowed organization that brings joy to millions of people.There’s this kind of mythic image of these student athlete warriors, both men and women who get to go to college on a full ride and play their sport on the national stage while getting an amazing free education, and then graduate and go on to either a lucrative professional sports career or a career in their chosen field of study. How accurate would you say that picture is? 

JOE  NOCERA

Uh, let me stop laughing.

TY MONTAGUE

[laughing] I kind of figured. 

JOE  NOCERA

I think if we went and parsed that description, every single piece of it is wrong.

TY MONTAGUE

[laughing] Okay, so let’s just say not very accurate? 

JOE  NOCERA

Yeah. 

TY MONTAGUE

It’s an eye poppingly big business, college sports. Can you talk a little bit about where that money comes from?

JOE  NOCERA

Sure, the majority of it comes from TV contracts, that’s where the real big money is. just the college football playoffs alone ESPN has a multi billion dollar contract to air what amounts to three games a season at the end of the season. The big 10 not only has deals with you know ESPN, they also have their own network so they generate money from advertising and from subscribers. But there’s also you know, sponsorships, selling the jerseys  in the student Student Union, there’s all kinds of.. 

TY MONTAGUE

Naming rights of the stadiums? 

JOE  NOCERA

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

TY MONTAGUE

So, Who gets that money when it flows in?

JOE  NOCERA

Mostly the schools do. I mean, if you’re, if you’re the SEC, if you’re the Southeastern Conference, and, you generate 40 to 50 million per school, through your TV contracts, and other means, you parcel that out to the schools. Now, what the schools will say is that the money that is made from basketball and football is used to subsidize all the non- revenue sports, like softball and field hockey. It basically means two sports that are fundamentally played by African Americans are subsidizing lots of sports that are played by upper middle class white students. 

TY MONTAGUE

Absolutely. Yeah. 

JOE  NOCERA

Some would say that’s not equitable.

TY MONTAGUE

Yes, some would say, some have said. Okay. So the universities get the lion’s share of this 19 billion and they use it to build these massive cathedral-like facilities. A lot of it goes to the coaches, some of the coaches’ salaries that are in your book were crazy. Nick Saban – 7 million. Coach Krzyzewski at Duke – 10 million. There’s people on the staff of some of the universities, like the strength coaches are making three quarters of a million dollars a year. And then there’s the leadership of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, he makes 2.7 million a year. And they’re eight executives, they’re making north of half a million dollars a year. So a lot of people doing really well off of this 19 billion. What do the students get, the people actually responsible for generating all of this revenue? 

JOE  NOCERA

Um, they get uniforms. They do get training, that’s, that’s real. They sort of kind of get an education. But the truth of the matter is that for many, many, many football and basketball players that education is extremely substandard, because the goal of the coach is to keep the player on the field, not to make sure he majors in something that’s usable after college. To put it bluntly, the players get screwed.

TY MONTAGUE

Yeah, it feels like that. one of the statistics that jumped out at me was that 80% of top level college athletes live below the poverty level. And as you’ve already pointed out, many of them come from poor families, many of them are people of color, and the highly paid coaches and NCAA executives are mostly white. So this feels like essentially reverse affirmative action. 

JOE  NOCERA

Here is the way I think about it, the players are often the poorest students on campus. And yet, the NCAA’s amateurism rules have long been aimed at preventing college athletes from accepting money. That’s what the whole goal is. So, for instance, if an upper middle class white kid wants to go home for Thanksgiving, right, his parents just pay for it. And there’s no violation because parents can do whatever they want. Right? If a disadvantaged black kid wants to go cross country for Thanksgiving, and his parents don’t have the money, he can’t go because anybody who would give him the money to make that trip would be putting him in violation of NCAA rules. And he would be suspended. So, the NCAA basically says, We treat everybody the same. We don’t want anybody to have money. That violates the principles of amateurism, but in effect, it affects the black kids a whole lot more than it affects the white kids.

TY MONTAGUE

In your book you quote historian Taylor Branch, as comparing the NCAA system to in quotes “the plantation.” What did he mean by that?

JOE  NOCERA

 Well, it means sort of the same thing that I mean by the title of of my book, which is indentured,  Which is that they’re under the thumb of the athletic department, the coach, You know, if they don’t play well, they can lose their scholarship and be sent back, they often wind up back on the street after their four years are up. It’s a system in which they have no power, or at least had no power until fairly recently. And so these players who are making no money, are making a ll these white people, not all white people, but all these administrators, these adults rich, which is definitely the whiff of the plantation.

TY MONTAGUE

Absolutely. What, Joe, what is the NCAA’s rationale for treating students this way?

 JOE  NOCERA

let me back up one second, and just the combination of the recent Supreme Court decision, and the legislation in many states to allow players to make money on their name, image and likeness, ie endorsements and signing autographs and that sort of thing, is changing things radically, and quickly, and the NCAA is trying to catch up. But let’s make believe we’re still back in the era. When the NCAA, when it was their way or the highway. The rationale was that amateurism, that not paying players is what separated college sports from professional sports. It was kind of the secret sauce. And they would long argue that if players were ever paid, it would turn off the fans. And people would stop going to the games and it would destroy college sports. 

TY MONTAGUE

It seems to me that that is a testable proposition. Why hasn’t anyone asked them to prove this?

JOE  NOCERA

Well, that’s what these court fights have been about. Amateurism, they would say, is not the secret sauce. In fact, it’s cartel-like behavior that violates the antitrust laws, and its purpose is to deprive the labor force of wages. So each side has their economists and in court over the last 15 years, judges at every level from the district court to the appeals court to the Supreme Court have all said that the arguments, the in favor of amateurism being something that is required to have college sports, they have all ruled that that is bogus. And that in fact, what amateurism really is is a violation of the United States antitrust laws. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

In June of 2021 the NCAA dropped its rule prohibiting students from making money off their name, image and likeness. That was a big win. But it wasn’t the first. In 2009, there was another significant score for student athletes in the Supreme Court – O’Bannon vs NCAA.  

JOE  NOCERA

It’s quite the story. Ed O’Bannon, former NCAA champion, basketball player at UCLA, he’s working at a Las Vegas car dealership. He goes to a party And somebody says, My kid saw your image on a video game. so he goes and looks at the video, he looks at the video game. And sure enough, there’s an avatar that looks exactly like him. That has his number on the back. it’s obviously at O’Bannon. So of course, his first instinct is Oh, boy, this is kind of cool. But his second instinct is why aren’t I getting paid for this? How can they use my name, my image? without paying me? Exactly. That’s what led to the first truly important lawsuit, O’Bannon vs. NCAA. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

That was back in 2009. And since then, there’s been a real shift in how the public thinks about the rights of college athletes. 

JOE  NOCERA

Now jump ahead to 2019. A California legislator named Nancy Skinner is at a Rotary club luncheon, and she’s listening to an economist named Andy Schwartz, who is giving a talk about the NCAA. And she thinks to herself, boy, this is awful, somebody should do something about this. And then she thinks, hey, I’m about to join the legislature, I could do something about this. So she files a bill that says, universities in California cannot prevent, or punish athletes for making money under name, image and likeness. And here’s the amazing thing. In this polarized era that we live in, it passed unanimously. 

TY MONTAGUE

Yeah, that’s incredible. 

JOE  NOCERA

In the house and the Senate, and that really told you that things had changed. So then what happens? A bunch of other states say, well, hell, I’m not going to give California the advantage, we got to have one too or we’re going to lose recruits. And then the NCAA says, Well, hold on everybody, let us figure this out, you know, just stop. And by then the NCAA has lost so much credibility that nobody’s willing to do that. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Understanding that this was a losing battle the NCAA finally decided they would simply allow all athletes to finally make money from their name image and likeness. 

JOE  NOCERA

Now one of the great fears about this was that only the quarterback, you know, would get a big endorsement deal and that the rest of the you know, the the linemen would get nothing. And that it would be dominated by football and basketball. That is not what has happened. It’s amazing that so many of these deals have revolved around women athletes, in sports that are not Olympic sports or lacrosse or just it’s really been even Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA said, watching this evolve has been quote, unquote, really neat.

TY MONTAGUE

[laughs..] Yeah, I mean, look, I’m not supposed to have an opinion. I’m interviewing you. But that seems nefarious to me. Because I mean, I don’t understand how he suddenly got woke.

JOE  NOCERA

Well, they’re not that woke. But I do think that actually paying the players is not far behind. 

TY MONTAGUE

Shifting gears for just a second. Another thing that the NCAA has said in one of its bylaws is that student participation in intercollegiate athletics is an avocation, meaning a hobby and student athletes should be protected from exploitation by commercial enterprises. How’s that going?

JOE  NOCERA

That has been the rationale. And it’s so ludicrous when they say it out loud in court, that even the judge has a hard time stifling a laugh. It’s become so ridiculous. The collegiate model basically says that, it’s perfectly appropriate to maximize revenue for the schools and the athletic departments, but that the athletes remain students rather than employees. And they always make this absurd distinction between students and employees. And, you know, when I was in college, I worked in the photo lab. So I was employee of the journalism school, right. But I was still a student. But the NCAA basically says, You got to either be a student or an employee. You can’t have both.

TY MONTAGUE

Can’t be both. 

JOE  NOCERA

So the collegiate model is the athletes are students, so they can’t be paid. But in every other aspect college sports is a revenue maximizing enterprise. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

So far, the whiff of NCAA bullshit is pretty strong. It’s clear that a lot of student-athletes have been financially exploited. But what about their education? The NCAA mission states that education is paramount. Since the student’s aren’t getting any of that money, are they at least getting a good education? 

JOE  NOCERA

So one example of the NCAA wanting to put education first is their rules about how many hours per week the athletes can practice. So let’s say it’s 20 hours a week, Well, that sounds pretty reasonable, but then it turns out that, let’s say they have a game on Friday night, in Texas, and they’re in West Virginia. But the only hours that count towards the 20 hours, are the two hours that they’re on the field. and the rest of the 36 hours or 40 hours don’t count. So there’s all kinds of loopholes like that. But more importantly, when an athlete is recruited, it is made abundantly clear that their sport comes first. So that means they can’t take any classes, that conflict with practice or games. Which means that even those who are really quite studious have a very hard time finding a major that’s legitimate. and a lot of the players,you know, their major is like, communications or Phys. Ed or, but really, they’re, what I like to say is they’re majoring in eligibility. 

TY MONTAGUE

That’s a great phrase. 

JOE  NOCERA

What’s happening is that their academic advisors are directing them to classes that they know, they’ll be able to pass or they, you know, have a good likelihood of passing that will allow them to remain eligible.

TY MONTAGUE

Right, and how many actually graduate? Do you know?

JOE  NOCERA

There is some controversy over that. The NCAA would say it’s over 60%, I would say for football and basketball, a guy named Richard Southall, at the University of South Carolina has done a lot of work dissecting that and using the federal government’s graduation numbers, and has concluded that it’s much much lower than that. And for black players, especially, it can be in the 25 and 30% range, depending on the school. 

TY MONTAGUE

It’s crazy that these kids come into the school, they work on average, 50 hours a week on their sport, and then have schoolwork on top of it. And many of them don’t graduate…  

JOE  NOCERA

It’s a terrible grind, you know, you get up at six o’clock in the morning, you go to the weight room, then you know, you got classes from maybe nine to three, then you have practice, then you have mandatory study hall and you know, don’t get to go to bed till 11 or midnight, it’s really hard. And then, you know, a lot of the players are not ready for college work because they’ve been pampered in high school. And a lot of them think they’re gonna be pro so they don’t spend enough time thinking about scholastics.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right? And how many of them actually go on to professional sports careers?

JOE  NOCERA

Something like between 1 and 2%. 

TY MONTAGUE

Joe, just another question for you about this, essentially the injustice of this system. Why don’t some of the sponsors use their clout to force the NCAA or the colleges directly to solve this problem?

JOE  NOCERA

Um, because they make too much money. There’s too much money at stake. 

BS MUSIC

TY MONTAGUE

So Joe is the NCAA a bullshitter?

JOE  NOCERA

[laughing loudly] Well, of course it is. I don’t even I don’t, there’s nothing else to say, of course it is. 

TY MONTAGUE

Seems like that is the only thing to say. So on a scale of zero to 100, 100 being the worst. What would you rate the level of bullshit at the NCAA?

JOE  NOCERA

Hmm… 93, 94. 

BUZZER

JOE  NOCERA

The real bullshit factor to me about the NCAA is how Orwellian the language is.

TY MONTAGUE

Say more about that.

JOE  NOCERA

That they screw players in a dozen different ways and yet they always characterize what they’re doing as being the force for good as being the people who are trying to save the college athlete.

TY MONTAGUE 

Last question, what is the one thing you would do to change this problem?

JOE  NOCERA

Pay the players. 

MUSIC BULLSHIT THEME

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Ok folks, it is time to make the call: is the NCAA really “Governing competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner and integrating inter-collegiate athletics into higher education, so that the educational experience of the student athlete is paramount? Based on what I’ve heard so far, I gotta call bullshit.  

But remember: bullshit is a treatable disease — so after the diagnosis, we always prescribe a cure. After the break we’ll hear solutions from some great minds in activism on behalf of athletes everywhere. Stick with us. 

MUSIC SPORTS CHEERING 

Before you head to the break, we’d love to hear what you think about the show. Maybe you’re inspired to take action, maybe you disagree with today’s bullshit rating. Either way, we want to hear about it. Leave us a message at 212-505-2305 or send a voice memo to cbspodcast@cocollective.com. You might even be featured on an upcoming episode. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Welcome back. All right, so there’s a pretty big gap between what the NCAA says it stands for and the actions that it takes. The next question is, what could the NCAA do to actually solve this? 

We’ve assembled a small yet mighty panel of experts and asked them to propose some concrete things that the NCAA could do differently. 

TY MONTAGUE 

So our first expert is Dr. Ellen Staurowsky. Ellen can you tell us a little bit about your background?

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Sure. I am a proud member of the faculty  Montague at the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. And in a previous lifetime, I started out my career as a college coach, moved on to become a Director of Athletics. And I’ve researched, written and, and taught courses about college sport now for we’re now moving into four decades. So I’m very excited to be talking about this particular topic today.

TY MONTAGUE

Thank you so much for joining us. And our second expert is Dallas Hobbs, Dallas, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

DALLAS HOBBS

Yeah, so I’m a Washington State University defensive lineman on the football team here. I’m originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and found my way over to Pullman, Washington, because of sports, because of football, and really got heavily involved in some athlete activism. It’s about a year now. I was one of the main leaders of the We United movement group that was really pushing a lot of athlete activism and stuff on the table of NCAA so really happy to be here.

TY MONTAGUE

Fantastic. So let’s get right into this, the way this works is I want all three of us to  to present one idea, the single most important action that you think the NCAA could take to better live their purpose. All right, Ellen, I’m going to ask you to kick us off, you’re on the clock.

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

I think that what’s ailing the college sports system and Dallas, your on the ground work with the movement last summer is Exhibit A in terms of what needs to happen. There needs to be the creation of an independent Players Association that represents the interests of the players. Because from the early 1900s to the present, we’ve had college sport leaders who have been putting forth an agenda that has benefited the business of college sport, but it has not represented the interests of the athletes. And so to me, reform is not going to happen without that step.

TY MONTAGUE

That’s a fantastic point. There is no one really, truly representing the interests of the players right now. Dallas, over to you. In two minutes,the single idea that you would want to get Mark Emmert to agree to, to get the NCAA to actually walk their talk. 

DALLAS HOBBS

Mine’s with athletes in mind as well, mainly the, the younger generation of athletes that are coming along, I would like the NCAA to create some sort of program with the revenue that they are generating, because there’s a lot of it, to set up programs for lower income communities, athletes that are lacking the right resources to get into sports,you know, I was lucky to have parents and grandparents that were able to pay for these things. But there’s a lot of people that aren’t even able to get into the sports they enjoy and can’t even make it to the collegiate level. So that’s something I really want to see happen, to really create some better areas for athletes to get into the NCAA.

TY MONTAGUE

Yeah, another fantastic idea, right? access, which is absolutely not equitable right now. Thank you, Dallas. So my turn. I noticed that a lot of the talk is about the money, And I think that conversation is a super important conversation. But the NCAA’s mission doesn’t say anything about money. It does say that the NCAA exists to ensure that the academic experience of the student athlete is paramount. 

And when you look at the academic outcomes, particularly in Division One, and particularly in the money, sports, football and basketball, graduation rates are horrible, in some cases 20% of a team graduates and many of the people who do graduate are kind of sham graduations because the player got a lousy or non-existent education. You know, the story of Dexter Manley comes to mind less than 4% of athletes ever get to the pros, which means that a huge number of D One athletes leave college and are sort of tossed away like, like refuse with no education, no real prospects. And I think that’s a crime. 

I propose that the NCAA immediately begin forcing colleges to ensure that incoming athletes get a real education. give them all a scholarship, but not for a year, not for four years. But a scholarship for life. A student athlete should be able to play for four years, so long as they’re a student in good standing. And when that time is done, they should have a lifetime ticket to return to that school to finish their degree. And that scholarship should cover living expenses as well. If the NCAA wants to claim that they’re about the primacy of education, they need to back those words up with some immediate action. They have a great story, they just need to do that story. 

So I’ll stop there. 

I think, you know, all three ideas are provocative. Ellen tarting with yours, this idea of representation. That’s another thing that struck me as just completely unfair that, until very recently, although it seems like some of these rules are changing, college athletes weren’t allowed to have a lawyer or an agent. There wasn’t anybody looking out for them. Meanwhile, coaches have agents and the schools themselves have the NCAA to enforce rules. What’s it going to take for, for that to to really be put in place do you think? 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

It may end up being an act of Congress, quite literally, Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, has a bill before Congress right now, which is arguing for athletes to have the opportunity to collectively bargain and to have an association that would allow for the kind of advocacy that a group like that would provide. I want to cycle back to two things that you talked about, in your proposal for reform, with an emphasis on education. And the first one is that, even though in the NCAA’s mission statement, it doesn’t say anything about money, within that 450 page manual that they’ve got for Division One. And who doesn’t want to read that on any given night?

TY MONTAGUE

I mean, I read it daily, of course, as we all do.

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

But buried within there is a philosophy statement. And in the philosophy statement, it expressly talks about money, and it does so in a variety of ways. 

You know, there’s an ongoing narrative around college sports as being connected to education. But at the same time, this is a multi billion dollar global industry. And it really needs to be understood as such. 

And I think part of our conversations around reform really need to acknowledge the fact that athletes have, their interests have been sacrificed, 

I think that this is one of the things that athletes would benefit from in terms of having a Players Association, because this is certainly this conversation and Dallas, I think, you know, given the activism that the PAC-12 players had last summer, you know it, this is about compensation. But this is about basic humanity and treatment. This is about education. This is about safe workplaces, this is about health care. 

And I’d really be curious to know Dallas, you know, what, what you think about that, and frankly, what you think the critical issues are?

DALLAS HOBBS

Yeah, and that’s something we were definitely trying to attack last summer…,our main focus was COVID at the time, you know, that was, what was in the spotlight, but, you know, there’s a lot more things we can put on the table, health and safety protections, protect all sports, end racial injustice in the college sports in society, and then economic freedoms and equity.  economic freedoms are starting to happen with NIL coming out, which was a big win for us. , education is still a major one, protecting all sports, you know, we, we see all these sports keep getting like Stanford had, what 12 sports, discontinued last year, and then we keep seeing it at other schools, you know, there’s a lot of main big concerns that are still happening, that need focus, everyone thought, once we got NIL and all these things, you know, we hit them all, it’s all good now, you know, 

TY MONTAGUE

So I want to return to sort of our, our main theme here, which is, what are the actions that the NCAA should take and, maybe want to look at it through a slightly different lens.  One of the things that just I found stunning was the degree to which the NCAA has resisted any of these reforms over the years, you know, there have been people trying to change these rules for years, and the NCAA has used every means at their disposal to avoid sharing the money, instituting safety reforms, making sure that college students get an education, all of the ideas that we’ve been talking about today. 

Ellen maybe maybe I should go to you, why do you think that they are, even today seemingly continuing to drag their feet? And what’s it going to take to get them to actually want to do it?

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

We’re in such a different environment than what we were in the 1950s, or what we were in the 1900s. But the system itself has remained status quo. And I think that’s part of the reason why there needs to be a Players Association, because, there’s no incentive for the leaders to change, in a classic labor construction owners don’t change until they have to, until there is an imperative for them to change, you can bring moral arguments to the table, you can bring economic arguments to the table. But the plain fact of the matter is, until the power dynamic changes, nothing really changes at all. 

And I think that’s what is exciting about the NIL era and about what’s happening with athlete activism in general. And frankly, I think it’s part of why the NCAA is failing so badly in its leadership right now. It has completely misread the landscape. For instance, they’ve got a convention coming up in November to talk about reform. But they did not go to the different organizations that are representing athlete interests right now. They didn’t ask them for feedback. They stayed internally with the people they generally do. And, And to me, that’s the tell that that they have no intention of really changing unless they absolutely have to. 

athletes from the ground are making a change. I think legislators are calling for change. And frankly, I think the American public is beginning more and more to see the inequities. And to get with why, why this is so dramatic. And Dallas, you talked so eloquently about the racial injustice and all of this. And, and, and this is the moment for the NCAA not to be responding to that, in a substantive way, is really deeply problematic. 

TY MONTAGUE

Dallas, I see you nodding along, as, as Ellen spoke, and you’ve led some of these, …activist actions. Why are these not more widespread? What is preventing the players from really getting together, because at the end of the day, you have a monopoly on the sports, right? Without players? No sports. I’d love to hear you just talk about your experience as an organizer, like what your the conversations were like, with the other players, what you guys felt like you had on the line, and what it would take to be to really make more of that kind of thing happen. 

DALLAS HOBBS:

The biggest thing we call it now is this conveyor belt,  you’re moving along, you’re told to focus on your sport, in your school, and you just keep on going by, everyone’s grateful for, their scholarship, or their equipment they have, the support they have from fans, they’re on this conveyor belt, and they keep going. 

And then some people, you know, finally get to look to the right or to the left, and they can see outside the conveyor belt, you know, the windows open up, I still am grateful but I finally noticed, you know, all the wrongdoings that are happening, all the programs that can be put in place to see the success of the athlete, and not just the NCAA as a whole, I think I talked to probably 2000 Pac 12 athletes, you know, at the time, mainly football players, and they, you know, all had concerns  on average, maybe like five people from each school that came out and wanted to be a part of the We United and really saw what was going on, you know, they came into our conversation that came into our Zoom calls, they saw everything that was happening and they listen. But we also had another 2000 people we were talking to to, but and those people, a lot of them, you know didn’t repost it, they didn’t, you know, share the graphic that said they were with us, because they were scared. They sat in all those calls, and they said, you know, this is what’s going wrong here. You know, I have these concerns. I’m scared of this, you know, I’m, I’ve had all these issues at my school. We heard all their stories. whatever it was, you know, they were scared.

TY MONTAGUE

Can you talk a little bit more about that fear, like what are they afraid of?

DALLAS HOBBS

It omes down to the main thing you know, you want to play your sport. And you get scared, you want to stay in your lane.  I respect their decisions, you know, some people can’t risk their scholarships. 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

You know, it’s interesting in terms of the framing of labor issues in general and athlete activism, that whenever you’ve got a group that has the kind of power inequities that we’ve got within college sport, whenever we’ve got that kind of dynamic when when players step up and challenge the status quo, there’s this question about, well, why weren’t there more of you, rather than really putting into perspective just how profound that action was, and…we’ve got the northwestern players organizing, and, and actually gaining the right to collectively bargain until they got derailed with the National Labor labor relations board. that was an action where where people kept saying that will never ever happen, it will never happen. And there we saw football players who were signing union cards.

And then we have Missouri where the entire football team boycotts on racial injustices at Missouri So rather than thinking about this in terms of well, who didn’t sign on officially, we should be looking at this as a movement, where it’s gaining ground, and it’s going to continue to gain ground. 

TY MONTAGUE

Coaches’ salaries are tied to in some cases winning and in some cases, their ability to recruit top players, but they are not tied to educational outcome. Mark Emmert’s salary at the NCAA, isn’t tied to educational outcomes at all. It seems to me that one of the levers might be tying people’s salaries to better outcomes for athletes, whether they be educational or remunerative.

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Depending on whose contract it is, you will see coaches that will have bonuses, in terms of their team APR scores, and their graduation success rates. But think about that for a minute. 

TY MONTAGUE

Ah, that’s good. 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Actually, I don’t think that is good. I think that that is hypocrisy at the height. Because anybody who’s working in higher education should be invested in athletes graduating. And the idea is that somehow we have to create a financial incentive for coaches to direct their attentions to graduating athletes. That just tells you how sick the system is, and how corrupted is that?

TY MONTAGUE

Well, I agree with that, Ellen … But the sad reality of most of the world is that effort follows money. And maybe that’s cynical, but I just think like if if Mark Emmert like he makes north of a million, if 50% of that even was tied to academic outcome, in other words, graduation rates across the universities, he would pay attention to that. And NCAA would start to enforce rules that that made sure that that those those those rates got better, no? 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

You know, the NCAA created the graduation success rate… But it’s interesting that graduation success rate compares to nothing. There is no metric for graduation success rate for undergraduate students. That’s where we have the federal graduation rates that comes into play. That’s a different metric. So the NCAA has created this PR campaign around graduation success rates. 

TY MONTAGUE

Yeah, they get gamed.

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

So creating that financial incentive, you’re just going down another rabbit hole in effect.

TY MONTAGUE

Well, that’s grim thanks, Ellen thanks for bumming us all out No, that was great. And so I want to probe in the same area with Dallas, because Dallas, you put the student in student athlete, right, you’re carrying a 3.85 GPA, is that right? And you’ve gotten awards for your academic achievement at Washington? How hard is that to do? Because that’s, I would say, pretty unusual, how well you’re doing in school and in your chosen sport? How big a commitment of time and energy is that? And is everybody on the team doing that? Are there people who are struggling?

DALLAS HOBBS

Yeah, I would say the biggest benefit to my success is my ability to learn, and seek out as much resources that I can and completely suck those dry. And it also helps the fact that the major I’m in is something I want to do the rest of my life, I love art, you know, I love digital technology. So it’s a passion of mine,  But  it’s definitely a commitment. You know, I spend, once I get out of practice, and, you know, get done, you know, studying playbook, you know, watching film, I dive right into school, and I, that’s all I do the rest of the day, or I dive into work.  

TY MONTAGUE

That’s just super inspiring, right, and you found two things that you love, and that you’re really good at. And to me, like, I look at you and I go, that’s the key to life, right, you find things that you’re passionate about, and you pursue them with, like ferocity the reason I’m probing so much on this is I want to figure out how to, you know, provide more of that for people because,no matter how good you are at your sport, the number of people who are going to go on to play professionally is vanishingly small. And so helping people find that next passion, the thing that’s going to carry them beyond their sport, and into success in life feels like a vital, vital thing that college is supposed to do. Like, that’s what college is supposed to be for. And it doesn’t seem to be working in the case of many, not all, but many college athletes.

DALLAS HOBBS

You know, I see a lot of other athletes that are in majors that are not their passion, but they’re in them, because they fit the schedule of what we’re doing. That’s where, you know, instead of you were talking about adding bonuses to coaches, no, we take that money and we add it into academic, resources into academic advisors into tutors into the resources we can add, that’s where the money needs go, you know, and we need to see policies put in place that allow for more academic success, you know, that allow for schedule adaptations for student athletes that, have crazy schedules, you know, we need to figure out a way where, say this person’s you know, wants to be in engineering or kinesiology wants to be an athletic trainer wants to be you know, a doctor, but that schedule does not fit in a student athlete or an athletic schedule whatsoever. So we need to figure out how we can push resources like you said, an extended an extended scholarship that pushes on to, you know, six, eight years where they can take a longer time you know, take a shorter amount of classes like there needs to be put that policy put in place. But instead, you know, we see things that are forced where it’s, you know, you have to have 40% of your major complete by this time. 

So it’s forcing these college athletes into majors that they’re not passionate about, and then you see a success rate drop, you know, they’re forced to this, but then still hold a high grade point average to be successful, but it’s not something they’re passionate about. So in the end, they’re just going to drop it when they’re done. So why not add resources where they get this extended stay in college, because only 2% make it to the next level.   we’re lacking in support for our advisors, we’re lacking in a lot of things that you would really see increase in real sustainable futures for college athletes, Because it’s us, the student athletes that are doing the work,it’s our education, it’s our future. So we need the money to, help us succeed in, to do something we’re passionate about..

TY MONTAGUE

That’s very well said. So let me try another area. There’s an economist who was quoted in Joe Nocera’s book, And in it, he advocates for just an open marketplace. Right now, he argues that the NCAA is essentially a cartel that it artificially holds down wages in quotes for college athletes in a you know, collusional and coercive manner. the economist advocates that it should just be an open marketplace that players should get paid whatever the market demands, and that colleges should be forced to compete with each other for players and for coaches on the open market, and that the market would eventually sort itself out. In other words, having essentially no rules about who makes how much money in what college ever? What do you both think about that idea? 

DALLAS HOBBS

Yeah, I see it, you know, it has its positives, but it has its negatives, both sides have super extremes to them, you know, if we’re talking about an open market, we’re seeing a lot of toxic environments, you would really see a a major decrease in academic success and the education side of things because it’d be, you know, like a professional league where, say, I could get this amount of X amount of dollars here….people would be just hopping from one school to another… But there are the benefits  where players do see an increase of, you know, financial success, you know, generational wealth, and there’s a lot of good things that could come from that. 

MUSIC: BS Score

TY MONTAGUE

So before I let you go..,I want you to think for a second and give the NCAA what we call a BS score a bullshit score. So on a scale of zero to 100, 100 being the worst, total BS, and zero being the best, zero BS, what would you give the NCAA on their level of achievement of their mission right now? 

DALLAS HOBBS

I’d definitely say it’s in that 60 to 70 range, just because they’re not, they’re not seeking change at all. So that just jumps up the score a lot, you know. 

TY MONTAGUE

Perfect. Thank you so much. Ellen. 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Oh, goodness, hold on to your hats.

TY MONTAGUE

And the gloves come off! 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Now I’m gonna get in trouble. Um, but, you know, if you parse out the language in that mission statement, you know, fair, equitable, ethical, you know, it’s no, no, no. So, you know, and then student athletes in that term, we know that student athletes was an invention by the NCAA to avoid compensation, keeping in mind that this is an association that’s representing higher education, higher education, is where we’re supposed to put a premium on truthful and ethical conduct. And so when I put all of those pieces together, I come out at zero. 

TY MONTAGUE

Well, 100 is what you mean. Right. total BS. 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Sorry. Yeah. Okay. 

TY MONTAGUE

Yeah. other end of the scale? Right. 

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

  1. Good. I was never good at math. 

TY MONTAGUE

Me either.

ELLEN STAUROWSKY 

But I think it’s deeply problematic, because even this NIL situation, you know, people are referring to this as reform. And this is not reform, this is restoring a right that athletes had in the early 1900s, I would hardly say that this is progress. You know, it took over 100 years to reverse that wheel. It’s so so and I don’t mean to be flippant here. But I think that it that the system really has failed. And athletes deserve so much more. And frankly,I think that they have been the ones that have demonstrated the leadership here. 

TY MONTAGUE

Thank you both so much for being on the show today. It has been an honor to meet both of you, truly. So keep up the good work both of you, and fight on.

ELLEN STAUROWSKY

Thank you very much, Ty and Dallas, It’s been a pleasure.

DALLAS HOBBS

It has absolutely been a pleasure to listen to you as well, Ellen. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

I’d like to end the show by giving the NCAA an official bullshit score.  You’ve heard our guests give theirs. Based on what I have heard today, because they stubbornly refuse to change and have been dragged in front of the Supreme Court THREE  TIMES — and LOST– I give the NCAA a 95.

To weigh in with your own NCAA BS score visit our website, callingbullshitpodcast.com. We’ll track their behavior over time to see if they can bring that score down. You’ll also be able to see where the NCAA ranks on Bullshit compared to the other companies and organizations we feature on this show.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

So if you’re running a purpose-led business, or you are thinking of beginning the journey of transformation to become one, here are three things you should take away from this episode: 

1) Truly purpose led organizations align their interests with as many stakeholders as possible.  In the case of the NCAA they have not considered the needs of a major stakeholder– student athletes. Only by seeing to the needs of student athletes can the NCAA hope to truly live their purpose. What stakeholders do you need to see to?  

2) Once you’ve aligned on your purpose and stakeholders, It’s all about action. We’ve talked today about a number of actions the NCAA could take to achieve that alignment : offering student athletes scholarships for life, or using some of the billions they rake in not only to pay athletes directly, but also to fund a set of programs to make access to sport more equitable in the first place. Your actions will undoubtedly be different.  The point is they are a vital part of being purpose-led.

And 3) Change in any organization is led from the top.  This is not something that can be done from the middle of the organization.  In the NCAA’s case Mark Emmert needs to model the NCAA’s purpose, and use his bully pulpit to advocate for all of the NCAA’s stakeholders.  In your organization it is your founder or CEO who has to believe in your purpose, and actively push it throughout the organization. 

Speaking of which, Mark Emmert  If you ever want to come on our show to discuss any of these ideas or any other aspects of today’s episode, you have an open invitation.

///

MUSIC: “Band Camp” by Mary Riddle via Epidemic Sound

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Thanks to our guests today, Joe Nocera, Dr. Ellen Staurosky, and Dallas Hobbs. Go to our site callingbullshit.com to for their social media handles. You can also find a link to Joe Nocera’s book Indentured: The Battle to End the Exploitation of College Athletes, which he co-authored with Ben Strauss. While you’re there check out Ellen Staurowsky’s white paper, ‘the 6 Billion Dollar Heist’ and a link to some design work by Dallas Hobbs.

Have an idea for companies or organizations to consider for future episodes? Submit them there on the site too, callingbullshitpodcast.com. 

And if we scored points with you today, subscribe to the Calling Bullshit podcast at iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Thanks to our production team: Susie Armitage, Amanda Ginzburg, D.S. Moss, Andy Kim, Hannah Beal, Mikaela Reid, Lena Bech Sillesen, Jess Fenton, and Basil Soper. Calling Bullshit was created by co:collective and is hosted by me,Ty Montague. Thanks for listening. 

Before you go, we’d love to hear what you think about the show. Maybe you were inspired to take action, maybe you disagree with today’s bullshit rating. Either way, we want to hear about it. Leave us a message at 212-505-2305 or send a voice memo to cbspodcast@cocollective.com. You might even be featured on an upcoming episode. 

Agree or disagree with our Bullshit Score? Give us your take.

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