The NCAA: It’s Never About the Kids

The NCAA on Monday issued a three-year moratorium on new bowl games, effectively killing new bowls about to sprout up in Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina and Austin, Texas. It looks like we’re stuck with no more than 40 bowl games plus the College Football Playoff Championship game until at least the 2019 season.

Some people snickered and rejoiced. They already complained that there were too many bowls last season when three teams with losing records had to be plucked just to fill all 80 bowl berths. The NCAA, obviously, agreed.

The move is misguided at best. But the more important fact is that once again, when in doubt, the NCAA always rules against the “student-athletes” that it claims to serve.

Who benefits the most from the bowl games? The players, of course. They get a few more weeks of football (and training table), an all-expenses paid trip to usually somewhere warm, a few bucks to spend with their per diem, and swag provided by the bowls that’s worth hundreds of dollars in merchandise.

The bowl games, except the biggest ones involved in the College Football Playoff, actually don’t benefit the schools very much financially. Most teams end up losing money after expenses because they cannot make up the cost of unsold tickets each school must absorb at face value. That, plus the additional expenses of transporting the band and other personnel to the games (and paying coaches their bonuses), is why the administrators are hardly heartbroken to see a stop to the proliferation of bowl games.

This is essentially why the moratorium was issued. To say that the NCAA serves the student-athletes is just a sick joke besides being a blatant lie. The NCAA is a consortium of the universities and it really just serves the member institutions and their bottom lines.

Need more proof? Just look at the blanket satellite camp ban that was issued a few days before the bowl moratorium. At the behest of the SEC and the ACC, which have been enduring a constant onslaught since one Jim Harbaugh returned to coach college football, the NCAA abolished satellite camps, effective immediately.

Just who does the satellite camp ban hurt the most, you ask? Not Jim Harbaugh, but the student-athletes. You see, these camps’ main purpose was to allow the less recruited (the non- 5-star or 4-star recruits) to be seen by a multitude of coaches working in camps all across America. These recruits would be able to go to a couple of their camps near their homes and be evaluated by coaches from dozens of programs, including many Group of Five schools.

But now that opportunity is gone. If you go to Urban Meyer’s camp in Columbus but had no shot of getting a scholarship from Ohio State, now you’ve lost a chance to be seen by the several MAC coaches who typically worked in the camp. The same goes for Hugh Freeze’s camp at Ole Miss, where usually several Sun Belt coaches were present.

And you know what’s more insane? The Sun Belt, along with the Mountain West, Big 12 and Pac-12 all joined the SEC and ACC and voted for the satellite camp ban, against the interest of many coaches of their own institutions. Even some of the coaches who were for the ban – most notably Freeze – are expressing regrets now as they hadn’t fully realized the potential consequences.

Make no mistake, the satellite camp ban isn’t going to hurt Harbaugh, Meyer or Freeze one iota. They’re still going to get their elite recruits. It’s the kids scraping to get a Division I football scholarship – and their families – who are going to feel the burn of the latest NCAA edict.

They should get real, however. Just like the bowl moratorium, the NCAA is never about them anyway. It likes the essential services the “student-athletes” provides to fill the coffers of all of the member institutions, but their welfare is the last thing that keeps the NCAA administrators up at night.

Postscript: Predictably, Harbaugh has hit back with a vengeance, calling the NCAA “hypocritical” and suggesting it drop the use of “student-athletes for consistency.”


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