Mark Cuban’s ideas about future of NCAA, college athletics are a billion times wrong
Mark Cuban is worth $4.1 billion, according to the results of my scientifically performed Google search. That is quite a lot of money. One generally does not grow to be so wealthy without having a high degree of intelligence or skill in business.
Cuban comes equipped not only with this blessing, but also an abundance of charisma, which he has used to fashion a television career on such programs as “Shark Tank,” “Entourage” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” All of these qualities were in evidence at various points during an interview with Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan that aired Wednesday on “The PM Team” with hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller.
Midway through, though, Cuban allowed his discourse to plunge to the level of clueless Twitter bro.
Asked by Mueller what the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic might be on college football if the season were lost or delayed, Cuban immediately responded, “That is a great, great, great question,” and then proceeded not to answer it. He instead inserted a soliloquy, declaring the current shutdown ought to be used to examine whether the NCAA warrants continued existence. It was an avalanche of misinformation and misguided assertions.
“With basketball in particular, if you look back, the NIT used to be the big tournament from the ’50s to the ’70s, I think,” Cuban told The Fan. “And then the NCAA stepped in.”
Wrong. It was a “big tournament” until the New York point-shaving scandals of the early 1950s. The NCAA didn’t “step in” to create the men’s basketball championship. The NCAA did not even want to do it but agreed to go along with a plan by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to stage a national tournament beginning in 1939.
“With the amount of money that’s still involved and could be involved and should be involved, and the disparity in the way athletes are treated,” Cuban said, “and the questions about athletes getting paid or not getting paid, and movement between schools and all those types of things — now would be the perfect time to sit down and completely re-evaluate and maybe create a successor organization to the NCAA.”
Wrong. Does Cuban believe college presidents and athletic directors are sitting in their homes drinking Mai Tais waiting for the all-clear to reopen campus life and intercollegiate sports? They’re fighting for the very survival of their institutions and the vast ecosystems that depend on them.
“Now it’s not me. I don’t have time to do it. I’m not putting it together,” Cuban said. “But there’s a private equity firm willing to put up the money. There’s colleges and universities.”
Wrong. Turning over the future of college athletics to private equity? Gee, that worked out so great for the newspaper business.
Cuban’s answers suggest he views the NCAA as a monolithic organization imposing its will upon member institutions. It’s incredible that he would not know how wrong this is.
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Whatever NCAA rules one might find objectionable all were written and imposed by the very people who would be empowered to create a “successor organization.” This is the organization they wanted. No doubt there are members who would prefer a different set of rules and regulations. Some probably would prefer to be more lenient in the areas of athlete compensation, name/image/likeness and transfer regulations. There likely are some that would prefer to revert to the days before athletes even could receive cost-of-attendance payments.
It’s also astonishing Cuban would not perceive the value inherent in the NCAA as it stands: as a liability shield, as a generator of income, as a polished purveyor of championship tournaments in men’s and women’s sports.
One doubts Cuban would walk away from an enterprise that produces $1 billion in annual revenue for three weeks of activity. That’s what the NCAA Tournament is worth, with nearly all of that money returned to member schools each year. It’s the absence of the 2020 championship revenue that has so many athletic departments concerned about the impact on their bottom lines.
The five autonomy conferences — the Power 5, we call them — already have the ability to make their own rules, and they have used that when it suited them. Cost of attendance payments represented one such initiative. When they wish to move on name/image/likeness, they will, but it will be their rules on their terms, not something NCAA president Mark Emmert ordains from above.
Complaints that the NCAA needs to be replaced generally originate with fans angry their program is being accused of breaking the rules of college sports, or complaints their rival isn’t being punished severely enough for perceived violations. To many of them, the NCAA is some group headquartered in Indianapolis that seized control of college sports and lords over all.
“Now is the time to say: Do we need the NCAA?” Cuban told The Fan. “And, if we were starting from scratch, what would we make it look like?”
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, as he might put it.
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