The Big East fell apart this year. I have a lot wrapped up in that conference, since I went to a Big East basketball school and grew up watching Thompson and Boeheim take on the Roman Catholic Coaches Association (Carnesecca, Massimino, Carlesimo, Pitino). Watching the disintegration, led by Syracuse of all places, made me realize my experience with college sports was done.
Over at Grantland, Charlie Pierce thinks the NCAA is coming down.
Every few years, some angry, stick-waving prophet would come wandering into the cozy system of unpaid (or barely paid) labor and start bellowing about how the essential corruption in the system wasn’t that some players got money under the table, but that none of them were allowed to get any over it. Sooner or later, these people said, the system would collapse from its own internal contradictions — yes, some of these people summoned up enough Marx through the bong resin in their brains from their college days to make a point — and the people running college sports had best figure out how to control the chaos before it overwhelmed them. Nobody listened. Very little changed, except that college sports became bigger and more lucrative, an enterprise of sports spectacle balanced precariously on the fragile principle that everybody should get to make money except the people doing the actual work.
What comes after that? Someone is going to have to stuff steroids down these teenagers’ throats to get them big enough for the NFL, right? If athletes were employees of their universities, would anybody want to watch? And if we removed colleges from the equation entirely, would anybody tune into watch whatever intermediary staging area develops?
The best example of what would happen to the NCAA is probably the current baseball model. There is scant interest in NCAA baseball and Minor League baseball. All anybody cares about are the Major Leagues, because the best talent in the world, from all ages is on display there and only there.
Compare the incredible amount of revenue surrounding the NCAA title games in basketball in football to whatever will be available after the NCAA cracks like an egg and you can see how ugly this is going to get.