On a recent episode of The Giant Foam Finger podcast (which is itself a sub-podcast within the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast but that's not important), hosts Stephen Thompson and Gene Demby discussed sports hatred and what makes us dislike certain sports figures with actual fervency. Roger Goodell comes up, naturally, and the hosts analyze what it is about the NFL commissioner that makes people wish him ill on a regular basis.
What they zero in on is Goodell's combination of moral authority and unchecked privilege. He loves to come down hard on violations of the NFL's nebulous moral code: smoking weed, touchdown dances and uniform infractions. He demands that everyone in the NFL obey a certain standard of honesty and fairness...but doesn't seem willing to do the same. He routinely goes radio silent when controversies break out, refuses to go into the inconsistencies in his punishments and oversees a league that doesn't actually do all the great things it says it does. When he does have to make a mea culpa, it's always canned, cold and heartless.
He's a moral authority that doesn't practice what he preaches. And we f***ing hate that.
If the NCAA were a guy, it would be Roger Goodell. So it's no surprise that we hate the NCAA too.
If you'd have told us that Moustapha Diagne was ineligible to play for the Syracuse Orange because he didn't get a good-enough test score or had bad grades, I think we could live with that. It's what we assumed was happening because it happens rather frequently (See: Football, Syracuse). We would have been bummed but at least that's something we can understand.
But that's not why Diagne will not play for Syracuse this season. Diagne will not play for Syracuse because, according to his high school coach, the NCAA took too long to decide whether or not he's eligible. And as he puts it, this is not a special case. There are tons of scholarship kids who are just finding out this week whether or not they've been approved by the NCAA to play. For football players like Marquise Blair, they had to wait until football practice had already started at most colleges. For basketball players like Diagne, they're finding out (or not finding out) as enrollment deadlines are approaching or have already passed.
"If this is an organization that is supposed to be promoting kids, they sure did a poor job with this one, hanging a kid out to dry..."
That's Doug Haas, Blair's high school coach, speaking for everyone.
The truth is I could write another 3,000 words about how terrible the NCAA is at their purported job but it won't do much good. For some weird reason they remain in control and for some weird reason the universities, coaches, players and alumni let them.
In the meantime, I think we've all given up expecting the NCAA to go above and beyond for student-athletes. None of us expect the NCAA to take care of them or promote them properly or do anything other than try to monetize them. That's the system we've all agreed to and until we change it, it is what it is.
But it is fair to ask the NCAA to do the bare minimum requirements of their supposed job. To ensure student-athletes with the ability to play sports at the university-level are given approval to do so, and if determined that they cannot, those student-athletes are provided with enough time to make other plans. That's really basic. It's the kind of thing a team of three or four people could knock out in June and July if they really worked hard at it. You know, like they're supposed to.
Stories like this are all too common and while Diagne may still make it to Syracuse or play D-1 basketball elsewhere, he's been robbed of this opportunity by the very organization that spends millions trying to convince us why they need to exist.
How do we change this? I don't think we're really willing to, to be honest. It's one of those status quo things we complain about but nothing happens. The only way an organization like the NCAA changes is if money is on the line. Just like Goodell and the NFL, if you affect their purse strings the NCAA will listen. How that happens...I don't know. More player lawsuits are a good start.
In the meantime I'm sure Mark Emmert has a country club to visit and the NCAA brass have more important things to do (since they clearly don't have time for incoming student-athletes). Fans will complain. Bloggers will write scathing posts. Schools will do nothing. On and on it goes. Where it stops, no one knows.