Sunday, August 26, 2012

Alabama and LSU Football, and the NCAA as a Cartel

An interesting article in today's New York Times sports section on SEC football.  I mention it for two reasons.  One is that there is reference to the NCAA decision regarding Penn State and the desire to make sports less the driving force in major colleges.  I think the article indicates that the goal is likely to go unmet.  Second, the discussion of the fanaticism for football at Alabama and LSU. I went to college in the state of Alabama and taught at LSU for nine years.  Every time I looked at the Birmingham paper when I was a student at Samford, regardless of the time of year, there was a story on either Alabama football, or Auburn football, of the NY Jets because Joe Namath played there.  Basketball, baseball etc. were totally unimportant compared to football.  LSU is also crazy for football.

The article indicates that Alabama seems to be more intense than LSU and cites an obituary of a fan. However, a colleague at LSU who had season tickets recounted an incident one time. Two older guys in the seating section he was in were discussing a friend. The friend had recently died while at a LSU game.  They agreed that there was no better place to be when one's time was up.

Finally, I regard the NCAA as basically hypocritical when it talks about cleaning things up. So long as the schools make millions off of football and pay players nothing, the idea of a student-athelete is a joke for the most part.  The NCAA is a oligopsonistic cartel, taking advantage of players to rake in millions. For some players, the colleges provide training for professional careers.  But the simple math involved with how many college players there are relative to the rosters in the NFL indicates most players will never be pros. Paying the players openly would be more honest.


  1. Prof. Lunn, I mainly agree with your points, especially about the NCAA being hypocritical. It is insane for the college football community to point only to Penn St. Most (all?) D-1 football programs (or at some places basketball) put way too much emphasis on winning. That is not a sin of only the folks in State College.

    However, I had to add something on stating that colleges "pay players nothing." Pay in the sense of a salary, no. Pay in the sense of value, including scholarships, housing, small living expenses, clothes, etc., yes. It may not be enough. And it may be taking advantage of athletes. But it is not nothing. Would have loved an equivalent nothing.

    That said, there are a number of programs that do things with scholarships that I find reprehensible and immoral. The SEC still allows oversigning (although some schools—Georgia and Vanderbilt for sure), which is the practice of using the NCAA rules capping scholarships total for football at 85 with annual limits that would allow way more than 85 players on a team. So at schools in the SEC, especially LSU and Alabama (under Nick Saban) and also Auburn under their former coach, teams sign their full annual amounts and then dismiss 10–15 guys before the next season. They cite things like medical or academic. But it looks to the outside world like they are just "firing" scholarship athletes weeks before the fall term begins. Rules are changing (and the Big 10 is now doing 4 year scholarships) but the hypocrisy of locking student-athletes into a school that can then turn around and dismiss so they can sign the next best thing is just sad.

  2. Tim:
    I agree that the atheletes do get some pay in the form of scholarships. This is especially true for atheletes in non-revenue generating sports, which is almost all sports except football and basketball. But the football players are not receiving their marginal value product, which means they are being exploited in the economic (rather than Marxian) sense.
    Division III sports is much closer to the ideal of being amateur and having student-atheletes.