I realize that the following information is wordy and could have probably been said in half the space. I mostly put in all the details to organize my thoughts and to justify the claim I am making - namely, that all 1066 colleges and universities that make up the NCAA have violated organizational bylaws. Every one of them is complicit in the financial profiteering of Johnny Manziel's name. I am not an attorney and cringe at the logical fallacies that I probably bobbled in this article. However, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night - so with that lone credential, and not a little bit of tin-foil headwear, I offer the following case.
By now, most of us are patently aware of all the tangential issues surrounding Johnny Manziel and "Autographgate" (a term I first heard from Gabe Bock of TexAgs.com). Perhaps the most dramatic turn of events during the past couple of weeks has been the exposure of the NCAA online store by Jay Bilas, college basketball analyst for ESPN. One after the other, Bilas typed in the names of high profile players such as our own Johnny Manziel, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and SC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Each time he got a hit, he tweeted the results, sales pages with corresponding numbered jerseys for each respective player. He went on to criticize the NCAA's hypocrisy in its alleged investigation into the dealings of Manziel. The next day, that search engine was taken down and NCAA President Mark Emmert publicly announced the cessation of school-specific merchandise sales through the online NCAA shop.
Those of us who are on our last nerve with the sketchy "sources" and defensive pontificating of "certain journalists" celebrated mightily when Bilas tore through the NCAA. However, as we whooped and hollered, a very interesting - and rather disarming - tweet crossed my timeline. Chadd Scott, a Florida radio personality and co-author (with Michael Dugan) of the book Saving Innovation, tweeted the following:
Chadd Scott (@chaddscott)
Congrats to @jaybilas for toppling NCAA store, a non-profit organization supporting student-athletes. Keep tilting at windmills.
How dare he, I thought, rain on what had quickly become almost universal acclaim from national sportswriters and fans for Bilas' simple and profound investigative work! Then it occurred to me why I was so bothered by that tweet. Chadd, one of my favorite follows on Twitter, was exactly right. What Bilas had done was undercut all the member institutions that profited, both monetarily and through a myriad of NCAA sponsored events, from sales of ShopNCAASports.com jerseys and other merchandise. In short, the NCAA is it's member institutions - all thousand of them, not just Texas A&M. Bilas' efforts cost us a lot of money! (Bilas fans, don't worry, Jay is redeemed later).From its own website:
The NCAA is a member association composed mostly of higher education institutions. Each member school is able to choose a level of competition that best fits its mission. Competition is offered in Division I (the largest programs that provide the most athletically related financial aid for student-athletes), Division II (limited financial aid) and Division III (no athletically related financial aid).
There are 1,066 active member schools in the NCAA membership - 340 in Division I, 290 in Division II and 436 in Division III. The NCAA also contains 95 member conferences in all three divisions. Overall membership - counting schools, conferences and related associations - is 1,273.
Sixty percent of NCAA revenue is distributed directly to Division I conferences, which pass most of that money along to their member institutions to support their athletics programs. Another major use of NCAA revenue is the support of 89 national championships in 23 sports, including coverage of travel expenses for all participants. Other student-athlete benefits include catastrophic-injury insurance coverage for all student-athletes; year-round and championship drug-testing programs; and various scholarship programs, among others...
Furthermore, entering the following web address for the now-defunct NCAA shop, www.ShopNCAASports.com defaults to an NCAA.com page, inextricably linking the prior NCAA shop to NCAA proper and, by extension, its member institutions. Please note the following message on the aforementioned page, from Mark Lewis, an executive VP of the NCAA.
Moving forward, the NCAA online shop will no longer offer college and university merchandise. In the coming days, the store's website will be shut down temporarily and reopen as a marketplace for NCAA championship merchandise only.
After becoming aware of issues with the site, we determined the core function of the NCAA.com fan shop should not be to offer merchandise licensed by our member schools.
Executive Vice President, Championships & Alliances
ASSEMBLING THE PIECES
So, what does all this mean? In a December 7, 2012 blog on ESPN.com, Darren Rovell wrote a very "interesting" piece about the financial pitfalls that potentially awaited Johnny with his sudden fame. That article, entitled Will Johnny Ever Cash In?, eerily predicted exactly the alleged infractions for which Johnny is now being tried and convicted in the press, in large part by the very same author. Despite the disturbing coincidences in that article, it is not that far off-base in most of its findings. And within that article, Rovell says something quite compelling to me:
Because of NCAA rules, it's an incredibly complicated business as to who is allowed to cash in and how they're allowed to make money off a player.
Texas A&M can make money off Manziel by selling jerseys, T-shirts and hats with No. 2 on them, but they're not allowed to use Manziel's name, likeness or Johnny Football nickname
As has been discussed ad nauseum, this point in Rovell's December blog is indisputable. A&M cannot make money off of Johnny's name, likeness or nickname. Neither, by extension, can any other university in the nation.
This latter truth is the epiphany that eventually tied together all of the aforementioned fragments of information, vindicates the party-pooping efforts of our friend, Chadd Scott, upholds the fantastic work of Jay Bilas, perhaps gives Johnny's team some ground on which to contest any charges (I'm not going to address that point here) and - most importantly - will finally let me sleep soundly tonight.
The NCAA is comprised of 1,273 colleges, universities, conferences and associations. That association provides direct financial benefit to every one of those college entities - including Darren Rovell's own alma mater, Northwestern. As such, every institution in the NCAA consortium has benefitted in part from the NCAA Shop. Included in those benefits were items sold using the name "Johnny Manziel" in the store's search engine, for who knows how long. If only a penny - or a fraction thereof - went to a university like UCLA, Notre Dame, Pitt, Florida State, (insert your favorite here), then that university received a financial benefit off of Johnny Manziel's name. If Darren Rovell caught lightning in a bottle and was right - then that disbursement was a violation of NCAA rules by every recipient university.
Jay Bilas did all of us a great service when he ratted out the NCAA Shop. However, the NCAA has incriminated itself as well in subsequent days. Chadd Scott reminded us that the NCAA is its member institutions, and Darren Rovell did his part, naming the specific NCAA infraction.
Johnny Manziel's name profited almost 1300 entities within the NCAA domain. Of those, 1066 colleges and universities received financial benefit off of Texas A&M's embattled quarterback. This is no small can of worms for Mark Emmert. The NCAA Shop of Horrors has very likely opened Pandora's Box.