Communism/Socialism and the NCAA

Within the NCAA, and particularly within the highest “Football Bowl Subdivision” the differences between the programs at the top and the programs at the bottom are nothing short of large. The funding, resources, and location of schools like Alabama or Florida State compared to schools like Marshall or Central Michigan is almost comical when you consider that these teams could potentially play each other. College football as it is now is one of the greatest spectacles our country, has to offer, but it’s worth thinking about what college football would be like if it were based on socialist or communist principles.

In a study conducted in the past couple years by USA today, it was determined that the total revenue of the athletic department at the University of Texas- Austin was a staggering $165,691,486. In contrast, a school like Texas Tech — who competes in the same Big XII conference in the FBS — has a total revenue of just $72,917,990. Many people don’t consider that some schools are competing with other universities with over twice the revenue towards athletics as others. Another advantage some schools have compared to others is location. Some states for various reasons produce many more pro football players than others. A study done by Sporting News, they found that the states of California, Florida, and Texas  produced 225, 186, and 184 players respectively. The state with the most NFL players after these three was Georgia with 95. The high number of great football players from these states also gives universities in these areas an advantage as they are geographically closer to so much talent.

The list could carry on and on about how the playing field isn’t level for all the teams in FBS college football. However, an interesting way to look at this could be how to level the playing field from a communist or socialist perspective. From Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto, the main principle is not having any private property or institutions. Communist principles just aren’t realistic in college athletics, but socialistic principles could be looked at more realistically. One way to level the playing field for college football could be NCAA regulation of literally everything. Socialism dictates that the government controls all means of production. In the socialist version of college football, the NCAA could regulate and set a cap for the spending of each program that competes with each other. They would decide what the programs were allowed to spend their money on and the kinds of resources they would be allowed to have. In an extreme measure, the NCAA could potentially allow teams more funding or resources if their team was really struggling to compete. These sorts of measures could be similar to salary caps in professional sports in keeping things competitive and allowing all teams a chance to win. Regulations like these are in no way realistic, but are interesting to think about when you think about how competitive the college football landscape would be.

Michigan Stadium

Michigan Stadium

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Passion v. Public Opinion

Alex Honnold, arguably the most well known and best free solo climber of this era, has been under scrutiny lately due to Clif Bar rescinding their sponsorship of him. According to Clif Bar, free soloing and other extremely risky forms of climbing are “pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go.” As a large corporation with many interests other than being climbing enthusiasts, there is definitely some legitimacy to this decision by Clif Bar. The scrutiny of this decision at this point isn’t as much about dropping the sponsorship. The question now is how far is too far when it comes to these extreme sports like free soloing or BASE jumping, where the smallest of mistakes could result in a disastrous and usually life ending accident.

In response to Clif Bar dropping their sponsorship, Honnold wrote an op-ed for the New York times explaining why he free solo climbs. Honnold quite clearly states why he free solos, and the money and publicity he receives from sponsorships is not one of the reasons. Honnold free solos because it’s his passion. Similar to any other professional athlete, free soloing is what he loves to do. The problem with free soloing is the high risk and low margin for error, and that is why the public is becoming increasingly skeptical of these kind of high risk sports.

Wingsuit Base Jumper

Wingsuit Base Jumper

This conflict between Honnold’s passion for doing something so dangerous and the public opinion of what he’s doing almost directly relates to Mill’s writing. Although many people disagree with free solo climbing, at very worst it could be considered a self regarding vice. In no way has his climbing harmed any other people and there really isn’t any way that it could. Stated directly in his op-ed article, Honnold says that “I draw the lines for myself.” This is why free soloing is what it is and why it could be considered at worst a self regarding vice. Many people enjoy these kind of adventure sports because there really are no rules and you do draw the lines for yourself. Feeling freedom and being able to do what you want to do are the reasons these people have a passion for the sport. Although public opinion is growing increasingly negative on these extreme sports, these athletes have a right to do what they’re doing and that likely won’t ever change.

Alex Honnold free solo climbing

Alex Honnold free solo climbing

Weber on Snyder

In an intensely scrutinized decision as the state of Michigan approaches election day, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that is quite controversial to some citizens. Snyder signed into law House Bill 5606, which prohibits Tesla Motors from selling their cars

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

in Michigan directly to buyers but rather through a network of dealers. Ultimately, Tesla can still sell their vehicles in the state of Michigan but they must do it through a third-party which makes things much more difficult. In a state known for our automotive industry– namely companies with the name General Motors and not Tesla– Snyder is being criticized by many people for signing this bill so close to election day. From the lecture of Weber on Politics as a Vocation, how would Snyder stack up as a politician in Weber’s eyes when it comes to his decision on this bill?

In a state with such a large automotive presence it is no secret that the companies in that industry have a large lobbying presence particularly within the state. Many people speculate that a large part of the motivation for Snyder and other legislators to sign this bill was to avoid negative advertisements from Michigan automakers and dealerships prior to the coming election. Others were not pleased with how the legislation regarding Tesla was put into the bill and also the addition coming so late. Even U of M law professor Daniel Crane weighed in on this issue, stating “This is an embarrassment for the State of Michigan and democracy… When nobody was watching the dealers slipped this language into the bill, and told Snyder to pass it so they would have an advantage over Tesla in the future.”

In the eyes of Weber, a good politician is someone who acts with ethics of responsibility– keeps a clear head while making decisions, makes future-oriented decisions, and makes these decisions for the good of the people. While I don’t necessarily agree with what Snyder did in this instance, by these definitions Snyder is not entirely in the wrong. According to Weber, one of the key qualities of a good politician is being able to make decisions for the good of their people. While automakers not named Tesla operate in the state of Michigan, this bill could be seen as something that protects jobs for people in the state. If it is much tougher for people to buy a Tesla, consumers in Michigan are much more likely to buy a car made by an automaker that operates in-state. If more people are buying cars from companies in-state, that would most likely protect jobs of the people Snyder makes decisions for. By Weber’s definition, Snyder could definitely be considered a good politician in some ways.

On the other hand, Weber defines a bad politician as someone who acts with ethics of conviction– being absolute in their decisions, and being act-oriented opposed to future-oriented when making decisions. I believe that this decision by Snyder would classify him as a bad politician in the eyes of Weber. While there are some things that are rational about this bill, I agree with what Crane said regarding the issue. Because of the timing and circumstances of how the bill was changed, it seems that Snyder was making an act-oriented decision that would help him and his party in the upcoming election. Ultimately, the bill doesn’t do enough for the people in our state to be considered future-oriented and for the good of the people.

Let Them Be Paid

In the business of college athletics one of the most frequently debated topics is how to handle amateurism and the payment of players.. Much of the more recent talk and news has come from players receiving money for their autographs, most notably college football stars Todd Gurley, Johnny Manziel, and potentially even the 2013 Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston. While the NCAA and universities can make an argument around compensation through scholarship when dealing with the direct payment of athletes, it is absurd to have rules prohibiting athletes from profiting from their name and brand they have created for themselves.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley

Georgia RB Todd Gurley

NCAA bylaw 12.5.2.1 states that a student athlete is not eligible for participation if he or she; “Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.” More directly, student athletes within the NCAA may not receive any sort of compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness. Many people believe Todd Gurley did in fact sign autographs for money, and it is acknowledged that that is against the NCAA rules. However, what many people are not acknowledging is how silly and absurd that rule is. The superstar running back Todd Gurley was created by the work put in by no one other than Todd Gurley. People are willing to pay money for a football helmet signed by him because of the time and work he put in to become a great running back. This in essence is similar to an artist working hard, producing his or her own original artwork, and then being told he or she can’t have any of the money generated from the sale of their own work. In any other part of American culture, this practice would be considered asinine and wouldn’t be tolerated.

Former Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

Former Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

In Charles Pierce’s Grantland article regarding the O’Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit– a lawsuit in which Ed O’Bannon sought compensation from the NCAA for the use of his likeness– Pierce refers to a judge who has little to no knowledge or interest in college athletics other than the facts and information of the case. As the trial progresses, Pierce points out that the judge is both “aware of” and “quite amused by” the principles, rules, and argument of the NCAA regarding athletes using their own names, images, and likeness. There really is no valid argument the NCAA can offer about why these rules exist. As pointed out by Pierce,  this is similar to the line from the movie Animal House in which the pledge master claims, “He can’t do that to our pledges. Only we can do that to our pledges!” Logically it makes no sense for the NCAA to have these rules. If a student athlete works hard and performs well enough to profit off of their name there is no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to do so.