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TELANDER: NCAA will answer for denying players their cut

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany gets his share pie. Players don’t. | Patrick Semansky/AP

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany gets his share of the pie. Players don’t. | Patrick Semansky/AP

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Updated: August 22, 2013 6:30AM



Paying Division I college athletes in entertainment-driven, revenue-producing sports — men’s football and basketball, primarily — is probably not a good thing.

But it beats not paying those athletes by an ethical mile.

Not only is the NCAA a cartel by definition, it also — with the willing cooperation of the member schools — sells its high-level amateur athletes and their sporting services the way a street pimp hawks his stable of girls.

There is no athlete representative involved in any monetary decision-making at any level in big-time college sports. The decisions are all made by athletic directors, coaches, ex-coaches, TV executives, bowl directors, advertising directors, NCAA members, college presidents and other assorted suits.

Anybody ask a single football player if he thought expanding from a once-standard 10-game season to 13 or more was a good idea? If he wanted a little payback? Not a chance.

Nor are we talking about small-time finances here. We are talking billions.

Think I’m exaggerating? In 2011, the Pac-12 signed a 12-year, $3 billion TV agreement with ESPN and Fox. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott did OK, too. He pulled in $3.1 million in compensation that year. And the Pac-12 is puny compared to the Big Ten, which is the granddaddy of them all, even ludicrously named with its soon-to-be 14 teams.

In 2011, the latest return that has been published, the Big Ten yanked in $315.5  million in sports revenue, according to a USA Today report.

Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst makes $1.123 million. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany makes almost $3 million a year. And the income from things such as video games, T-shirts, pennants and the like makes the Big Ten, like other power conferences, a money-churning machine.

No matter that the big schools, caught in their self-induced, spiraling arms race, whine that their balance sheets are always in the red. Dear God, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has 34 assistants, including one called director of player personnel. NFL, anybody?

But the players are compensated with scholarships, say nay-sayers such as former Northwestern president Henry Bienen, writing in an essay on not paying players. At Northwestern, it might actually be a good deal getting a free ride worth more than $200,000 for four years. If you are a great player. If you can get in school. If you can stay in school. If you come out intact, educated.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the athletes — the workers, the entertainers fans come to see — are paid only with what the universities have in abundance: their books, dorms, classroom seats, meals.

It is no different from a mining company paying its laborers with company script, good only at the company store.

I bring all of this up because the day of logical reckoning is coming, what with a high-stakes national-championship football tournament due for the 2014 season and, according to Sports Illustrated, Moody’s Investors Service having revised the NCAA’s credit outlook to ‘‘negative’’ as a result of former player lawsuits against the cartel.

Here’s some key legal verbiage from the Moody’s report: ‘‘Increased public discourse about the best interest of student-athletes, combined with highly publicized litigation, could destabilize the current intercollegiate athletic system and negatively impact the NCAA and its member organizations.’’

Translation?

Colleges insist on baking bigger and bigger sports pies, and the players want their slices, and it’s gonna be a mess when they get fed.

Sorry about that.

Ron Turner was a head coach at Illinois and the offensive coordinator for the Bears. He dealt with some tough situations in each role, getting fired from both positions.

But he never dealt with what he’s got going on down there in Miami as the new coach of Florida International University.

To wit: He had to apologize Friday for some of his players who took nude showers at an outdoor facility at Crandon Park Beach in Key Biscayne. It seems the players wanted to get clean after a team workout at the park. But some beachgoers didn’t think they needed to see all that private junk on public display, and Miami-Dade police were called in to investigate.

No charges were filed, but Turner said in a statement that he apologized ‘‘to the community and anyone who was at the beach this morning for this unfortunate incident. We are committed to helping our student-athletes grow as gentlemen while preparing them for their careers.’’

Anybody see Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey in ‘‘Magic Mike’’? Hey, male stripping is a career, too.

The NCAA, man. When will it ever learn?



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