When you think about the politics of today, you think it’s impossible for the two sides - liberals or conservatives, democrats or republicans - to agree on anything. They fight over infrastructure bills, voting, taxes... pretty much anything you can disagree on they’ve chosen sides and they fight each other on it.
Except when it comes to the NCAA.
On this one issue we all agree, the NCAA’s model of making endless profits off the backs of NCAA athletes, even at its best, is troublesome and basically illegal. Here’s noted conservative fixture, liberal punching bag, and fan of beers Brett Kavanaugh:
“The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
This nearly unprecedented 9-0 decision to dunk on the NCAA from the Supreme Court just goes to show the NCAA is content to kick the can down the road as long as possible in order to avoid actually letting athletes make any money.
But you can’t outrun the machinations of society and once the Name, Image and Likeness laws started passing state congressional halls, the NCAA and its current economic model were done for, despite whatever efforts they had left to hang on to the past. It’s been a known-unknown for as long as college athletics have existed that some programs have been willing to go the extra mile to succeed by paying its athletes in any number of ways.
SBNation covered this in depth in 2014, and Steven Godfrey’s exposé was only pulling back the curtain, but the practice has been going on for more than a century at that point. So as long as there’s money to be made, the athletes playing in the games have been worth something.
No matter where you come down on this discussion we can probably all agree on one thing. We want our school to win at the highest level possible. For Missouri fans, our mostly mediocre past has been dotted with a few moments of overachievement. Those moments have either been dotted by the Tigers being the exception to the rule or breaking them. So either they were playing ball by giving the elite players what was required to get them on campus or they were somehow breaking past everyone that was.
I don’t know if Mizzou’s best football moments under Dan Devine or Don Faurot or even Gary Pinkel involved impermissible benefits, but we do know Norm Stewart’s late 1980’s teams got his program put on probation. That was Missouri playing by the rules by not playing by the rules. And Mizzou taking a penance while other more ‘elite’ programs continued to go unpunished was par for the course. Continually proving the fallacy of the NCAA and its rules.
So as the walls of the NCAA and its weird fascination with amateurism keep crumbling around them, and athletes continue to hell for some level of recognition, we sit and watch the shifting paradigm of college sports. What won't change, full stadiums and arenas, playoff excitement and final fours. What will change? Everything else.