09 June 2009
Is the NCAA a Cartel?
As a college football fan, I have been following--for about three years now--the apparent NCAA investigation into the athletic programs at the University of Southern California. First it was allegations of wrongdoing with the football team; now there are allegations against the basketball team as well. (See here and here for status reports; here is a columnist arguing that USC should be stripped of its recent football national championship.)
As the NCAA's investigation drags on, month after month, one wonders what, exactly, is taking so long. Here is a recent story in the Los Angels Times that discusses the investigation.
One passage in it particularly struck me. A former investigator for the NCAA, now an attorney in Oklahoma, explained the delay thus: "The NCAA is under no real sense of urgency to wrap this up, even though justice delayed is justice denied. The NCAA is a de-facto cartel, and its product is big-time college football. USC is a major component of that. The NCAA doesn't want USC to be off television or ineligible for bowls."
If the NCAA is in fact a cartel, de facto or otherwise, then that would seem to explain its dilatory behavior: it is acting in its own interest, and not in the interest of the game, the fans, the players, etc. (except incidentally). Perhaps true, but sad if so. It would among other things make a mockery of the NCAA's touting of "academics and athletics at its best" and its practice of calling the players "student athletes."