John Clay: Bilas latest to pull back curtain on NCAA's big lie

jclay@herald-leader.comAugust 7, 2013 

UK basketball coach John Calipari makes $5.2 million annually.

UK football coach Mark Stoops makes $2.2 million.

UK women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell makes right at $1 million.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart makes $600,000 per year.

Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel isn't allowed to make a dime.

Not even for his autograph.

It's the controversy of the week, the uproar over whether the Texas A&M quarterback accepted cold hard cash for putting his John Hancock on a number of items that have made their way to E-Bay.

At first, the tide was against poor Johnny Football, seen as another misstep in a summer full for college football's (now) most famous player.

Surely Manziel knew the well-established NCAA rules. Student-athletes can't make money off their fame. Only the NCAA can do that.

But then Tuesday afternoon, the momentum reversed field as magnificently as Manziel does, thanks in part to a former Duke forward, current TV analyst and chronic NCAA critic.

Jay Bilas opened his laptop, called up the NCAA Store, found the search engine and hit the gold standard for hypocrisy — and comedy.

Bilas typed in Johnny Manziel. Up popped Manziel's Texas A&M No. 2 jersey for sale. Bilas typed in Jadeveon Clowney. Up popped the South Carolina defensive end's No. 7 jersey for sale. Bilas typed in Nerlens Noel. Up popped the former Kentucky center's No. 3 jersey for sale.

Particularly embarrassing was the fact the have-no-shame NCAA continues to sell LSU No. 7 jerseys despite the fact Tyrann Mathieu was kicked out of school last year for drugs.

And the NCAA continues to sell Ohio State No. 5 jerseys despite the fact Terrelle Pryor's college playing career ended when he exchanged memorabilia for tattoos.

Once Bilas began tweeting his fantastic finds for all to see, the search engine function turned up broken.

Just like the NCAA itself.

I don't begrudge Calipari, Stoops, Mitchell and Barnhart their treasure-trove pay stubs. We live in a free-market economy. Their compensation is what the market allows.

Nor do I excuse Manziel if he did put himself ahead of his team by breaking a long-standing rule.

(Same goes for Clowney or Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, whose signatures have shown up on an autograph broker's E-Bay account.)

But there is something wrong with a system in which, for example, the University of Kansas book store is currently selling baseball caps stitched with the No. 22 before Andrew Wiggins, who happens to wear No. 22, has even played a college game.

It's all so typical NCAA. It's "Do as we say, not as we do" arrogance. It's "we're for the student-athlete" lip service as it forms its own networks, negotiates its own rights fees and keeps all the money.

In the past, the NCAA's double standard was relegated to a it-is-what-it-is shrug of the shoulders. No more. The tide is turning there, as well.

The commissioners of the largest conferences sounded their clarion call a couple of weeks back. People get ready. Change is coming. The conferences see a weakened NCAA. And they're ready to pounce.

There was an inevitability to all of this, of course. College athletics ceased being college athletics a long time ago. Money changes everything. Especially big money.

If colleges were in the sports business for the molding of young men and women, they wouldn't accept payouts for allowing television networks to schedule 9:30 p.m. games on school nights.

Colleges are in college athletics for the financial gain of the game.

Thing is, everyone's making money except for the young men and women who actually play the game.

So at the end of the yellow brick road, Bilas' pull-back of the Great Oz's curtain was just one more example of what we already knew — amateur athletics is little more than a megabudget lie perpetuated for the benefit of a few.

The NCAA is just the last to admit it.

John Clay: 859-231-3226. E-mail: jclay@herald-leader.com. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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