Mark Emmert was smart to act swiftly and “exit” the business of selling jerseys and merchandise at ShopNCAASports.com, two days after ESPN analyst Jay Bilas used twitter to expose the hypocritical process by which the NCAA upholds the amateurism model but sells player jerseys that can be found on the site.
Emmert also had no choice. Well, perhaps he could have ignored the issue and waited for the next avalanche. Either way, the NCAA was outed, thanks to this. Emmert called selling jerseys on the site a “mistake,” which it was, but it didn't seem unintentional, either. The NCAA had sold these for years.
The bigger issue is that all three NCAA principles on a conference call Thursday – Emmert, Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch – said they believe in an amateurism model that has prompted questions about its merits this week as the organization investigates Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for allegedly profiting off his own signature.
Hatch considers the model the “correct way,” he said. That model is also the reason why the NCAA is embroiled in legal dispute with Ed O'Bannon that will only get wilder in the coming months.
In other words, shop-happy NCAA will need more bandwidth.
Emmert called the NCAA site an “aggregate” for its members and the organization didn't profit off the sales. (Not even a small cut? Seems curious). This implies schools will still sell jerseys. Meanwhile, Emmert might continue to answer questions about NCAA hypocrisy, which he acknowledged Thursday.
"I certainly understand how people can see that as hypocritical,” said Emmert about the jersey sales.
As NCAA board of directors chairs, Simon and Hatch were on the call to announce the restructuring of NCAA governance. This is in light of the high-resource conferences clamoring (publicly and privately) for the freedom to spend money on player stipends on in other areas that are prohibited under Division I guidelines. Within the next year, the NCAA wants to redesign it all.
Resolving the amateurism/licensing issue could take far longer than that. Maybe both issues can parallel in some way at a time when compromise is paramount.