NCAA president Mark Emmert sat in an Oakland, Calif., federal court on Thursday to stand up for the institution that pays him millions.
The NCAA is doing its best to keep the principles of its operations in tact, but a major and long-time coming trial is threatening the amateur-ideated organization's foundation.
The unfolding case of Ed O'Bannon vs. the NCAA has -- and still will -- bring about myriad witnesses from varying backgrounds, but no defendant had as much anticipation or intrigue behind their testimony like Emmert's.
And he's not done, either. After spending nearly six hours facing direct and cross examination on Thursday, Emmert gave testimony on a number of tenets relating to his job, the NCAA's credos and how/if what's currently established to be the NCAA should be just that moving forward.
All day long Emmert beat a drum on an issue that many simply disagree with. He made the case -- while being questioned on "direct" from NCAA-paid attorneys -- that college sports fans would be soured by competition if the players -- college athletes -- were paid for their name, image and likeness.
"The line of demarcation is a difficult one to determine," Emmert said in regard to defining where amateurism ends in sports and professionalism begins.
It's a point Emmert must make as president of the NCAA, but it doesn't seem based in much fact. Emmert essentially said he believes college football and college basketball would dip in popularity if the best players on the best teams were paid to represent their universities. But Emmert also said the NCAA has commissioned no studies based on this presumption since Emmert took office in 2010.
And what's more, Emmert thinks the NCAA as we know it would crumble if players earned money based off their ability or image.
"I suspect most schools would move toward a Division III model," Emmert said, when asked what would happen if players were able to earn money off their name, image and likeness. (Division III schools do not offer scholarships.) He added, "To convert college sports to professional sports would be tantamount to converting it to minor league sport."
Emmert: "These individuals are not professionals. ... People come to watch sports because it's college sports with college athletes."— Sara Ganim (@sganim) June 19, 2014
Emmert also made the point that the majority of NCAA-sanctioned programs actually work in the red on an annual basis. Data shows only approximately two dozen athletic departments are able to earn profit, and those that do almost always have Division I football to thank.
He also said that players would by and large wind up picking college based on how much money they stood to make.
The stance Emmert is arguing against falls in line with those who believe the NCAA has become rich off the backs of athletes who've been denied basic free market rights to earn money based on ability.
Emmert also made the case college sports are "very much so" different from the way professional sports operates.
Upon being questioned on cross examination, Emmert was presented with multiple instances of college teams/logos/uniforms in recent years being promoted alongside major events -- and with corporate sponsors.
"Striking a balance to maintain amateurism while also using business practices to support those athletics is a concern," Emmert said. "You don't want to have amateur student-athletes in a situation where they are pitching for products."
Emmert's now spent more than four hours at the stand as a witness. He's faced questions about the history of the NCAA, the motivations of his predecessors and the opinions of past NCAA presidents over the nature and future of the NCAA model. He did not specifically speak to commenting on that as background to the plaintiffs' case.
The case will resume at 8:30 a.m. local time, 11:30 a.m. ET, on Friday morning. Emmert will again raise his right hand and give more testimony under oath.
Some other quotes from Emmert that came out today.
Emmert to Isaacson: "You’re focusing on the word hypocrisy more than necessary."— Ben Strauss (@bstrauss1) June 19, 2014
Emmert's initial financial package at NCAA was $1.6 million, making him one of top 10 nonprofit CEO in country, according to Isaacson— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 19, 2014
Mark Emmert just said middle schools refer to their athletes as "student-athletes." Maybe I'm just old and forgot that happened.— Brady McCollough (@BradyMcCollough) June 19, 2014
Schools wouldn't want to play in national championships if athletes paid for use of names and images, Emmert says. #NCAA.— Amy Miller (@Siliconlaw) June 19, 2014
Emmert just fumbled. Said NCAA rules regarding amateurism have changed but never wavered in core of being "full time athlete"— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 19, 2014