NCAA As Cartel

Last weekend, I watched the Longhorns' opening game of the football season (roommate and many friends went to Texas) and they were playing . . . the University of Northern Texas. Now, yes, as amateur sports apologists have been pointing out to be all week, Texas is matching up against some legitimate opposition this week. Nevertheless, the NCAA football scheduling process makes a mockery of the concept of competition, as seen in statements like "My Georgia Bulldogs won a tune-up game against I-AA Western Kentucky on Saturday."

This sort of thing is why I think we should give less credence than usual to "competitive balance" accounts of why it's necessary to pay NCAA-level atheletes at sub market rates. Malcolm Gladwell gets into the whole debate over whether or not caps do promote balance, but it's obvious that in its major sports the NCAA doesn't even take rudimentary steps to ensure anything resembling balanced competition. They've just set a very low salary cap -- theoretically, $0.00 per year, though everyone knows every program cheats to some extent --so that university managers can reap the profits.