After a two month hiatus, I am back. Back to doing what entertains me and I hope helps you pass time; talking sports. A lot has happened since my last blog and there is certainly plenty to talk about. But I think the thing on my mind right now that is most appropriate is talking about what is coming….change. There is a change coming in the sports world in many ways. Collegiately, Professionally, and Socially.
The most obvious change on the horizon is the future of the NCAA. Litigation and discussions continue on how what direction the NCAA will proceed. The Ed O’Bannon case, which is challenging the rights to use a student-athlete (ahem, I guess I should now just say an athlete’s) image or likeness continues to find solid footing. Also recently the Big 5 power conferences met and began talks about splintering off and gaining the right to govern themselves more freely. Where does this put the NCAA? First of all in the O’Bannon case, I see how the players should be able to get a cut of their jersey sales or paid a percentage to use their rights. That seems justifiable.
On the point of the Power 5 getting to govern themselves, that is dangerous. Anytime a body wants to govern themselves that is bad news. Yes college sports has become a business. We see that with the television contracts, the coaching salaries, and movement to align with a powerful conference. However allowing the Power 5 to institute rules (or eliminate rules) is only going to create a larger chasm between conferences. Sure some may say oh who cares, we only care about watching those teams anyways on Saturdays. Well without those popular teams there to bring large amounts of money in, the smaller conferences will suffer. That means the players at the smaller schools will suffer. There will be a trickle-down effect. The same goes with paying players or giving them a stipend. Despite the increasingly monumental sums of money being brought in by sports it is NOT feasible to give a stipend to every student-athlete in every sport. Which would be the fair thing. You say well how about paying just those in the revenue producing sports. Okay, what is a revenue producing sport? Certainly UConn and Tennessee women’s basketball bring in money but few other women’s teams do. A baseball program such as Florida State may bring in money but do the Kentucky Wildcats? Also if you start giving stipends or paying athletes in certain sports that will inherently lead the youth towards that sport and away from the “lesser” sports. Again there will be a trickle-down effect.
In the professional landscape change is coming in various forms. A new baseball commissioner is on the way, following the controversial Bud Selig. The NBA is breaking in a new commissioner as well while the NHL is attempting to get back to the popularity it once had in the early 90’s. And then there is the NFL, the richest sport league in the United States. But also on the precipice of change. Roger Goodell is trying to grow his sport. With talks of going to Europe, moving the NFL Draft to various cities, and the yearly talks of a team in L.A. All four leagues are eyeing their futures, chasing that everlasting dream of growing their sport.
Socially in athletics things have drastically changed within the last decade. Social media is the king now. People are free to interact with sports figures and are able to quickly judge them without recourse. The attention span of the public continues to grow shorter and shorter. It is no longer about stories but about one-hit quotes. Get your thoughts in 140 characters. Speak as quickly as you can without checking the facts. This is the real danger, not just in sports. The fact that people (fans, reporters, athletes) spew their thoughts out without thinking about it beforehand will continue to lead to issues. There is no filter on social media.
I am unable to predict where each of these factions are headed. But I do know that change can be a good or a bad thing. Don’t just embrace the change ahead, question it. Don’t assume change is the best option, look for the best plan. Look and see not just one step ahead but where the future lies five steps beyond. Everyone likes change but be careful. Don’t risk something good just for the sake of change. Because as William Arthur Ward once said “Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.”