Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 PRESEASON 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED P layoff expansion, monetary op- portunities for student-athletes and, most recently, the moves of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the SEC … in an amateur sports world that has forever made its decisions and changes at a snail's pace, college athletics is evolving at lightning speed this summer. And if the seismic developments of the last three months seem to foreshadow the beginning of the end for the NCAA as we know it, that's because they do. In a damning and decisive 9-0 vote in July that finally allows student-athletes to financially gain from their prominent positions, the U.S. Supreme Court updated the definition of "amateurism" and pulled the curtain on the NCAA's practice of making billions off of its athletes through a disproportionate barter of books, meals and board. And with the NCAA's member gates now open and its leaders left powerless to stop an eventual exo- dus, top schools such as Notre Dame must position themselves for a new world of college athletics, free of the NCAA's greed and inconsistent leader- ship, but with many unknowns ahead. "This is the end of the NCAA as we know it," is how syndicated ESPN radio host Paul Finebaum summed up the massive changes coming to college sports and the NCAA's place in them. "The funeral hasn't hap- pened yet, the last rites have not been uttered, but it's over for the NCAA." For more than a century, the NCAA held its member schools hostage while making billions off of the stu- dent-athletes. But with one single and unani- mous ruling, the Supreme Court changed the future course for all of college athletics, and the prospects of the NCAA keeping its cushy place as the guardian of amateur sports. "The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student-athletes in in- nocuous labels, but the labels can- not disguise the reality," surmised Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the old- guard tradition of the NCAA fleecing its players. "The NCAA's business model would be flatly illegal in al- most any other industry in America." Kavanaugh continued: "Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses' income in order to create a 'purer' form of help- ing the sick," in the same way other businesses cannot collude to slash employee wages to foster a spirit of "amateurism" in the workplace. It only took 111 years, but finally the rug has been yanked on decades of sketchy NCAA business practices. And finally, its most powerful mem- ber schools are realizing that the NCAA needs them more than they need the NCAA. The emergence of the SEC as the first super league will serve as a bold step to all Power Five schools break- ing ranks from NCAA oversight. With more whiplash develop- ments to come, expect other Power Five schools to merge and form their own super leagues to keep up with the SEC, then secede from the NCAA and do business as they see fit — free of profit-sharing with an organization that does little beyond organizing its terrific NCAA basketball tournaments. Now, exactly how Notre Dame football will ultimately fit into this quickly evolving super-league landscape remains to be seen. But as one of the most powerful and lucrative programs in the coun- try, expect it to call its own shots — at least for now — and cling to its in- dependence for as long as possible. On the surface, the recent moves of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC appear to have little impact on either Notre Dame or its independence. And at the moment, football in- dependence is alive and well after Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick adeptly negotiated a cozy space for the Irish when a 12-team playoff expansion is ap- proved and implemented in the coming months and years. But having Notre Dame someday bounced from the playoff party if super conference officials call the shots and make only their league members eligible for tournament consideration could jeopardize that independence in coming years. Swarbrick, 67, has been a master- ful negotiator since he took the Notre Dame job in 2008 when protecting Notre Dame's place at the Power Five table and its independence. But with 13 years on the job — the second longest-tenured Irish AD be- hind Moose Krause (1949-81) — how much longer will Swarbrick stick around? Many questions remain to what college athletics will look like in the not-so-distant future. But one thing is certain, those questions will soon be no longer answered by a profit- hoarding organization that forever used the term "amateurism" to hide its predatory business practices. This systematic dismantling of the NCAA and its decades of inconsis- tent and often incoherent practices will clearly benefit student-athletes. Let's just hope the inevitable for- mations of super leagues won't someday cost Notre Dame its football independence and all the revenue, attention, appeal and recruiting ad- vantages its autonomy brings. ✦ Does The End Of The NCAA Loom? UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Director of athletics Jack Swarbrick has masterfully pro- tected the Notre Dame's independence in his 13 years on the job, but the move to football super-conferences could make that task more difficult. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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