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Gasaway’s Law and Its Implications

John Gasaway of various outlets including ESPN Insider wrote on his personal blog about this New York Times editorial connecting NCAA reform with the Grambling boycott ends with a rule Gasaway wants all NCAA critics to remember:

It’s possible for bad things to happen in the vicinity of college sports that are not authored entirely or even primarily by the NCAA.

Gasaway’s Law has three immediately apparent implications.

First, the inverse is true and the NCAA must never forget it. The connection between the student-athlete experience and courage in the face of pirate is at least as tenuous as the connection between the issues at Grambling and the larger debate surrounding the revenue sports. “There are 450,000 student-athletes in the NCAA and some of them will have a bad experience” is not a good public service announcement tagline, but it is the truth.

Second, after years of columnists and reformers wondering about the possibility of a student-athlete strike, what finally prompted a boycott is illuminating. It was not a general feeling of unfairness over disparity in compensation. It was not even the health and safety issues. Rather it was that the university stood in the way of getting those health and safety issues fixed. Had the weight room floor been replaced with the materials which were already on Grambling’s campus, perhaps nothing happens last week.

Third, at some level the demands of NCAA reformers and fixing the issues at Grambling are incompatible. For example, a smaller Division I is the express goal, implied goal, or means to the end for many programs of NCAA reform. There is also a paternalistic view that these schools would be better off in Division II or lower. It is hard to see how being even less competitive or shuffled to a lower division will improve the situation at Grambling. Or how a system could be put in place to prevent the issues that prompted the Grambling strike and move to some model of professionalization without radically changing the terms of engagement.

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