By John F Di Leo -
US Senator Cory Booker (D, Thrace) has introduced a bill to “solve” the problem of college athletics, in much the same way that a healthy dose of arsenic might be proposed to solve a stomach ache.
We have over 5000 colleges and universities in the United States. Every college, public and private, has a somewhat different approach to finance, with varying balances between tuition and endowments, scholarships, government grants and all kinds of partnerships.
The colleges that offer competitive sports teams include the costs (coaching staffs, facilities, travel, player scholarships) and the profits (ticket sales, advertising and broadcast rights) of such programs in the mix with the rest of their financial approaches.
There are always complaints about this mix. The highest-performing players help the school sell tickets and ad revenue. Their athletic scholarships upset the other students (especially if the other students are better performers in the classroom). Professors may begrudge the coaches their higher salaries or superior perks. The rest of the school may begrudge these non-academics their fame.
Some academic departments may have similar issues, but being without stadiums full of crowds and cheerleaders, they don’t get nearly as much attention. Research projects and famous graduates bring fame and money to the university too, funding department chairs, scholarships, buildings and programs, providing internships and co-ops that prepare real students for their careers, much as the athletic programs do for theirs. But these are hardly as high profile.
The result is acrimony among the students, faculties, parents, and just about everyone else involved in college funding, so people who want to think themselves victims see reasons all around them in support of the idea.
Enter Government to the rescue.
Cory Booker, a failed mayor and failed senator with aspirations to add “failed president“ to his resume, has proposed a solution sure to upset everyone involved.
His “College Athletes Bill of Rights” would demand that colleges (both public and private, remember) open up their finances to public scrutiny. It would nationally standardize a host of state regulations from healthcare to criminal statutes, heavily restrict the right of contract from students and colleges alike, set up new national slush funds, ban schools from the right to set academic standards for student athletes at levels consistent with their colleges’ reputations. It would even mandate that covered athletes be allowed to remain in college “as long as it takes” to finish their degrees.
In many ways, it would eliminate the critical line between public and private institutions in terms of national regulatory power.
From one point of view, one might speak complimentarily about the bill. It’s “ambitious,” “expansive,” comprehensive,” “groundbreaking.”
But there’s another point of view that won’t be represented in much news coverage about this bill: the fact that such a national law would be unjustifiable, immoral, intrusive, outrageous, unconstitutional.
You won’t hear that in the press.
Consider, for a moment:
Of the 5000-some colleges and universities in America, how many are run by the federal government?
Yes, the federal government only runs nineteen colleges and grad schools: the five service academies (such as those at West Point and Annapolis), nine other military academies (such as the Air Force and Navy’s War Colleges), and several non-military institutions (such as the Foreign Service Institute and the FBI Academy).
Clearly, Congress has every right to set standards for the institutions it runs. The management of those nineteen schools is well within the powers of the denizens of Washington, D.C.
But … what about those other five thousand plus colleges?
Well, all those others are run by cities, states, churches, or private organizations and businesses, both non-profit and for-profit.
We have public colleges, established by land grants and run by state appointed (or elected) boards, such as the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin, and community college systems like Oakton, Harper and MATC. We have private universities, founded long ago by religious orders like Illinois Benedictine University and Marquette University or by civic leaders like Northwestern University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. We have for-profit schools like DeVry University and Midwest Technical Institute.
These 5000-some colleges and universities are as different as can be. Some are sports-heavy, some have no sports at all. Some are cities unto themselves with dorms, apartments and cafeterias; others are purely commuter environments with barely a lunchroom or student union to offer the comforts of home.
While many of them do have some minor federal tethering – such as a small ROTC program, or a limited government research program in the chemistry or physics department – for the vast majority of them, their federal attachment is rightly limited.
Outside the nineteen federal schools mentioned above, these thousands of other private and public institutions do not have federal government seats on their boards, federal ownership of their real estate, or indeed any federal right to invade their rulemaking.
Now, it is true that some of them play football or basketball games at each other’s schools, causing teams and fans to cross state lines to participate. But does anyone honestly think that this is what the Framers had in mind when they wrote the Constitutional clause concerning disputes between states? (…Besides, even if it were, the Supreme Court just whittled such federal powers down to nothing, through its December 2020 decision to deny standing to 23 states suing other states for practicing election fraud. If the federal government doesn’t have a role to play in how states vote for their shared president, it certainly can’t have a role to play in standardizing how colleges and their own students compensate each other.)
Nothing in this bill is authorized by the United States Constitution. Nothing.
Spartacus and his cosponsors believe that the federal government has a right to dictate to every school – big and small, public and private, charity or business – how they shall set their athletic scholarship programs, how they shall interact with their team members, how the states shall try crimes from alcohol abuse to sexual assault. If America still has a Constitution, these Washington busybodies have no right to do any of this.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a problem, incidentally. Of course there is.
Some schools want so much to win at football, they’re willing to lower their academic standards to attract great football players. Other schools want so much to have a stellar academic reputation, they would never stoop to lowering their standards for their football team. The gulf between these positions is wide enough to drive a homecoming parade through. And these colleges have every right to maintain such different positions.
Now, if a group of schools – whether as small as the Big Ten or as large as the NCAA – wants to get together and set some uniform rules for their members, they can do so. They can voluntarily join a group and accept the rules of the group, or they can voluntarily withdraw from the group, and perhaps even get together with others to found their own such group. One might be the “Get the Touchdown at any cost!” conference, while the other might be the “Scholars first, Scoreboard second!” conference.
In a free country, colleges and universities could join whichever such group appeals to them, and students could choose to apply to the college and conference that appeals to them as well.
But Spartacus doesn’t want them – or you – to have such choices.
Spartacus wants to set up a standard set of rules for all the schools to follow, even stepping on the local statutes and state laws that apply to everyone else at the college. Instead of helping reduce the uncomfortable divisions between the athletic department and the rest of the colleges, this bill would widen that uncomfortable gulf even more.
The solution is so simple. If the bureaucrats would step aside, the colleges could sort out these matters themselves. As a young engineer named John Galt once said, government just needs to “Get out of the way.”
And by the way… lest you should find yourself inclined to accept the common trope of the modern left – “at least he’s trying” – do keep in mind the eventual end result of all the meddling of the historical Spartacus – the Thracian slave whom Cory Booker likes so much, he adopted the nickname for himself. By the end of his ambitious but naturally doomed slave insurrection against the Roman Republic, Spartacus managed to get practically his entire army of 70,000 slaughtered on the battlefield, with nothing to show for their efforts but blood and pain. That's the real legacy of Spartacus.
Copyright 2020 John F Di Leo
John F Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer, transportation manager, writer and actor. His column has been found in Illinois Review since 2009. An anthology of his articles on vote fraud in America, The Tales of Little Pavel, is now available on Amazon.
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