“Why is this business model — unpaid labor, mostly by black athletes, generating riches for white administrators — still tolerated? Because most football and basketball players haven’t acted on the economic power they possess — and no one in the NCAA universe is eager to change that, either.”
– Don Yee, prominent sports agent and founder of the Pacific Pro League, in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post published January 8, 2016
News of Pacific Pro Football’s existence hit the internet with little fanfare last week.
Most pundits dismissed its chances. Another USFL, XFL, AFL, WFL, or IFL. And yes, all of those are failed American football leagues, and there’s a handful of additional “FL’s” on that list.
Some are giving the PPF a shot, mainly due to its impressive roster of founders: Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan, Pro Bowl receiver (and the sperm that created Christian) Ed McCaffrey, the aforementioned Yee, and advisor Adam Schefter.
But nobody (at least not that I’ve seen) has acknowledged the obvious goal of the new organization: to supplant the NCAA.
Pacific Pro didn’t mention the National Coalition of Arrogant Assholes in any of its marketing materials, and while most have written about Yee’s baby as an alternative for “DII and DIII” caliber players, it’s clear (to me, at least) that the league aims to attract some Christian McCaffrey-esque talent sooner rather than later.
And how would NCAA commissioner and unapologetic autocrat Mark Emmert react to the next Leonard Fournette taking $100k to pick Mike Shanahan over Ed Orgeron? He’d react slowly because his Association’s an atrocious bureaucracy comprised of terrible, narrow-minded people, but it’ll be interesting to see if he reaches what I’ve always considered an obvious conclusion: let schools operate their athletic teams as separate entities within the university.
In other words, when a top recruit goes to Alabama, stop pretending like he’s there to attend class. Give the athletes a less demanding vocational course load, larger stipends, and treat them differently than the average college kid. If you’re getting a PhD in Economics, you don’t have to take entry-level Spanish. If you’re getting a Masters in the 3-4 defense, the nuances of the American Civil War really don’t fucking matter.
But I doubt the NCAA will make those adjustments, and that’s why the PPF is so damn intriguing. They’re tapping into a multi-billion-dollar industry with an A-list team and only one competitor. What venture capitalist wouldn’t be intrigued by that?
“Professional football is a very specialized game; it demands precise techniques and a certain mental approach,” Shanahan said in a statement. “Pac Pro’s time has come, and these fantastic athletes will be well trained for the pro game on and off the field.”
Bob DeMars’ film Business of Amateurs gives a really clear insight into what it’s like playing DI college football. Football’s a full-time job, an all-encompassing vocation, and when DeMars broke down his weekly schedule at USC, he was working 85-hour weeks with class, study hall, and all the football stuff (lifting, practice, games).
Shanahan and Yee’s pitch is simple: we’ll give you everything you need to be a pro, plus we’ll pay you, plus we’ll help you get endorsements, plus you can have a life.
Sorry, Nick Saban. If I’m a five-star prospect, I’m going with the PPF.
I can learn about the Battle of Fort Sumter when I’m rich and retired…