- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION

In 13 words, the NCAA kicked over what remains of the rickety foundation supporting the continued existence of the multi-billion dollar cartel.

The NCAA denies that it has a legal duty to protect student-athletes,” the organization’s court filing two weeks ago said, “but admits that it was ‘founded to protect young people from the dangerous and exploitative athletic practices of the time.’”

That’s right. In response to a wrongful death lawsuit by a college football player’s family, the organization established in 1906 after two White House conferences to combat football’s on-field carnage sees no duty to protect the athletes on whose backs the enterprise is constructed.

Cut through the high-minded bluster and slick commercials wheezed out by the NCAA’s propaganda machine and this is the hypocritical truth at the organization’s heart.

Those words on the NCAA’s own website near president Mark Emmert’s $1.7 million grin?

“Founded more than one hundred years ago as a way to protect student-athletes …”

The insistence of an NCAA spokesperson after a spate of embarrassing internal emails about the organization’s impotent concussion policy became public in July?

“Student-athlete safety is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles.”

That 30-seconds of self-congratulation disguised as a commercial the NCAA released last March?

“Just know,” the narrator said, “we’re always there for student-athletes.”

The black and white filing in Montgomery (Md.) County Circuit Court insists otherwise. Three times in the document the NCAA denied the duty to protect college athletes and, in the process, denied its reason to exist.

What is the point of the embattled organization if it refuses to assume its most fundamental duty?

The past year hasn’t been easy for the NCAA, after a string of self-inflicted crises: The botched investigation of the University of Miami. The dirty secret of selling memorabilia that identified college athletes on an NCAA-affiliated website. Ruling one college athlete ineligible for the crime of participating in a fun run. The unprecedented reduction of the unprecedented penalties on Penn State. The long-ignored academic scandal at the University of North Carolina. The release of over 1,000 pages of internal emails in which staffers treated concussions as fodder for jokes and, at times, concern over liability dwarfed safety.

“Are the refs more at risk if we don’t provide the educational piece on concussions or if we do provide it?” one NCAA official wrote in the emails. “And, what about the NCAA? Would we be protecting/helping the organization by not providing the information?”

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