- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Don’t mess with the cups.

In the Verizon Center’s bowels, stern-faced ushers sit next to unblinking signs that are as much a part of the NCAA tournament as the schmaltz of “One Shining Moment.”

ONLY NCAA CUPS ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT

Go ahead, try. Cup of coffee featuring that pesky green siren? Bottle of water? One of the five colors of sports drink on hand in the media workroom? Tankard of ale?

Step toward the court with anything other than the regulation blue and black paper cup emblazoned with logos of the NCAA and a sports drink company and the wrath of the NCAA’s beverage police falls upon the thirsty party. Dump the beverage into the correct cup and dispose of the offending carrier in a trash bin or the court is off limits.

Yes, the organization founded in 1906 after two White House conferences to address a spate of college football deaths, the high-minded group established to promote safety on playing fields, has evolved into a bloated bureaucracy fixated on eradicating the evil of displaying cups without the correct logo.

Madness? Nope. Just another March.

The cups, of course, are a symptom of the larger problem. March is played under the charade of amateurism, with enough shameless mentions of “student-athletes” to make you spit your beverage back into that NCAA-regulated cup while they further their university’s educational mission hundreds of miles from campus classrooms.

That word is important. Student. Remove it and the whole NCAA enterprise built on next-to-nothing labor, a reality-bending 430-page rule book and generous 501(c)3 nonprofit status crumbles. Yeah, nonprofit. Remember that the next time one of the NCAA’s litany of so-called corporate champions are mentioned. Sneaking the wrong brand of soda into the arena is liable to knock the world off its axis.

So, where are the student-musicians or student-mascots or student-waterboys? Oh, yeah. They’re not the product.

There’s a brand to protect, whether it’s on a cup or a tournament. That’s business for you. A lucrative one for everyone other than the men dribbling basketballs.

Look up from your blown-apart bracket. The NCAA has a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to televise the tournament. The NCAA projects to pull in $797 million in 2012-13 alone.

What, exactly, is amateur about any of this?

Dig into the NCAA’s most recent Form 990, filed with the Internal Revenue Service last year. President Mark Emmert made the equivalent of about $1.6 million in 2010, among a sea of six-figure salaries in the organization’s Indianapolis headquarters.

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