Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nothing to See Here. Please Disperse. | by Jay

A couple of thoughts on the Rothstein non-violative violations. (ND put out a statement yesterday confirming that this was all much ado about nothing: )

• I'm still not sure how Rothstein got from hearing about a Darius Walker bump to citing the other incidents from earlier in the year (as far back as January), especially when WSBT couldn't even provide actual aired footage of the Zbikowski segment. According to the Observer:

In fact, Notre Dame declared Zbikowski ineligible despite the fact that WBST has not been able to provide Notre Dame with the tape of the show that Zbikowski appeared on, only supplying the athletic department with the unedited footage from his appearance, which included bloopers of Zbikowski trying to film the "bump."
• Although Rothstein dug this up and called the NCAA initially, Notre Dame apparently "self-reported" the violations, declared the players "ineligible", and then "asked for reinstatement", which was granted. This "inelgibility" did not restrict Zbikowski from practicing, although if it had happened during the season he would not have been able to play in a game while ineligibile.The important point here is that the NCAA did not come knocking; we declared it a violation first and the NCAA concurred. I'm sure this was ND trying to play things safely and assume the worst.

• Yet this sets an awfully low threshold for what constitutes an "endorsement" in the eyes of the NCAA. Since the NCAA agreed with Notre Dame's assessment that this was a secondary violation, we now have a precedent where even the slightest perceived enthusiasm for something in a media spot could be construed as an endorsement. The bylaw reads that "The student-athlete shall not make any endorsement, expressed or implied, of any commercial product or service," which presumably includes television shows. What else would it include?

Say Darius Walker is talking to the Sporting News, and says, "I've been reading The Sporting News since I was a kid. I love it." Is that a violation?

Or take an actual example. Tommy Z did a lot of press leading up to his fight. In one interview he was quoted, "I would have done this for free, just to fight in Madison Square Garden." If SportsDogz on WSBT can be a "commercial product or service", why not Madison Square Garden? It's certainly a commercial endeavor.

I'm not trying to get into a "slippery slope" rant, but this rule seems to be the hangover of a draft written when "endorsements" were ads in Life magazine pitching Dapper Dan Pomade. It doesn't seem compatible with the age of ubiquitous media, where players and programs are constanly beset by outlets looking to fill air/columns/bandwidth. The NCAA needs to clarify the spirit and the letter of this particular law.