Abolish the NCAA

Paul Chryst was fired as the Badgers’ head football coach only a handful of games into the season after being surprised by Washington State, destroyed by Ohio State, and embarrassed by Illinois. The Athletic Department paid him $11 million to clear out of his office. 

Meanwhile, Shanel Bramschreiber had to sit out half of the Badgers’ volleyball season because she hired an agent. She didn’t make any money. She just engaged with an agent. 

According to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal, when Bramschreiber finished her degrees at Baylor she decided to see if she could play professionally. The only pro women’s volleyball leagues are overseas, so she hired an agent to help her navigate that. When no offers were forthcoming she decided to transfer to Wisconsin to use up her final year of eligibility. She got an extra year as most college athletes did to make up for the mostly lost COVID seasons of 2020-2021. 

According to the NCAA, it was wrong for Shanel Bramschreiber to even explore the possibility of being paid.

But the very act of hiring an agent didn’t sit well with the NCAA, which eventually penalized her by not allowing her to play her first game for the UW until mid- season. That means she had to sit out 14 games. 

So, let’s see if we have this straight, sports fans. A coach follows up several disappointing seasons with an absolutely disastrous opening to the 2022 campaign. He gets fired and takes an $11 million payout. A “student-athlete,” who is among the best volleyball players in the country, just contacts an agent, earns no money, and gets penalized. 

Actually, Chryst could have gotten $20 million under the provisions of his contract. But don’t give him too much credit for taking $9 million less. For one thing, he’ll get all of that by February whereas the full $20 million would have been paid out over the remaining four years of his contract. And he gets the $11 million, no questions asked. His contract called for him to deduct any earnings he would get from a new coaching job. Now he can double dip. 

The UW would want us to hasten to point out here that none of this is taxpayer money. It all comes from private donors, but if I were one of those donors I’d be beside myself. And what about the argument that all that money floating around is really going to benefit the “student-athletes” through scholarships and tutoring, the best facilities and training tables? You can produce a lot of nice, fresh salad bars for $11 million. 

Still, I don’t necessarily fault Chryst any more than I would fault the whole crummy system of golden parachutes. Corporate CEOs are running their businesses into the ground all the time and getting huge pay days just to go away. Chryst negotiated the best deal for himself that he could in that environment. The system is rotten, but you can’t blame Chryst for getting everything he could. 

But what about Shanel Bramschreiber? The NCAA is nitpicking her to death while it allows a system for coaches that rewards — richly rewards — mediocrity and failure. In fact, you could ask why the NCAA exists in the first place. In the new world of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness deals, the NCAA is basically just there to justify its existence by hassling athletes in order to maintain the quaint and long gone myth of amateurism. 

Paul Chryst failed and got rich. Shanel Bramschreiber plays her heart out and gets penalized for even trying to make some money. Let’s abolish the NCAA and just pay the players what they’re worth in the open market. 

A version of this piece was originally posted in Isthmus.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “Abolish the NCAA

  1. Their usefulness is negligible (unless you count self-dealing and personal enrichment) and their arrogance is legendary; a bad combination for an organization that doesn’t answer to anyone.

    At least as egregious was the NCAA’s handling of the MICAH POTTER transfer from OSU to WESconsin.

    Potter jumped through every last one of their hoops, but ended up being penalized for attending 2nd semester OSU classes in order to graduate on time AND like a student-athlete is expected.

    The rarely enflamed Greg Gard didn’t mince words when they denied Potter’s last appeal.


  2. Not that any further indictment is required, AND at the risk of being flagged for Unnecessary Roughness/Piling On, anyone interested in seeing just how dirty-n-entangled the NCAA’s craven grip on…um…Amateur Athletics is need look no further than:

    SCHOOLED: The Price Of College Sports.

    This documentary is nearly a decade old; have things gotten better, stayed the same, or gotten worse?


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