Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is NCAA Membership REALLY Voluntary?

This is a question I throw out there for people with some training in the legal profession.

Throughout the course of this NCAA assault on Penn State--reaching beyond its jurisdiction to include criminal law enforcement--I have seen the phrase repeatedly thrown out that the NCAA is a voluntary organization.

Penn State CHOSE to be a member.  No one held a gun to their head (or apparently threatened to kill their football program if we are to believe the NCAA's side of the story.)

The NCAA Wants U!
So can Penn State choose not to be in the NCAA?

What happens if they don't join or participate?  Can they still be a member of the Big Ten?  Can they play other NCAA member teams?  Can they participate in NCAA championship events and bowl games?

My guess on these latter questions is that the answers are no.

So what it sounds like to me is that you have the "choice" to be in the NCAA, but if you are not, you can't play football (except maybe as a club sport or intramural).  Which basically means you have no real option other than to be a member, since you could not sustain the current sports program without the NCAA membership.

As a physician, I am well aware of this Communistic "freedom of choice" (such as Russians having the right to vote but there is only one name on the ballot to choose from.)  Doctors don't have to be Board Certified--it is a "choice," but Board Certification is often required for hospital privileges and participation in Insurance contracts.  Likewise, Medicare is a "choice," but if I don't participate in the program, my waiting room will be empty.  80-90% of my practice is Medicare, and in Central PA, there are not enough independently wealthy Medicare patients that can afford to pay me without the help of Medicare.  But I digress.

The NCAA has 1,281 member schools.  That's a lot.

I tried to Google a list of non-NCAA football schools, but found instead a list of basketball schools not in the NCAA a list which includes such powerhouses as the Alaska Nanooks, the California Maritime Keelhaulers, and the Washburn Ichabods.  Those would make for some interesting Citizen's Bank button slogans, but would not hardly fill a stadium of 108,000 fans on a regular basis.  And who wants to go to Alaska for a road trip?

So again I ask . . . is NCAA participation really voluntary?

It would appear to be so, if you have no interest in financial success at the level Penn State is at currently.  But is that really a choice then, or is it the appearance of a choice at gunpoint, where there is really only one fiscally viable option?

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