The NCAA looks like a dead organization walking

Whenever one has argued for college athletes to be paid, those who defend the current system have responded with some variation of, “Okay, how would you fix it?” This was a reasonable question. Do you pay some athletes but not all of them? Do colleges have to dig into their non-athletic funds? Do players get traded from one school to another in the middle of the school year? Do they even bother going to school at all? I always struggled to come up with answers to these questions, about how to reconcile the college sports I love with the financial and logistical realities of the situation. It used to frustrate me. But then I realized that throwing the question back at anyone who asked it was simply a way to deflect from complicity with an unjust system. What do you have that’s better? is not a defense of a corrupt model; it is a way to maintain your place in it. Whether you were a coach making millions off unpaid labor, a university or conference (or an organization like the NCAA) cashing billions in television checks, or just a fan who loved watching college sports so much that you never wanted it to change, defending the current way of doing things required rhetorical jujitsu. And that was a sure sign that it wasn’t really worth defending.

What the Supreme Court and Kavanaugh did on Monday was flip the focus: Now it’s up to the NCAA and administrators and university presidents to come up with a plan to save their sports — or else. The NCAA not only has to justify its own existence; it has to justify the entire notion of college athletics.