Column: NCAA Athletes Are Going HungryApril 21, 2014

On Thursday, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors will vote on a proposal to expand meal options for its student athletes. If you’re a betting person – and if you filled out a March Madness bracket you are – bet the house that the proposal will pass. One of the thousands of petty and arcane rules adopted and enforced by the NCAA limits student athletes on full scholarships to three meals a day or a food stipend. Even greater meal restrictions are placed on walk-ons and those on partial scholarships. No late-night meals or snacks are permitted on the theory that…well, who cares what the theory is? The restrictions are just another example of how the tyrannical governing body abuses the golden goose - student athletes - that makes the suits in the Ivory Towers, i.e., NCAA employees, coaches and athletic administrators, flush with cash.

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Column: It's Time for a Sports DegreeApril 14, 2014

Colleges and universities prepare students for a variety of professions, including a number of careers in the entertainment field. Degrees are offered in music, dancing, singing and acting. But we don’t offer a degree in one of the most popular forms of entertainment in this country: Sports. It’s time that oversight is remedied. This is not a novel proposal. The concept of a degree in athletic performance has been bandied about for a decade or more by some of the top academics in the country. But so far, no university has been able – perhaps willing is a better word – to embrace the idea. It can’t be because such a degree would somehow impugn the academic integrity of an institution. Far too many universities steer athletes to easy courses – “clustering” is the technical phrase – lacking academic rigor. Others award degrees in “University Studies” which is of specious value in preparing athletes for life beyond their playing careers.

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Column: Unionization of College AthletesApril 7, 2014

By now, most Americans are aware of the recent decision to grant Northwestern University football players the right to unionize. The ruling, handed down by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) director Peter Sung Ohr, has raised the ire – and fear – of the NCAA and college administrators who have issued confusing and sometimes misleading statements concerning the meaning and impact of the decision on college athletics. Let’s take a look at some of the major issues raised by Ohr’s decision. How did Ohr reach his decision? In order to rule for the players, Ohr had to find that they were employees of the university. By law, an "employee" is a person who [1] under contract, [2] performs services for another, [3] subject to that person’s control, [4] in return for payment.

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Column: Outrageous Ballpark FoodMarch 31, 2014

The 2014 baseball season opens in earnest this week, another sign that winter is on its last legs – hopefully – and we can look forward to a trip to the local ballpark. In addition to the sights and sounds of baseball, most of us will engage in a culinary experience that, in some cases, could guarantee a financially sound retirement for our cardiologist. Every year it seems like Major League and Minor League teams try to outdo themselves with the highest calorie-laden concession item they can conjure up, our physical and financial health be damned. Prior concoctions include the Fifth Third Burger created by the Class A Western Michigan Whitecaps. The Burger is a four pound behemoth featuring chili, chips and salsa on a one pound hamburger bun. Lest you think the 4,889 calories are a bit much, the $20 item is designed to feed a family of four. A lighter – albeit sweeter – main course is dished up by the Independent Gateway Grizzlies. It features a modest sized burger with two slices of bacon and cheddar cheese crammed between a sliced Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donut, calories unknown.

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Column: Legality of NCAA BracketsMarch 24, 2014

Has your NCAA bracket been busted yet? If so, you can take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone. You can also take comfort in knowing that you probably won’t get charged by the authorities for illegal gambling. An estimated 60 million Americans filled out a bracket for this year’s tournament. Many of those individuals also put down a friendly wager, which is legal at sports books in Nevada but illegal in most other jurisdictions in the United States. There are exceptions. Vermont is among the states that allow gambling on the NCAA Tournament and other events as long as it is in small amounts and consists of a “winner-take-all” format. That means the organizer of the pool can’t take a cut. Montana state statutes distinguish between “private” and public” gambling. In other words, if your “office pool” is limited to people within your office, you’re technically complying with the law.

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Column: Pete Rose Is Lying - Once AgainMarch 17, 2014

In a new biography titled: Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, author Kostya Kennedy and Rose make the case that gambling on baseball is less of a crime than the use of PEDs. They’re wrong. Gambling is the number one crime in baseball. It has been since the Black Sox scandal in 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. All eight were banned from baseball for life, despite being acquitted in a court of law. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis knew that gambling by anyone associated with baseball could erode faith in the integrity of the game, something that the sport – any sport - could not abide. Absent the element of competition – where fans know every player is trying his or her best to win – sport is reduced to mere entertainment, nothing more than a movie, professional wrestling or Chris Berman yukking it up on SportsCenter.

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Column: Out of Control FansMarch 10, 2014

Fanatic – “A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm” The Free Dictionary The term “fan” is presumed to be a derivative of the word “fanatic,” a word that is not always used in a complimentary fashion. That’s the case with several recent examples of college basketball fans gone wild. Perhaps the incident that received the most exposure is the one involving Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Texas Tech fan, Jeff Orr. After Smart committed a foul during the last minute of the Cowboys’ loss to the Red Raiders in Lubbock, his momentum carried him into the stands, where Orr spewed epithets at him. Smart instinctively responded by shoving Orr before being pulled away by teammates. Smart was hit with a technical and suspended for three games by the Big 12 Conference.

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Column: NCAA is at it AgainMarch 3, 2014

The NCAA is at it again. Last week they suspended Oregon State University pitcher Ben Wetzler for 20% of the Beavers’ season for doing what any person in this country not only has the right to do, but should do: Have the assistance of an advisor prior to making a life-changing decision. Wetzler, who was a sixth round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies last June, violated what is referred to as the “no-agent rule” contained in Bylaw 12.3.2.1. The Bylaw essentially states that a student-athlete will be ineligible if an agent markets his or her athletic ability. In its interpretation of the Bylaw, the NCAA specifically states that a student-athlete may seek the advice of an “attorney” or “agent”, but that “advisor… may not negotiate on behalf of a student-athlete or be present during discussions of a contract offer, including phone calls, email or in-person conversations.”

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Column: Taxing Olympic Gold...And Silver and BronzeFebruary 24, 2014

There are two things all Americans can agree on: We love our Olympic athletes and we hate taxes. That means we can all agree on exempting Olympic athletes from paying taxes on their Olympic winnings, right? Well, maybe not. The first thing you should know is that Olympic gold medals are a misnomer. Although the medals weigh 531 grams, there are only six grams of actual gold in each medal. The balance is silver. At today’s street value for both metals, a gold medal is worth approximately $550. That amount is considered taxable income to medal winners.

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Column: MLB Allows Teams to Drop PensionsFebruary 17, 2014

On the eve of spring training, Major League Baseball owners voted to give clubs the option of eliminating pension plans for some uniformed and all non-uniformed employees. Reaction to the move was almost unanimously critical. Prior to the vote, MLB clubs were required to offer traditional pension plans to Minor League employees - coaches, trainers, scouts - and non-uniformed MLB personnel, those who toil away in the front office. Traditional pension plans, known as defined benefit (DB) plans, guarantee retirees a fixed pension amount based on a formula that considers an employee’s earnings, years of service and age at retirement. In most cases, employees get what they are promised. However, if an employer goes bankrupt or the company pension plan goes belly up, the “guarantee” could be in jeopardy. Fortunately for private sector employees, the federal government maintains an insurance fund for such occasions, although pension payments are subject to being reduced.

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