• About Tom Dougherty

    Tom Dougherty CEO, Stealing Share

    Tom Dougherty is the President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., and has helped national and global brands such as Lexus, IKEA and Tide steal market share over his 25-year career.

    An often-quoted source on business and brands, he has been featured recently by the New York Times and CNN, discussing topics ranging from television to Apple to airlines.

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The NCAA is indentured servitude. Time to kill this institution.

This morning, I heard a report that the NCAA, in response to the movement to unionize athletes at Northwestern University, warned that unionizing (read paying) athletes would destroy the institution of intercollegiate sports.

Oh my. This is akin to asking plantation owners in the pre-civil war South if the US should eliminate slavery. You bet it would destroy the institution and good riddance to it.

NorthwesternAs I think about it, the current student-athletes have a lot in common with the slaves that the Union fought the latter years of the Civil War to free. 1) They work hard hours for a wealthy slave owner; 2) They get no wages aside from room and board for their labors (although, to be fair, athletes do get an education – as long as they keep playing); 3) If they are unable to work, the boss can cut them off from sustenance; 4) They were not free to change work places without significant penalty; 5) The plantation owner gained immense wealth from their toils; 6) It was strongly believed by the southern plantation owners that the slaves had great loyalty to their masters. Loved them, you will.  And it was even posited that they be mustered out to fight on the side of the confederacy when Dixie’s fortunes were quickly slipping away.

Of course, the NCAA believes that unionizing athletes for more representation marks the end of this indentured servitude system. Collective bargaining is the first step in paying athletes for the work they do. Such a move, unionizing, would quickly bring the walls of the temples down upon those worshiping inside. The student-athlete myth will be one of its first victims.

The brand of the NCAA and the Division I universities that fight change cannot afford to ignore what the real fan already knows: The student athlete is a fraud. While some athletes are great scholars, we all know that the standards for admittance are waived to admit a kid with small academic hopes so that the university can profit from his toil. Notice I said HIS toil. Despite Title 9 funding regulations, most universities make little money on female athletics. So, to stick with the tone of this note without political correctness, I risk telling the truth.

Tell me, what do the five freshman starters at the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team have in common with the graduating class of 2014? All Kentucky basketball is to the University of Kentucky is a cash cow of indentured servants who serve the master (the Kentucky alumni and the university itself). I would call it a semi-pro team but, remember, the laborers on this team are not paid.

Think about this. Alumni get orgasmic excitement over the success of these teams. As if the athletes came from the student body. They did not come from the student body. They were recruited into the school from a vastly different skill set.

So, how do you satisfy a cynic like me? (And, it should be said, the millions of others who have simply looked away and ignored the truth — like the cotton mills in the Northeast in the early days of the Civil War. The plantation system filled their mills and spindles with cheap cotton.) Pay the laborers. Share the bounty of their toils and think of these teams as corporately sponsored semi-pro teams that find homes at the universities and colleges throughout the land.

Will the institution of NCAA athletics look and feel different? You bet it will. But that is the price we all pay for truth, justice and the American way.

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