The Name Game

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The rays
of the sun are beginning to take on a particular angle: an angle
that sets off a physiological reaction in die-hard college football
junkies that cries out through the sinews, "Football season
is coming."

You can begin
to hear the faint echoes of a college marching band's tattoo erupting
in your brain like a divinely inspired call. Already my e-mail
box is starting to fill with "smack talk" and "counter-smack"
from the dulia-filled faithful anxious; reminiscing about the
glories of yesterday, these e-missives must be designed to influence
the gods of football to remember past alliances and assure future

But no matter
how much paraphernalia these keepers of the gridiron faith pour
into "the football room," their bobble-headed idols
have eyes that see not and ears that hear not. The true "gods
of football" live in Indianapolis and they are angry and
spiteful deities. And so, verily, the National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA) thundered earlier this month: "Thou shall
not take names in vain."

has declared
a ban
on the use of "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national
origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships."
And what exactly is such a "hostile and abusive" moniker?
According to the Executive Committee, names like Seminoles, Indians,
Chippewas and Choctaws are offensive, but tags like Fighting Irish,
Quakers and a whole slew of "demons" and "devils"
are not. In defending this capriciousness, NCAA vice president
for diversity and inclusion, Charlotte
Westerhaus, stated
, “We have not gotten information from any
group that represents Irish or (anyone of) Irish ancestry …
that they believe that [Fighting Irish] image is hostile and/or
abusive.” Westerhaus's comments notwithstanding, the NCAA is merely
one more organ of the
totalitarian ideology of cultural Marxism
, a.k.a. political
correctness, and given its origins, this is not surprising.

The NCAA's
genesis came at the behest
of the ever-meddling, proto-neocon
Theodore Roosevelt
. The familiar centralization tactic of
calling for an "imperative response" to an "imminent
danger or crisis" is present. Apparently the "flying
wedge" formation was blamed for the serious injury or death
of some undisclosed number of college football players and, as
a result, certain schools were dropping their football programs.
(Even if one accepts that this crisis was real, one could safely
assume that market forces would have influenced college football
coaches to abandon the flying wedge so as to save their own jobs
from being eliminated.) Out of T.R.'s grandstanding came a centralized
rulemaking body, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the
United States (IAAUS), which in 1910 changed its name to the NCAA.

The next
"crisis" the NCAA faced was post-World War II recruiting
practices. As schools discovered that football was a revenue-generating
sport at the gate, they began to recruit and give scholarships
to football talent in order to draw larger crowds. The new medium
of television was also providing a fresh source of revenue. As
George Stigler could have predicted
, with such a pile of loot
on the line, it was time to enlarge the NCAA from merely a rulemaking
body to a regulatory agency and create a monopoly.

There is
no reason why market forces should not be allowed in the recruitment
of college football players. Student athletes should be free to
attend and compete at any college or university whose entrance
requirements they meet. They should also be free to transfer,
without penalty, to another school at any time. Colleges and universities
should be allowed to grant as many athletic scholarships as they
find feasible. The limiting of scholarships is supposedly done
in the name of "promoting competition" but is really
anything but. (Does fairness demand that outstanding academic
schools limit the number of academic scholarships it awards because
there are not enough baby geniuses to go around?) Rather than
improving sports or the life of the college athlete in any way,
the NCAA is merely a regulatory
behemoth that serves only itself

It should
come as no shock that where arbitrary power is concentrated, there
you will find the forces of cultural Marxism. The
president of the NCAA claims
that the organization is "taking
the high road." If the high road consists of putting a politically
correct face on a monopoly designed to intimidate members and
extort student athletes, then he's right. I prefer to think of
it as the road to perdition.

15, 2005

Rossi [send him mail]
is a recent law school graduate who lives in Washington, D.C.

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