Commentary: The NCAA can't live up to it's own commercials

BY KEVIN GLUECK | APRIL 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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Odds are, if you watched this year’s March Madness, you saw a certain NCAA commercial.

You know, the one in which a group of cheerleaders or a mascot follows a former college athlete in her or his journey to go “professional in something other than sports.” The TV spot ends as we read the message “just know that we’re always there for student-athletes.” How touching, right?

It’s actually just a big, hypocritical cover-up.

In the long run, the NCAA and its leaders exist for only one group of people: themselves. The NCAA only takes action when it makes those people look powerful — conducting investigations here, dealing out sanctions there. But when something truly special can happen, it gets shot down.

On Tuesday night, the Louisville women’s basketball team played for a national title, the day after the men’s team defeated Michigan in a spectacular championship bout. How great was it to see the men’s team down in New Orleans cheering on their female counterparts? Or watching Kevin Ware behind the bench, willing the Lady Cardinals to victory?

Just kidding. That never happened.

Mere hours after Mark Emmert stood on stage and handed Rick Pitino’s squad a trophy, he squashed their hopes by nixing any possible trip to the women’s championship game because it would be considered an “extra benefit.”

Who needs your schoolmates supporting you when the NCAA is “always there” for them? It’s odd the NCAA didn’t capitalize on a potentially great story with the Louisville basketball programs supporting each other — considering it jumps at any opportunity to claim how much it supports student athletes. Why not let fellow athletes — fellow students, even — support each other?

Let’s talk about what real “extra benefits” are, Mr. Emmert.

We all know what happened to Kevin Ware by now. For those who don’t, Ware is the Louisville player who suffered a horrific compound fracture in his leg on live television. CBS and its viewers instantly fell in love with Ware and the inspiration he provided his team.

Louisville officials and their outfitter Adidas ate up Ware’s story, too. So much that the two teamed up to make a commemorative T-shirt with the mantra “Ri5e to the Occasion” — an ode to Ware’s No. 5 jersey as well as a play off of the “Rise to the Occasion” warm-ups all Adidas-outfitted teams wore during the NCAA Tournament.

Talk about an easy way to rack up some extra benefits.

Because of his amateur status, Ware couldn’t earn any money from the shirts, which is unfortunate because he’s the one who had to deal with a bone protruding from his right leg. But by golly, Louisville could, and did — that is, until, public outrage caused Louisville officials to backpedal and give up the royalties from the shirts. 

However, the damage has been done. It’s pretty clear Louisville jumped at the chance to profit off of a 20-year-old’s misfortune, and when Louisville makes money, the NCAA makes money.

The NCAA has shown its true colors with all that’s happened with Louisville in the past two weeks, ruining a great story and profiting from an injury.

When it comes to helping student athletes, they certainly “Ri$e to the Occasion.”

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