When people root against the NCAA — and cheer a development like the NLRB’s ruling that Northwestern University football players could unionize — it’s because of stuff like what happened to Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Gay at the NCAA basketball tournament’s East Region final at Madison Square Garden in New York, between Connecticut and Michigan State.
Gay staged an official-sponsor-tweaking protest on Sunday by bringing a cat mug to press row, in defiance of the NCAA edict, posted on a sign as you enter the arena seating area, that reads: “Only NCAA cups allowed beyond this point.” Those cups bear the NCAA logo and, more importantly, that of Powerade.
So why did he do it? Gay writes: “We’re living in a rebellious moment in which there are a lot of important questions about the way the NCAA does business. … No one disputes that college sports have become a big business: The TV contract for the tournament is an astonishing $10.8 billion, coaches make millions, apparel companies pay to outfit teams and title celebrations. Everybody seems to be getting a buck, except the athletes.”
The mug lasted until late in the game, when an NCAA minion asked Gay to hand it over, which he did, though he got it back afterward. (We are left to wonder what he would have written about had he and the mug made it through the whole game.)
In the end, as they say in basketball, no harm, no foul. And also in the end, though Gay got an entertaining piece out of the experience, “The NCAA remains the NCAA, rich and conflicted, chasing strange infractions.”