‘Shame on Us’?

Northwestern University Athletic Director, Jim Phillips, gave this interview recently bemoaning the “one and done play” of men’s college basketball players claiming “It’s absurd.” and saying “So we’ve got to fix it.” and “Shame on us . . .” He also says that he wants to invite a “national conversation” on the topic. So here are a few of my thoughts:

I don’t think that the NCAA (the governing body I mean) should exist.

I don’t think that colleges should be able to coordinate with other colleges in any manner that collectively infringes the choices and interests of consumers (i.e. students) – whether that is colluding to set restrictive rules for college athletes, the coordinating on tuition prices or admissions or anything else.

I do think (or at least hope) that if any other group of commercial entities and/or their representatives engaged in similar collusive behavior that they would be prosecuted.

I don’t think any college should have anything to say about whether or not college athletes want to be represented by a union. Nor do I believe that any college athlete should be forced or compelled to join any such union.

I think colleges should be free to create and enforce any boundaries they choose, but be able to do so only within the four square walls of their own institution (i.e. not in collude with any competitive colleges).

I’m not in favor of granting an anti-trust exemption for colleges (in sports or any other realm) the way that has been permitted for professional sports leagues.

So these are some of my contributions to this “national conversation” and I thank Mr. Philips for inviting them. But this is all I have to say on the topic.

Things that exist in the world that seem to make little sense are a reality of life. As an individual one might feel strongly about a particular subject and less so about another. But when in charge of running a business you can’t get too bogged down fighting realities that make little sense to you – especially ones that have almost nothing to do with the interests of your company. Sure, these things are frustrating to think about, but priorities have to be elsewhere. At Fundamental Financial we occasionally run across things that are directly relevant to our business and that we also think are crazy. We have to deal with those things and we do. But we try very hard to do so as clinically as possible in the best interests of our company. We won’t expend resources fighting it unless we must. 

Exceptional entrepreneurs must stay focused on the mission. No matter how tempting the distraction, this is the lesson that entrepreneurs must learn.