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But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves.

“Their organization is a fraud.” Vaccaro retired from Reebok in 2007 to make a clean break for a crusade. Jon King, an antitrust lawyer at Hausfeld LLP in San Francisco, told me that Vaccaro “opened our eyes to massive revenue streams hidden in college sports.” King and his colleagues have drawn on Vaccaro’s vast knowledge of athletic-department finances, which include off-budget accounts for shoe contracts.

“The kids and their parents gave me a good life,” he says in his peppery staccato. Sonny Vaccaro and his wife, Pam, “had a mountain of documents,” he said.

“Approximately 1 percent of NCAA men’s basketball players and 2 percent of NCAA football players are drafted by NBA or NFL teams,” stated the 2001 report, basing its figures on a review of the previous 10 years, “and just being drafted is no assurance of a successful professional career.” Warning that the odds against professional athletic success are “astronomically high,” the Knight Commission counsels college athletes to avoid a “rude surprise” and to stick to regular studies.

This is sound advice as far as it goes, but it’s a bromide that pinches off discussion.

Then the Sherman Antitrust Act would provide for thorough discovery to break down exactly what the NCAA receives on everything from video clips to jerseys, contract by contract. The recommendation was based on the worthy truism that sunlight is a proven disinfectant. Conferences, coaches, and other stakeholders resisted disclosure; college players still have no way of determining their value to the university.

“And we want to know what they’re carrying on their books as the value of their archival footage,” he concluded. “Money surrounds college sports,” says Domonique Foxworth, who is a cornerback for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and an executive-committee member for the NFL Players Association, and played for the University of Maryland.

“And every player knows those millions are floating around only because of the 18-to-22-year-olds.” Yes, he told me, even the second-string punter believes a miracle might lift him into the NFL, and why not?

In all the many pages of the three voluminous Knight Commission reports, there is but one paragraph that addresses the real-life choices for college athletes.

Hausfeld LLP has offices in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and London. He spoke softly, without pause, condensing the complex fugue of antitrust litigation into simple sentences. So they had a right that they gave up in consideration to the principle of amateurism, if there be such.” (At an April hearing in a U. District Court in California, Gregory Curtner, a representative for the NCAA, stunned O’Bannon’s lawyers by saying: “There is no document, there is no substance, that the NCAA ever takes from the student-athletes their rights of publicity or their rights of likeness.

“Let’s start with the basic question,” he said, noting that the NCAA claims that student-athletes have no property rights in their own athletic accomplishments. They are at all times owned by the student-athlete.” Jon King says this is “like telling someone they have the winning lottery ticket, but by the way, it can only be cashed in on Mars.” The court denied for a second time an NCAA motion to dismiss the O’Bannon complaint.) The waiver clause is nestled among the paragraphs of the “Student-Athlete Statement” that NCAA rules require be collected yearly from every college athlete. Nobody can assert rights like that.” He said the pattern demonstrated clear abuse by the collective power of the schools and all their conferences under the NCAA umbrella—“a most effective cartel.” The faux ideal of amateurism is “the elephant in the room,” Hausfeld said, sending for a book.

Hausfeld read to me from page 390: The college player cannot sell his own feet (the coach does that) nor can he sell his own name (the college will do that).

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