Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has a book out, in which he proves that a guy who has a solid hold on back screens and flash-cuts does not necessarily have the same grasp of history.
He's compared the NCAA to the Soviet Union in its last days, which is valid only if you think building a billion-dollar enterprise on the backs of kids who are forbidden to partake in the money-grubbing is the same thing as using genocide and oppression to prop up a system of government that couldn't possibly work without it.
Nonetheless ... Calipari's right when he writes that the tottering of the NCAA monolith has begun. It is, clearly, collapsing beneath the weight of its own hypocrisies, even if UConn guard Shabazz Napier laid it on a little thick the other night when he talked about going to bed hungry.
Look, I wasn't getting my room and board largely subsidized in college, and I never went went to bed hungry. Domino's was only a phone call away.
But when Napier brings that up in the postgame, and when, up at Northwestern, you've got a bunch of kids who've decided to go looking for workplace protection because they're getting none from the entities allegedly charged with providing it, you've got a problem. And the problem is not solvable by adding another layer of dead trees to the already voluminous NCAA rulebook.
I'll stop short of saying just pay the kids, even though I don't think it would be as much of a Gordian knot as do some of the hand-wringers out there. All the talk about how you'd decide who got paid what, and how unfair it would be for the mid-major schools who don't have the budgets for competitive wages ... they're the same issues that confront the "professional" world. Yet no one uses that as an excuse not to pay people for their services in that world.
There is, after all, a concept known as a pay scale. And as to the disparity between the BCS schools and the mid-majors ... well, that's always been there, hasn't it? The bigger schools have bigger athletic budgets and therefore get the bigger players. It's still all about resources and money whether you pay the kids or not.
That said, the NCAA could head off its own demise if it would simply recognize something the various robber barons were forced to recognize back at the turn of the 20th century. Which is, you can't sustain a business if you don't have a workforce, and sooner or later your workforce is not going to be content with crumbs.
That cycle's repeating itself in America now, as the wage disparity between the working class and the leisure class continues to grow and the working class slowly comes to realize what it's lost as a result. The sudden restiveness of the NCAA's unpaid help is part of that dynamic.
The gladiators, it seems, are displeased. And if that's making Rome nervous, it's only because Rome is getting what's been coming to it.