If 24 "student-athletes" take a stand tonight, everything changes. For better or worse.
Imagine this scene.
It's 9:00pm Eastern time. 70,000 fans, mostly wearing Kentucky blue, have filled AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The bands are playing. The cheerleaders flipping. The media praying that their network connection functions properly for the next 150 minutes. Millions of televisions are tuned to CBS for the NCAA National Championship, Wildcats and Huskies.
Jim Nantz brings us in live to the traditional CBS Monday Night pregame coverage, Prelude to a Championship. However, rather than convey the excitement and the tension in the building on a cool, Texas evening, Nantz has a bombshell: the players came on the court for warmup, returned to the locker rooms after shootaround, and they are NOT returning until the NCAA institutes widespread change. Immediately.
Twitter melts down. The internet implodes. CBS phones light up across the country. The media, the same ones relying on that spotty service on press row, scrambles for every source imaginable, for the biggest story in college sports history is unfolding, in real time, before a worldwide audience. The NCAA has approximately 20 minutes to figure this out.
What happens now?
What can Mark Emmert concede before the first scheduled commercial break of the game? How much of that Buffalo Wild Wings advertising dollar would the NCAA be willing to split in order to avoid the public humiliation of their compensated-below-market-value labor pulling the organization's pants down on live television? How much of that vice grip on athlete freedom would the NCAA relinquish in order to escape North Texas with its dignity, if not its integrity and pride. The clock is ticking before the sponsors will be demanding their money back, money that has already been earmarked for private jets, luxury mansions, and 18 down at Augusta.
Nantz sends it up to Ernie Johnson and company, who are all abuzz at the shocking developments. After some quick takes from Kenny, Charles, and Clark Kellogg, we go down to Tracy Wolfson and Allie LaForce, who are working to get a scoop on the sidelines. John Calipari was not aware of any sort of boycott being prepared, while Kevin Ollie keeps it light, telling Allie, "College kids these days!," with a big smile on his face before returning to the locker room. Ernie sends us to commercial.
AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Buick, some of the NCAA's "corporate champions," have spots during this break. Perhaps the threat of a boycott has brought extra eyeballs to the screen in the last few minutes, so maybe a boycott actually HELPS the advertisers during these early breaks. But does the "corporate champion" tag given to them by the NCAA hurt them in the public's eyes, a public probably more likely to tune in to see the boycott takes a giant shot at the organization?
Johnson brings us back from the break, not awkwardly, because Ernie Johnson is a pro, but definitely not with a smooth segue into previewing the game and getting picks from his panel. Do we preview a game that might not happen? How much do we speculate about the boycott? There's clearly not a lot of information available right now. Greg Gumbel's crew courtside offers little more into the matter, but with some interesting takes from Grant Hill and Seth Davis. We go back to Nantz, who informs the nation that NCAA President Mark Emmert will be addressing the situation with a press conference somewhere inside AT&T Stadium in the next ten minutes. Will he make concessions now? Or is he standing his ground and refunding the gate and the advertising revenue for tonight? The clock is ticking. Three... two...one...
Unlike its football parallel played on a Monday Night in January, the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship is where the players could really hit the organization where it hurts. The National Championship is the marquee NCAA sanctioned event on the calendar each year - the BCS is outside of direct NCAA control. For an organization that bankrolls nearly all of its operations through a three week journey called March Madness, how ironic that it could all be brought down...
...with a buzzer beater at the Final Four.
Spoiler: You will get more takes from Mikey on the NWA U.S. Title scene from 1986 thru 1990 than you will on PAC-12 or Big Ten football.