Why the Cavinder twins terrify the NCAA
The delicate phrasing in that New York Times article is legitimately hilarious.
There has long been a battle over the idea of what women's sports should be. A leftist version of men's (open) games? An exhibition of athletic women's sexuality (see: Sepp Blatter)? Taken SuperSeriously, holding your nose and Loving It and acting incredulous when your friends tell you the empress has no game?
But what's forbidden from this battlefield is any discussion of their commercial viability.
Women's sports share something with the Paralympics - they are special divisions created and protected for a sector of the population that would never be able to compete in the open game. They are, in essence, charities. Not profitable, not widely watched, at best a LARPing exercise in a padded room in a padded world.
But charities, especially when they're stuck in old ways and old practices, tend to overbearingly offer help to those who'd rather not be bothered.
I see these incidents as the equivalent of Goodwill waking up to the fact that they were selling designer clothing along with the Tweety Bird shirts and grimy flip-flops. Or, perhaps more concisely, the Gucci bags and Prada clutches putting themselves into the showcase window when the humans are away.
Kinda makes you wonder if the use of plus-size and adjacent women models is actually hurting business or not. Seems like women are bombarded with marketing that tries so hard to reinforce “body positivity” in a manner that’s almost completely absent with marketing towards men.
We love elite athletes because of they take good care of themselves. It’s supposed to be aspirational!
I wonder when someone will be the first NCAA athlete to have an OnlyFans.
I don't see why any of this is an issue. So hot girls make the most money – big deal! The point is that EVERYONE is allowed to make money, based on what they command in the marketplace. And that benefits the athletes and the sports they play.
The observation is an interesting one, and I can see why the NCAA might be queasy about where things are going, but they're also the organization that has prevented these athletes from earning money for far too long. This is a net positive, plain and simple.
Man that is a super interesting topic. I typically come down on the side of accepting market forces and anti-woke. But this one is awkward.
I don't think it's wrong that these ladies are getting paid. Good for them. But I do think it might be bad. For the NCAA, for women's sports. Maybe. I don't know. There are some men's athletes whose fame outweighs their performance, but nowhere near this degree. It's close to uncharted waters.
Sports has always been about being good (or exciting like dunking). Less so about being attractive (to this extent). I'm not sure how to articulate it yet, but this feels off and like it might lead to worse things.
Also I really appreciated your tangent on how if you make a major change, you might get some outcomes you don't anticipate. This is basic common sense but almost nobody acknowledges it
I can't believe I never conceived this happening when NIL came about. I feel so old.
What would your journalism profs at Cal say about the phrase "pretty inarguable?" ;)
Enjoyed the article. I'm way past tik tok age and I'd have to be literally be paid to watch, say, Miami women's college basketball, so I'm no expert, but I actually think in 5 years or so things will start to go more back to how they were before NIL rather than blowing up the whole NCAA. Right now it's so new. I just think in a few years things will settle down when companies/boosters at school/whoever start to see that only a few star athletes really matter and the money will dry up.
I wouldn’t want to be Charlie Baker right now.
The mini-controversy around the Times story on this was so funny because what’s stated in the article was just obviously true. It’s easy to join a Twitter pile-on for most people than to admit what’s obvious-- this is extremely uncomfortable.
Also, telling a legendary coach to shut their mouth is a perfect indication Ms. Dunne is an immature person and/or knows she is bigger than Vanderveer. The NCAA sure hopes it’s the former. That they can deal with.
Great article, Ethan. I still haven't made up my mind on the defanging of the NCAA, NIL, conference realignment, etc. On the one hand, the NCAA was a terrible organization that clearly played favorites (see Tarkanian's amazing quote about Kentucky and Cleveland State) and athletes should have been able to make money off of NIL as everyone understood it to be before it was legalized (athletes making money from local companies to appear in commercials, sign autographs, make money off of jersey sales, etc.). And that fits in exactly with my political opinions. In TV and movies I'll always root against the Noble Lie.
But on the other hand, weren't college sports just better when conferences were only regional and had a manageable number of teams; when, however not good at its job as it was, there was some sort of rule enforcement agency to attempt to ensure there was a level playing field, where money wasn't as huge of a factor in winning as much as your ability to hire the right coach for your program (not that money is an end-all-be-all now [see Texas] but it seems like it quickly will be based on conferences only caring about TV revenue); when you could get excited about a freshman class and watch them develop over years into group that will challenge for a conference title, instead of basically every off-season turning into free agency and teams becoming entirely new every year?
Did it again dude, amazing article and insights!
This is reminding me of these awards in my state that are meant to highlight the HS athletes who are exceptional teammates provided by a big national bank. Give some scholarship money to the kids who maybe aren’t quite at the very top of their sport.
Except you cannot help but notice when looking at the awardees that ~85% of them look like models. Somehow the best teammates in the state all happen to be top 1% in attractiveness. What a coincidence.
Solid piece. The NCAA's reaction seems misguided at best. The Kournikova frenzy died down. The female golfers that sell their sexuality have followings, but the frenzy died down. NIL is new, but the frenzy over college women selling their sexuality will die down. There's infinite content for horny bros in this world, and as time passes this will all normalize to where people who follow sports will be most interested by the successful athletes, particularly those with compelling stories apart from their looks.
One quibble: Ethan, you're a great journalist. It would have taken you 5 minutes of calling colleagues or even just google searches to get the pronunciation of "Bueckers" (BEH-ckers) and "Cavinder" (CA-vin-der) correct. It made the audio version of the article a little less of an enjoyable listen.
Best post in a while. Light years ahead of the hockey one.
Great topic, great angle, great writeup.
I looked at the Dunne TikTok clip, then found a pic of VanDerveer. omg.