Tom Izzo being 'baffled' by politicians 'getting involved' is high comedy
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Tom Izzo, Michigan State Spartans

Tom Izzo being ‘baffled’ by politicians ‘getting involved’ is high comedy

Tickle no one shocked and fail to paint them fancy over the idea of Michigan State Spartans coach Tom Izzo claiming ignorance and confusion while talking about potential name, image and likeness rights being granted to student-athletes.

At Big Ten Media Day, Izzo was naturally asked about the concept. In response, he began with the usual anti-player rights tropes that hover around politicians getting involved with college sports, then pivoted to not wanting to comment on it because he’s confused.

This situation, you know, it’s weird to be giving an opinion, then say you won’t because you’re not educated enough to.

“The only thing that I would say on it, I sure as hell don’t think it’s a politician’s job to get involved in this,” Tom Izzo said via 247Sports. “I’m baffled by that a little bit.”

It’s certainly worth pointing out that Izzo, nor most of his colleagues, were against politicians stepping in when it almost cost them money.

In 1989, the NCAA established a Cost Reduction Committee, whose “Restricted Earnings Coach Rule” (NCAA Bylaw 11.02.3), adopted in 1991, was opposed by college coaches. The National Association of Basketball Coaches took them to court using laws passed by politicians and won damages, ending the NCAA rule.

In fact, it goes beyond winning by way of capitalism and politicians. The NCAA was ordered to pay damages of $11.2 million to basketball coaches, $1.6 million to baseball coaches and $9.5 million to coaches in other sports.

Hooray capitalism for everyone… but the labor?

Unlike his claim he was done with the subject, it was not the only thing he had to say about it.

“I just don’t know what the effects are going to be,” Tom Izzo began again. “And so I’m wide open on it, like I’ve been other things. I don’t think I’m giving a politician’s answer. I’ve learned over the last few years that it’s hard to comment on things that you don’t know a lot about, and I don’t know. All this stuff gets thrown at you. I don’t know what it’ll be like to be on a team if some guy is doing this and some guy is getting nothing. I don’t know what that does to the chemistry. I don’t know how many people it’s really going to benefit or to what level it’s going to benefit anybody.

“So I wish I could get more information, but if I said one thing that I think we should do, I think we’ve got to get in front of this a little bit more. I think sometimes we’re a little bit reactive — meaning schools, NCAA, whatever — and I think sooner or later, we’ve got to get a little more proactive.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom, at least according to his own recollections of events, claims he reached out to the NCAA multiple times ahead of signing SB 206, mostly in the hopes he could work alongside the governing body of college sports. In turn, he alleges the NCAA dragged its feet.

“They talked about how they wanted to voluntarily engage us,” Newsom recently said in regards to interactions with NCAA president Mark Emmert. “Well, they slow-rolled us. And, with respect, they consistently play around the edges of reform. Now, they can’t do that. I think, ultimately, this is going to force their hand. I think invariably, they’re going to have (to) make some significant concessions to the status quo … and while the threat of litigation may overhang, I think reforms are going to be forthcoming despite how stubborn the next year or two may be.”

To put it bluntly: The NCAA, as well as those operating within the umbrella organization’s purview, had a chance to work alongside legislators on the start of NIL reform. Instead, it’s currently hiding behind its working group revealing its findings at the end of October before doing anything other than presenting doomsday scenarios by way of Dear Mr. Governor letters.

However, while this isn’t on Izzo specifically, the governing body attempted to impede evolution at every turn. It’s a bit too late to cry about a different, non-NCAA party — here being the politicians — not waiting on you to keep up.

Tom Izzo is correct to be worried about possible indirect consequences or not having enough information to make an educated comment. With that being the case, he probably shouldn’t have made such an elaborate one.

It’s telling.

Joseph Nardone has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

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