Weekend Updates

1) Neil deMause has the goods on how it is that the Knicks, apparently due to an erroneously crafted piece of legislation back in 1982, don’t pay property taxes on Madison Square Garden. The estimated tax break from this year alone could run to $44 million. That’s a nice chunk of change, even if you’re already rich.

A couple of noteworthy nuggets from deMause’s piece:

– In Canada, teams using publicly owned facilities for private gain still have to pay property taxes. In the US of A, public ownership of buildings is a nice technique for dodging the tax man. DeMause notes that neither the Yankees nor the Mets pay property taxes, because the city owns both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

Nice work if you can get it.

– The stipulation in the legislation exempting the Knicks from paying property taxes on Madison Square Garden is that they must continue to “play their home games” there.

DeMause believes he’s found a potential opening that could force the Knicks to start paying up:

There’s nothing in the law, though, that defines what “play” means. Can these Knicks, in a legally binding sense, be said to be “playing basketball”? Are they, in fact, a professional basketball franchise, or could it be argued that the actual Knicks have departed already, and what remains is a mere pretense in Knicks uniforms?

Nah, it probably couldn’t work. Though dear lord, just look at them. No jury in the land would call that basketball.

Zing!

2) Matt Hayes, on another embarrassing NCAA episode. In December, the NCAA hired former West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck (Andrew’s father), to be it’s second command, and at the helm of its enforcement. This past week, West Virginia was placed on probation by the NCAA for violations in 14 of its sports. Yes, the same institution that its new top official for enforcement was in charge of when all the violations occurred.

This absurd chain of events prompts Hayes to come to the eminently reasonable conclusion that “[t]he NCAA is the worst organization in the history of sports.”

OK, so Hayes forgot about FIFA.

But still.

3) Interesting article in the LA Times by Zach Helfand about what Sports Illustrated has described as the “worst contract in America” – the National Letter of Intent by which college athletes commit to colleges. Once a player signs a NLI, if he or she decides to leave, the decision may cost the athlete a year of eligibility. The NLI commits the school to the player, sure, but only for one year. And as Helfand documents, players get lied to, a lot, in the run-up to national signing day. For example, Roquan Smith, a highly touted linebacker, was deciding this year between UCLA and Georgia. He’d settled on the former, until rumors began swirling that UCLA’s defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who’d recruited Smith, might soon be jumping to the NFL. As a result, even though Smith had previously announced he was going to UCLA – because Ulbrich had promised Smith he wasn’t leaving –  when National Signing Day rolled around at the beginning of February, he did not send in his letter of intent. Four days later, Ulbrich signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

So Smith bolted for Georgia.

Mike Weber, a prized high school running back, wasn’t quite so lucky, or savvy. He decided to choose Ohio State over Michigan. The day after he signed his letter, Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton – a key draw for Weber – left for the NFL and the Chicago Bears. Weber, because he signed the NLI, is stuck.

I know, I know. It’s education-first when it comes to the NCAA.

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