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A Grip on Sports: Reaction to Mark Few’s comments about new California law fit within today’s narratives

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few is all for student-athletes receiving compensation when their images are used, but he wants it to happen with a plan in place to regulate it. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few is all for student-athletes receiving compensation when their images are used, but he wants it to happen with a plan in place to regulate it. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Is there anything these days that can’t be spun in such a way to make a public figure look bad, if that’s your goal? The answer to that question is a resounding no, as we found again yesterday.


• Mark Few is a public figure. His success at Gonzaga has ensured that. So when Few speaks, his words carry weight.

Recently he spoke with Jeff Goodman, a former ESPN and CBS personality who now works for Stadium Sports. The interview, a video of which is available here, touched on the newest third-rail in college athletics, the image-and-likeness issue.

Should athletes be allowed to profit on theirs?

Few believes so. Has for a long time. (That’s something I can attest to thanks to personal conversations we’ve had over the past few years.) And he thinks the NCAA should move toward that goal.

It’s that last sentence that’s the crux of his problems this morning.

Few believes the organization can fix this. People just need to let the committee, which the NCAA formed recently, do its job and a solution will be found. As he told Goodman, there’s “a great group of people working on that.”

All well and good, though one can rightfully argue the NCAA has a tendency to use a sword to fix problems more in need of a scalpel (see the Rice Commission’s answers to the shoe-company scandal).

It is an NCAA issue and the organization, made up of its member schools, should be allowed to make it right.

That’s the tack Few, and Mike Leach before him, take, though both probably could have stated their cases in a more concise manner.

And both conveniently ignored a couple key points when expressing their disdain for California politicians getting involved.

– Grandstanding, as Few called Gov. Gavin Newsom’s actions around his signing of the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” is what politicians do. It’s liking trying to get a cat not to clean itself. They can’t help it.

Though California’s NCAA bill may impact .00001 percent of Newsom’s constituents, as Few rightly pointed out, it does earns him a lot more face-time than, say, cleaning up dirty streets. Besides, would LeBron James join Newsom in a presser to help improve the garbage pickup in Whittier?

The answer to that is obvious. It’s also obvious why this issue has attracted politicians.

– The NCAA has had many, many years to figure this problem out. The organization dragged its feet for a while, then dug them in despite court decisions against it. It really didn’t begin moving toward a solution until forced to by public opinion. It’s the same public opinion to which politicians are responding. 

“Yeah. I would have been all for (athlete’s ability to make money off their image and likeness) and I am all for it, but I’m not all for grandstanding politicians entering in or media members pulling low-hanging fruit off,” Few told Goodman.

Problem is, the NCAA wouldn’t have moved forward, or at least move forward with anything resembling speed, if politicians and the media weren’t involved.

The funny part of this most recent tea-cup tempest is, at his core, Few believes players deserve to be able to profit off their image and likeness. He mentioned to Goodman how much money Rui Hachimura would have made last year if it had been possible. Left unsaid, but probably true, is Gonzaga basketball players would be in high demand among Spokane-area businesses if the NCAA ever moves toward anything akin to the “Fair Pay to Play Act.” Former Zags still have a marketability, so why wouldn’t the current ones? Such a form of community involvement should help Few’s future recruiting immensely.

It’s too bad the basic aspect of his message, that this is a change the NCAA needs to make (and will eventually), will be lost in the flotsam of his comments about Newsom, homelessness, immigration and the state’s budget. Oh, and the “probably stay in his lane” sound bites.


WSU: Leach again stated yesterday he’s at a loss to figure out why defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys’ resigned midseason. Then he went on to say the defense “had too much strategy” among other critiques. Theo Lawson looks at those comments and a lot of others in this story. … Theo also examines the changes on the defensive depth chart and took his first look at Arizona State. … The Homecoming game against Colorado will start in the late afternoon a week from Saturday. … The defensive changes were also covered in the Times. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the conference continues to show its parity. … Jon Wilner also continues his look at Larry Scott’s tenure. … Can Washington rally down the stretch with players out and its main goal gone? … Oregon looks to feast on Colorado and its poor pass defense. … Oregon State’s offense has been on fire but this week face a Utah defense that is on a roll. … After a bye, what can USC do differently to ensure Clay Helton’s future? … UCLA heard some boos last Saturday. … Arizona State is down a kicker. … Some young players have really helped Arizona. … Oregon is the choice to win the conference’s women’s basketball race one again. The Ducks have the best player after all. … What does the Pac-12’s future hold?

Gonzaga: The women’s basketball team has a step up after its European trip this summer, but is still looking for a leader. That’s all part of this Jim Allen story. … Jim Meehan spoke with Larry Weir for the latest Press Box pod. … Around the WCC, BYU’s women are trying to adjust to the loss of their leading scorer.

EWU: It’s been a rough start to the season for the Eagles. But it can be turned around with just one upset in a few weeks. That is, if Eastern takes care of business in the games it should be favored. That and more is in Ryan Collingwood’s EWU notebook.

Seahawks: The Browns were wiped out by San Francisco last night. Can the Hawks do the same? It may be up to their pass rush. … Tyler Lockett is not only a receiver. He’s a poet. … Pete Carroll was positive in his press conference yesterday. Imagine that. … DK Metcalf did a nice thing for his mother.


• One column yesterday connected Few to Donald Trump, which seems a bit of a stretch. And completely typical of the times we live in. Over my 63 years (yes, that’s a new number; today is my birthday), I thought I’ve seen it all. The past couple years have once again showed me that’s never possible. Until later …

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