You may have heard that members of the Iowa basketball team took a March Madness rug out of their locker room at Nationwide Arena in Columbus after the Hawkeyes played there in the NCAA tournament a few weeks ago.
This all came to light when the Wall Street Journal published a story about how several teams were doing this and how the NCAA frowned on the practice. A few players, including Purdue’s Ryan Cline, were stopped by security guards when they tried to walk out with rugs in hand.
After all, the NCAA only makes billions upon billions of dollars off this basketball tournament. (The Big Ten alone will get a $35 million piece of this year's pie.)
Those rugs probably cost $50 or so. What would this do to the budget if all 68 teams were allowed to take one? They’ve got to put a stop to this sort of thing, right?
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, who has a free spirit, a sharp mind and a crisp wit, decided to have a little fun with the situation. He wrote on Twitter: "Give us the ability to make money off our own name and we’ll give you your rug back. You have 24 hours."
The tweet went viral. To date, it has gotten more than 14,300 likes, about 3,300 retweets and close to 200 replies.
The NCAA didn’t see the humor. It contacted Iowa, and Iowa contacted Bohannon.
Within hours after being called on the carpet — yes, that’s a pun — Bohannon followed up with a meeker tweet that may or may not have been dictated to him by university officials.
"After much deliberation, the @NCAA has agreed with the @uiowa the rug can stay in Iowa City as long as I issue a mea culpa," Bohannon wrote. "With that, I am sorry for my actions. No one is denying the incredible opportunities the NCAA provides for athletes like myself. I am forever grateful."
I doubt if NCAA officials detected any sarcasm in that second tweet. I did.
I don’t think the Washington Post recognized it either. It published a story saying Bohannon "apologized."
Bohannon doesn’t even have the rug himself. It reportedly resides in the apartment of a certain senior team captain from Bettendorf who shall remain nameless and, hopefully, shameless.
Taking a rug or a few towels — Bohannon has some of those, too — from the locker room is the least the NCAA can allow for kids who devote unbelievable amounts of time and effort so their national sanctioning organization, their conferences and their universities can make billions off them.
None of this is surprising coming from the NCAA, by the way. This is an organization that won’t allow journalists to have drinks at their courtside seats at tournament games unless they are in NCAA-sanctioned paper cups.
When Bohannon appeared at the news conference following Iowa’s victory over Cincinnati, he was forced to hand over a bag of Goldfish he had been eating (it’s not an NCAA sponsor) and have his drink poured into an NCAA cup.
The organization’s focus for too long has been on corporate correctness while it ignores the rights of the athletes that are at the core of its money machine.
This started out as a fairly insignificant incident, but it has been chronicled — very seriously — by many of the highest profile news organizations in the country.
In that respect, Bohannon perhaps unwittingly did something fairly significant. He got people talking about this, put a spotlight on an issue that needs to be discussed at length and addressed sometime soon.
It has been swept under a much bigger rug for much too long.