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(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Points for Product Placement: N.C.A.A. Cashes In, but Not the Players

Traevon Jackson using a ladder and scissors from N.C.A.A. sponsors as he cut down the net after Wisconsin advanced to the Final Four with an overtime victory against Arizona in Anaheim, Calif.

ARLINGTON, Tex. — The new champions of men’s college basketball, whoever they may be, will cut down a net here Monday night. And when they do, they will climb to the basket on a blue-and-yellow Werner ladder, and they will clip the cords with a pair of orange Fiskars scissors.

They will also probably wear Nike hats and T-shirts, and they might sip from Powerade cups as they cheer on their teammates.

In a tournament that has been packed with upsets and surprises, one of the few mainstays has been the prominence of the logos of corporate sponsors alongside the N.C.A.A.’s. In total, some 19 major partners and corporate supporters are listed in the official fan guide of the Final Four.

The rabid commercialization is hardly new to March Madness and the Final Four — and it is not uncommon in professional sports and at the Olympics. But the N.C.A.A.’s opponents are using it as fresh ammunition with the model for college athletics increasingly under siege.

The N.C.A.A. is facing lawsuits that seek to give players a bigger slice of the billions of dollars in revenue generated by men’s basketball and football. The athletic association is also facing a unionization movement, emboldened by a recent ruling that the Northwestern football team could...

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