GELFAND’S WORLD - August 2025. The E. Jean Carroll golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, previously the Trump National Golf Course, has announced it will open to the public at the end of the month. Carroll won a defamation suit against Donald Trump in 2023, and then, in response to Trump making remarks about her in a political speech, filed for additional damages. Carroll thereby upped her winnings to nearly double the original five-million-dollar verdict she had won originally.
There wouldn't have been much to the Carroll verdict story except that Trump, as was his usual habit, failed to pay the debt in a timely manner. His organization, now much weakened due to Trump being embroiled in numerous criminal charges, talked about filing appeals. But in a critical legal error, Trump did not protect his assets by winning a legal stay on the verdict.
Unlike some of Trump's former victims, Carroll was not only savvy, she had and continues to have competent legal advice. Thus, like many verdict winners in other places, she did an asset search and found that Trump actually had some equity in the golf course on the southern California coast.
And one morning, Carroll and her attorneys delivered the appropriate legal documents at the golf course and took possession of the property.
Local wags continue to make jokes about the course due to its troubled history, namely that the 18th hole once disappeared in a landslide when the course was under a different owner. At one time, the course had only 15 available holes to play, although after expensive repairs, it was able to offer the full 18.
For the moment, Carroll has no immediate plans to block current users from playing rounds of golf, but she is welcoming the public to visit the property and enjoy the seaside views and hiking trails. However, there is some speculation that at some point, she will end the property's function as a golf course and do something else with it.
In a press conference, she refused to make promises about any future intended use, but in response to questioning, she would not rule out turning the area either into a condominium development or possibly into a coastal nature preserve. The conversion to a public park was also raised by journalists, and was not ruled out by the new owner.
There are a number of questions that will need to be confronted by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, not the least being the renaming of streets. For example, the main coastal road intersects the street known as Trump National Drive. Since that street is at least partially situated on Carroll property, her wishes are likely to be taken seriously. On the other hand, leaving the street with its current name of Trump National Drive might be considered by many to be a continuing insult to the former owner, and could create a tourist attraction in its own right.
In a previous column, I wrote about the dissolution of the Pac 12 conference. Some attributed the chaotic reorganization of college football to the influence of television and television contracts, but there is apparently something more significant going on. As a few sports followers may remember, there has been a lot of legal tussling between the NCAA and state governments over athletes' rights. It all comes down to the right of the athlete to get paid for the use of his/her Name, Image, or Likeness," or NIL for short. In other words, can a college basketball star do a side deal with Nike and get paid for it?
You can read a comprehensive take on the whole subject in this Washington Monthly story. In brief, the NCAA lost in the Supreme Court over its ability to prohibit college athletes from being paid beyond the minimal scholarship. The California state government then passed a law which allows college athletes to get paid for such merchandising, and California was followed by other states. The NCAA has not continued to fight over the matter so far.
The problem, if you want to consider it a problem, is that athletic boosters at some of the big name programs have been using the NIL approach essentially to buy the service of athletes for their programs.
Aside: The original intent of opening up NIL to athletes was that a few of them would make their own deals with Nike and other big name companies. In the current system, the boosters are covering the costs of NIL funds on their own. In effect, the new system is a legalized version of what used to be considered the worst sin: Boosters have figured out that they can buy a whole football team if they want, as long as they have the money to do so.
There is one additional complication. In the old days, college athletes who wanted to transfer to another school would be ineligible to compete for a whole year. Only after sitting out that year (in the new school) would the athlete become eligible to compete. That is no longer the rule, so we are seeing lots of college football players transferring. Sometimes it is as simple as the desire of a second string quarterback to be a starter, which can be accomplished by transferring to a school that needs him. But the ability of the boosters to pay NIL funds to essentially anybody, without effective regulation, creates obvious complications, as first rate athletes can legally be paid to transfer, just as long as the payments are called something different.
To put it more bluntly, we seem to be entering an era in which college athletics in the revenue sports are now professional leagues in all but name.
And that brings us back to the dissolution of the Pac 12. Did this have anything to do with the increasing cost of maintaining a winning football team? Theoretically it shouldn't, because the colleges themselves would not be involved in covering NIL payments out of their own budgets. But the struggling over television revenues combined with the new system in which top grade athletes are paid at the level of low level professionals has obviously caught the attention of west coast coaches and university presidents. They had to consider that SEC alumni could pay just about any athlete at a level of $300,000 a year, and that the old days were now history. There is no going back. So the league that once dominated over the Big 10 in successive Rose Bowl games is now gone, and the Big 10 covers an area from New Jersey to California.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)