Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back to $chool

Here’s all you really need to know about how money drives everything in college sports:

Alabama football coach Nick Saban gets paid $4,000,000 per year. The average yearly salary for a professor at Alabama is $116,000.

Alabama won the National Championship last season. It is estimated that a home game in Tuscaloosa brings in over 21 million dollars to the university.

That’s PER GAME.

Just sayin'.

Nick Saban received a bonus of $200,000 for beating Texas in the title game. And what did the hard working young men who played for Nick Saban get?

A nice ring and a chance to study for free.

I’m sure got some swag, maybe a nice Rose Bowl sweat suit and some gym shoes.

But that’s about it. Or is it?

A few weeks ago Nick Saban referred to sports agents as “pimps” amid allegations that several Division I players, including former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, took money (in Bush’s case over $250,000) from agents while in school.

Imagine that.

The system is screwy. The NFL and universities have done a fine job fostering a “farm system” for the pros to develop players, so-called “student athletes.”

Think about that. How much does it cost for an employer to hire and train a new employee? For the NFL, not much.

Basketball is no different. The NBA imposed a “one and done” rule requiring players to play somewhere until the minimum age of 19, effectively letting colleges train them for a year, at no cost, with the idea that kids would benefit from “the college experience.”

Hooey. This is America, right? If someone told me when I was 19 “drop out now and we will pay you millions” do you think I would even consider another year of Mac and Cheese and Old Style? Money can’t buy you love, but it makes livin’ a lot easier.

Modern college athletics has turned the concept of “student athletes” on its head. I’m talking revenue sports, not fencing or field hockey.

And yes, I know there are plenty of college athletes who go to class with no aspirations of making a living shooting a ball or knocking people over. For every jock studying ceramics or martinizing, you have one majoring in astrophysics or electrical engineering.

But let’s get real. The time commitment to play a major revenue sport is year-round, the pressure tremendous.

And there are some silly rules. Athletes are not allowed to work in season (presuming they could find the time). But they are allowed to get paid to play another sport. Drew Henson was a quarterback at Michigan while under contract with the New York Yankees for a cool 6 years/17 million dollars.

Agents are pervasive in amateur sports, and the temptation is real because the “free education” carrot is not enough for many athletes. When I was in school at Missouri I certainly saw a few fancy cars, but I also witnessed guys who waiting until Thanksgiving to go home and do their laundry. Many wore team issue clothes every day.

So here’s a modest proposal: How about taking a slice of that revenue and paying players a small stipend, say $50 - $100 per week? It wouldn’t get rid of agent “pimps,” but it might help level the playing field a bit.

Pay to play? Please.

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