OK…a quick divergence from Pirate football for a moment to discuss something that I hope doesn’t ultimately turn me off of my beloved ECU program.
I have always been pretty vocal about the need for some sort of stipend for college athletes. The current system is such a crock that I get the point when people say that college football players should be paid. The massive revenues generated to watch them play are case enough that they should get a cut. But, to pay them cuts right to a conundrum of college sports in general.
Yes, we all know that college sports is big business and that all “amateurism” means is that players get a college degree in exchange for everyone else making bank. Coaches, administrators, entire departments depend on the players for their livelihoods. And, the “free college education” isn’t even guaranteed…so, an injury or a coaching change and wham! you could find yourself outside looking in. The current system really is unfair to the athletes, but…
Then, you have a multi-millionaire head coaches like Steve Spurrier, a former player who has done nothing but profit from his collegiate career, standing on the soap box talking about paying players. The old ball coach says that all the SEC coaches are down for paying their players. Not that they were ever against paying players…wink-wink…the SEC and paying players are kind of synonymous, no? Ahhhh…legally paying them…I get it now.
What I find humorous about the guys like Spurrier, quick to talk about the inequities for the players (and I give him credit, he is willing to pay for it out of his own huge pile of dough), is that they avoid the real point which is amateurism versus professionalism. I thought professional football already existed in the form of the NFL , CFL and Arena leagues…right?
So perhaps, what Spurrier and others should be saying is, “colleges should rethink the link between academics and sports.” Perhaps he should advocate a minor league football system wherein he can still make a million dollars a year and coach the Columbia-area Gamecocks who are not affiliated with the University of South Carolina, but with the Atlanta Falcons instead. That way, Spurrier can make his millions, he can field a championship team (above the table now) and the fans wouldn’t have to rationalize all the inequities that currently allow certain teams exponential advantages over the others. Everyone wins. Except for the run-of-the-mill college football fan.
The whole POINT of college-based athletics was colleges attracted students to school who then played proudly for their school’s honor against other like institutions. Sure, the schools should try to attract the best academically-qualified players to come to their school, but academically qualified athletes has nearly become an oxymoron on many of the big campuses (see UNC for more on that). Back then, bragging was legitimate because it wasn’t completely rigged. But, now, doesn’t even remotely resemble the past. Why stop with cash, how about every football player having a car issued – perhaps a Yukon. Wait, why stop there…how about having each player also receive a private tutor…wait, why have them attend class at all? Why not hire them like other employees of the school? Why limit their careers to just 5 years to play 4? Just extend the contract. Why bind them to any one college? Let them bounce to the highest payer…ala Cam Newton. In fact, since they are being paid, perhaps they can play a season or two in the NFL and if they don’t care for it, come back to a college. Or better yet, why not sign a top NFL back up to come back to college to play again. But wait, even more, how about endorsement deals for all athletes and let’s also add trading players. Why let a player transfer out when you can trade him…get value. Maybe if Spurrier has an extra QB (probably does for all the oversigning he does), he could just trade him to say Alabama for a running back? That way, you don’t even have to give out a one-year renewable scholarship to anyone.
Implement these changes and these hallowed halls of academic prowess wouldn’t have to trash their own academic reputations to compete in football. Does this sound reasonable to anyone out there? Steve? Does it still sound reasonable taken to the limits of “fairness” to the athletes.
It gets ridiculous and it gets all too close to professional football. So, like Nike says, Just do it! You see where college basketball is now, that is college football if coaches and administrators continue to move things in the direction they are. Probably too late with the BCS wielding unchecked power. Is it too late?
Well, take this evidence. At Catholic football mill St. Ignatius in Cleveland, OH, a.sophomore was offered a scholarship from Ohio State University. Does OSU really need to offer a 15 year-old a scholarship before he even has a played a down on a high school varsity team? It is the way it is going. With contact rules about to soften if not go away completely, the savvy schools will start peppering kids from high school down to Pop Warner. What better way to dissuade a teen from putting forth academic efforts in high school than by offering a scholarship to them where they know that academic performance is just a no-show class away. Where they can be paid (will that be bi-weekly or monthly? 9 months or 12 months a year?). Why make high school graduation even matter?
The bastardizing of college football is making the game less appealing, at least to me. But now, it is starting to infest the high school level and soon it will hit the Pop Warner level, I suppose. One can only hope that the corrupt and dysfunctional NCAA makes a desperate play for relevance by enforcing the rulebook without bias, that the government steps in and puts an end to the anti-trust violations of the BCS (where we are talking about real, significant amounts of money and tax-exempt entitities), and university presidents rethink their missions in a way that doesn’t compromise the very point of higher learning.
I really hope this mindset does not permeate the family-atmosphere, chip-on-the-shoulder, do-more-with-less spirit at ECU…I really do. I would take happily take 8-4 with the occasional upset every year than to when 12 every year having sold my soul to win-at-all-costs-and-justify-the-behavior-culture.