Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 32 - PAY THE KIDS!!!!

This past Wednesday night HBO aired a special regarding the state of college football. This program (I think) was intended to publicize the question of “Should college athletes be paid for their services?” After airing the interviews with the 4 former Auburn players, I believe the original intent of the program was derailed and rightfully so. The allegations made by the 4 former players further fueled what the majority of the college football world was already accusing Au of being involved in. It gave credence to the 100’s of message board posts, blog posts and media reports alluding to a long list of improprieties concerning Au’s athletic department. This entry will touch on a few thoughts regarding Au’s troubles, but the main focus will be on the problems surrounding the kids that really bring home the money for their respective schools.

Auburn Head Coach, Gene Chizic, made a statement calling the HBO special “one sided “and “pure garbage.” HBO promptly retaliated with (paraphrased) “We made numerous attempts to allow Au to give their side of the story. They declined.”  You would think that the Au Sports Information Department would at least give their football coach a “heads-up” that they were not commenting on the allegations. With the PR disaster that was already barreling full bore down South Donahue Drive, this is simply another layer of concrete behind the brick wall crossing the road. Come on guys, if you’re going to try to spin these things at least work together on it. What’s interesting here is that numerous reports have said that Au has sought “outside council” in the matter. If it’s all pure garbage…. If there is no investigation ongoing (as sooooo many of the Au faithful claim)…. If they really are an open book… Why would they garner any legal services at this juncture? I think that standard operating procedure at this point would be to notify the NCAA that the institution is launching an internal investigation and will apprise the NCAA of that investigation’s findings when concluded. LSU was accused of a booster being involved in the HBO program and they did just that. What’s the point of the 3rd party council? This is purely a guess as I have not investigated who the 3rd party council is, but I bet a hand shined nickel that the firm is also representing someone involved in the Colonial Bank trials, the Bingogate trials or the Cam Newton scandal. I wouldn’t be surprised if this legal firm is not involved in all three scenarios.

As I said in a previous entry, what the former players had to say screams for attention from the NCAA. I suspect that attention was already being given, but now the NCAA will have to be a bit more public about it all. Already, there have been statements swirling around that they want to talk to the players. I’m sure it was for legal reasons that HBO did not air the name of the coach known now as “the Mailman”, but I have no doubt that the name was given to HBO by the former Au players. If that’s the case, you can bet your bottom dollar that the NCAA will be talking to him. Garnered from doing a little bit of internet sleuthing, I have determined that “the Mailman” is still coaching football, but not at Au. If I am correct in whom I think “the Mailman” is, he might sing and sing loud. If I’m correct, his departure from the plains was not all sweet and rosy. Add to that the assumption that his career in athletics may very well be on the line and you have the recipe for more rebar to be added to my aforementioned wall.

On to the kids… In all honesty, (with the exception of the Au player that was being given “mail” by the coach) the $100.00 handshakes is something that Au Coaches (or any other coaching staff for that matter) cannot control. If I wanted to go give a player that I didn’t know a C-note or two, I could do it and nobody would be the wiser of it. Even the player wouldn’t have a clue as to who I was. This type of thing happens and happens everywhere. While I think it is a stupid thing for any fan of any school to do, I just don’t see any way that could be policed. The fact that a coach was involved in the AU allegations is what will be more bad news for them.

I have seen many different reasons to pay or not to pay college athletes. Let’s look at a few of the better arguments out there. If forced to take a stance on this, I am going to fall into the “PAY THE KIDS” crowd, but I do understand the proponents of the other side. 

1.)  DON’T PAY THEM – The main reason we hear that kids should not be paid is that they are there for an education. They get a free ride to school, they get free meals and they get free housing. In many people’s eyes that should be enough. I disagree for a number of reasons and I’ll expand on a few of them. It is correct that the kids are there to get an education, but that is not the reality of the situation. College athletics is big money and these kids are expected to produce at a certain level to maintain their scholarships. If that is the case, how can you fault a kid for spending more time than he should on the athletic side of things? At that point in their young lives, that scholarship is their ticket, their livelihood. It doesn’t matter if that is right or wrong, it is what it is. Furthermore, these kids cannot work the normal part-time jobs that most college students can work. Their schedules do not allow for it and even if they did, the coaches would expect them to be doing something related to their sport instead of working.

Another reason for not paying them is that lower level athletic programs and the athletic programs of smaller schools often operate in the red. How much money are you going to pay the kids at Alabama that are on the Under Water Basket Weaving team or the Cross Country Wrestling team? Does the catcher on the Girls’ Softball team get the same money as the star quarterback? Where does this money come from and what about the schools that are already operating in the red?

2.)  PAY THEM - If you take into consideration the Tyrone Prothro segment of the HBO special and his obvious surprise at the $125 million that Bama made while he was the star of the football team, you have to think, “How can this be fair?” Given what ended up happening to Prothro, you would think that he could get something….anything… to help him out down the road. Sure Prothro’s example is little different, but I think it should extend to the kid that is the O-lineman on the scout team as well.

Let’s looks at some of the numbers in a very loose fashion and see if it is even plausible to pay that kid from the cross country wrestling team? I called the University of Alabama and was given a number of roughly, on average, 600 student athletes on campus at any given time. This includes men and women, scholarship athletes and walk-ons. The University of Idaho has roughly 400 student athletes. Alabama being a larger school, Idaho being a smaller one I’ll just use 500 as the number on average.

If we paid each of the 500 kids $1200.00 per month in addition to their existing scholarship benefits, that would bring the total yearly expense (or payroll) to roughly $7.2 million for the entire athletic program. Of course there is a lot more to this than just these numbers, but there is also a lot more to the figure HBO spouted off of $125 million during Prothro’s career. There are tons and tons of dollars that are generated by everything from hat sales, to speaking engagements to media rights that Alabama makes money off of. In short, $7.2 million is a drop in the bucket. Alabama could pay their kids and all of the kid’s at Vandy too. Florida could pay all of their kids and the kids at Ole Miss too. And so on and so on. The cash cow schools could easily aid the other schools in their conference in this regard. Heck they already have the system partially set up with the bowl sharing that is distributed via the SEC. So, I think it could be done. Furthermore, I contend that Bowl’s themselves should be forced to contribute to the payroll account of the schools that are playing in their bowl. I see no reason for the big wig at the Fiesta Bowl to make $650K a year. Cut his pay, and donate it to the kitty. Overall, we are talking millions and millions of dollars being made off of these kids and they do not get a dime of that money.

We have established that these kids can’t work and can’t get paid, but the Universities are allowed to use their likeness, their media footage and anything else they can squeeze a dime out of. It just isn’t right. Especially when you look at someone like Tyrone Prothro who literally left everything he had on the field at Bryant Denny Stadium. We have also now established that paying every kid in college athletics is also feasible. Let’s take it a step further now.

I think this scenario should also be looked at. I’m going to use Julio Jones as he was a big time recruit coming out of high school and is obviously going to go early in the NFL draft. Another reason to use Julio is he came out of college early. Why? Simple, MONEY! We can’t expect Julio to stay and risk being injured and losing his shot at all of those dollars. So, Julio foregoes his senior year and his diploma in hopes of cashing in at the 1st bank of the NFL. I would too if I were in his shoes, but I digress. What if when Julio went through the pre-eligibility process when coming to Alabama and at the point where he signed on for his aforementioned $1200.00 per month he had an option. He knew when he came out of high school that he had the tools to make something off of his talents. He just wasn’t allowed to put them into play because of the NCAA restrictions. What if Julio had been given the opportunity to forego his $1200.00 per month and (with the blessing of the NCAA) take his chance with an agent to handle all of the marketing of his persona? It would be Julio’s gamble that he could pick the right guy and make money off of it, but at least he would have had some say in all of it. Makes too much sense doesn’t it? That’s probably exactly why it will never happen.

Big money means big corruption and college athletics is up to its neck in both. Something is going to have to be done sooner rather than later otherwise the problem is only going to worsen. There are other viable solutions out there as well and I may hit on those in some upcoming posts. In a world of $5 million dollar coaches, million dollar assistants, million dollar bowl representatives we can afford to .... PAY THE KIDS!


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