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Cash is killing college game





 

 

With people at the cash register of American sports today, decisions are more often about “payfor play” than any consideration being given to educate the next generation.

Scenario. Athletics Director Tom Jurich takes out his checkbook — the one with University of Louisville printed across the top — and pays Russell Smith $1,614,733 for services rendered.

According to a Time magazine cover story dated September 16, the $1.67 million is the cut Smith is entitled to as an employee of the country’s top sports revenue producer last academic year. For 2011-12, UofL athletics generated $42,434,684.

This according to a study by Drexel University’s sports management department and something called National College Players Association. The drums beat louder and longer among sports media elite to “pay college athletes.” If, like me, you believe collegiate sports is still worth your time the prospect of openly paying athletes is horrible.

While Jurich is handing Russ Smith a check for a million-six dollars, the Drexel study says Mitch Barnhart, UK’s AD, ought be writing a check to freshman basketball player Julius Randle for $810,790. Randle is a projected one-and-done who’s only recently been issued a jersey number for his expected seven-month stay at Kentucky.

Consider this a warning. The NCAA is about to become obsolete. Bidding wars for athletes will become like autumn stud sales at Keeneland if we let it happen.

The Drexel study in Time calculates UK’s athletics department was fifth in revenue production for 2011-12. UK put $21,598,680 into the bank, according to Time.

Why is Randle due anything? Because he signed with Kentucky’s elite program. Calculation: His college choice was enough to fire up T-shirt sales, jerseys (No. 30) and placards with his photo and whatever else UK fans will pay for.

And this postscript: Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s value to Texas A&M University for media exposure and winning the Heisman Trophy last year – $37 million, Time writer Sean Gregory said.

Count me among those who care less than nothing about NBA and NFL sports. The former has evolved into a collection of mefirst prima donnas. The NFL is steroid souped-up savagery that is bringing more “fines” with every Sunday and leaves cripples for taxpayers to care for in the end.

How and why did the paycollege athletes issue become so noisy? Big money, of course, and media attention. Greed, control and influence have gotten more sophisticated. Blatant example: A fee levied on fans for the privilege to “rent” seats at the game quickly covered up with “our prices are consistent with those at other league schools.”

For me, the worst calamity that’s come to college sports is anything that involves squeezing fans. And directors of athletics are getting away with it.

Dave Zirin writes about politics in sports for The Nation magazine. His latest book, Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down, ought be a must read for sports fans. Zirin’s work exposes how professional franchise owners and college administrators are raking in such huge profits.

Solutions? Here are a few ideas:

• Fans prevail on the national media to expose the NBA Player Association’s hidden plantation mentality. The association hides behind with owners’ passive support while holding university basketball programs hostage as farm teams.

• Salary cap for college coaches. A million a year for likes of John Calipari, Nick Saban, Rick Pitino and others is more than reasonable. If coach doesn’t like it in this land of opportunity, he’s free to go elsewhere.

• At taxpayer behest, maybe politicians can agree on something. Legislate to allow high school graduates to pursue a career when, where and however they choose.

• Create a sane and level playground for high school-to-college athletes. Predicated on “kids who commit to play college sports are to be offered athletic scholarships that include a set stipend, samefor all amount.

Reducing the politics would reduce the influence of greed. These steps would be a far better direction for solutions than Tom Jurich writing a check to Russ Smith.


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