CSotD: And now the sports …

The best way to start today is with Paul Fell’s cartoon, which should please people who dislike sports.

You don’t have to like sports, BTW, just like you don’t have to like opera or Shakespeare or raisin-oatmeal cookies. But there’s a difference between saying you don’t like ballet and wondering aloud why they don’t just hire taller girls.

Wellesley never said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but there is a tradition of seeking a sound mind in a sound body, and while the Muscular Christianity Movement had its flaws, it also had some impressive adherents.

Fell is commenting on Name Image Likeness, a new system that allows college athletes to profit from sales of their photographs, jerseys and other memorabilia. I suppose the NCAA is unhappy about having lost their amateur chokehold on young athletes, but I remember when Avery Brundage and the Olympics had to not only let colored folks play the games but earn sponsorships so it wasn’t only the rich white kids being higher and faster and fortuitous or whatever.

By the way, I haven’t watched the Olympics in years.

But Fell brings up a familiar complaint, which is that academics are financially secondary to sports, particularly football. The flaw in the argument lies in assuming that you could sell 100,000 season tickets and national TV broadcast rights to Dr. Plumbob’s lectures on the Peloponnesian Wars.

Tuition is already high enough.

Like Fell, Kirk Walters (KFS) contends that players at these “football factories” will make scads of money, and it’s possible that a few of them will. My guess would be that if you have a major team contending for the national championship, you might have four or five players who are making serious money, another half dozen making enough to get a pizza and the rest wearing white socks because the athletic department hands them out for free.

That would be the same top four or five who would get drafted by an NFL team and then find that three of them were either cut before the season starts or flamed out while they were still on their rookie contracts.

Someone’s making money, though. Tank McNamara (AMS) riffs on the situation at Texas A&M, where they gave their football coach an insane guaranteed salary so he wouldn’t leave.

And then fired him.

Which meant they had to go get a new coach and offer him an insane guaranteed salary of $42 million over six years. Whether or not he is actually there for six years, one assumes.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and it didn’t used to.

Notre Dame, the service academies and schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference were once looked at as clean.

It may have been relative, but it was real, and some very talented players turned down ND and Duke because they’d have to show up for class, where there were only a few hidey holes in the curriculum. You couldn’t string together four years of rocks-for-jocks.

Air Force players even had to be able to fit in the cockpit of a jet. I know they dropped that requirement.

Back in 1979, I did a story about college recruiting, and the coach and athletic director at the Colorado School of Mines told me of driving around in their own beat-up cars, recruiting mostly the kids of engineers, given the rigors of the curriculum at Mines. When those players graduated, they’d make more money than the coaches because they’d have a prestigious engineering degree.

Then I went to Boulder and interviewed Colorado University’s coach. Or tried to. It took some negotiation with my editor at the Denver Post to find a way to frame what I was told:

Eddie wasn’t real thrilled with how the story came out, but I was writing for the Sunday editorial section, so who cares?

I really was writing, though, and, speaking of expensive people getting fired, Tank discusses the situation at Sports Illustrated, and he lays it out accurately: The magazine was running AI generated stories with phony bylines and fake photos.

Then, when Futurist Magazine asked them about it, they started deleting files. And now Sports Illustrated has deleted their CEO, who can go hang out at the unemployment office with all the folks who used to run the AI company that provided the forgeries.

Rick Reilly — who really is a sportswriter and really wrote real stories for SI — had a response so furious and amusing that I’m using up one of my WashPo gift passes so you won’t miss it.

Juxtaposition of the Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

Marshall Ramsey

Adam Zyglis

Anyhoo, if you were of the opinion that playing sports teaches good sportsmanship, here’s a pair of rebuttals.

Back in the Good Old Days, there was no playoff in college football, for the simple reason that it takes a week to prepare for a game, so the brackets would have stretched on into summer. Some players wanted to get back to class, let their hands heal and stop peeing blood.

However the people in the stands insisted on something, so they came up with a highly arbitrary playoff system that can’t possibly work. Now, instead of arguing over who was really #1, fans can whine over which teams didn’t even get in, like Florida State, which was 12-0.

Meanwhile, in the NFL, Adam Zyglis notes that his beloved Buffalo Bills defeated Kansas City, largely because of a really stupid penalty. Which makes up for their losing the week before in part because of a really stupid penalty that nobody called.

Instead of sucking it up like the Bills had, however, Patrick Mahomes threw his helmet, chewed out everyone and blamed the refs. Then his coach broke out a hanky, too.

There may not be any crying in baseball, but right now football’s more than making up for it.

To finish on a positive note, I only knew a couple of players in college who made the pros, but everyone I’ve kept up with seems to have done well in life, not because they played sports but because they had the drive and discipline it takes to play at a school like Notre Dame.

But fergodssake don’t believe that stupid movie. JJ got it right:

9 thoughts on “CSotD: And now the sports …

  1. Re “you might have four or five players who are making serious money, another half dozen making enough to get a pizza …”

    “Every” player on the Utah team received a new pickup truck. The trucks are valued at $61K. The trucks are described as “leased,” though, so what the players have actually received is simply the right to use a truck during their tenure on the team. This perk is limited to the 85 scholarship players.

    Since walk-ons are eligible to receive NIL benefits (Utah trucks notwithstanding), we can expect schools to use this to circumvent limits on scholarship players. Technically the schools have no control over NIL funds, but it isn’t hard to imagine a school redirecting athletic donors to an associated NIL collective.

    1. Interesting, and appalling, though if the good folks of Utah are content, well, gosh. What I had read, besides the piece I linked, backed up my contention that only the stars really profit and I’m seeing only a few indications, like this one, that it’s more widespread among the team. Ohio State is giving their football players custom suits to wear to games, which sounds bizarre, given what peacocks fellows that age tend to be.

      I’m going to poke around more, but the phrase “purported income” comes to mind. It’s more familiar in family law, where a divorced parent may get “use of a company car” and “use of a company apartment” to keep income, and thus child payments, low. Yes, very scummy.

      Maybe one of the lawyers here can tell us if a kid who gets exclusive use of a $61,000 truck would have to pay taxes on it.

  2. The problem is that everybody in the world can make as much money as they want to from college sports – except the athletes, who weren’t allowed to make anything at all. It’s hard to justify that.

    I read about one college athlete who saw a jersey in a store with his name and number on it – and he couldn’t afford to buy it. They could sell it, though.

    A football coach is ROUTINELY the highest-paid university employee in almost every state.

    People are getting VERY rich from what college athletes do.

    1. Look what showed up in my news feed today:

      Northern Iowa faculty seek end to general fund support for athletics
      ‘What we’d like to see going forward is that the auxiliary units be self-sustaining’

      There may well be schools that keep athletics budgets separate from academics, but in those I’ve been affiliated with athletics always has academics money redirected to it, whether blatantly or via Peter and Paul schemes. This is long before we get into where the monetary focus of public colleges lies.

  3. What’s the old line about the duties of a college president? Their job is to provide sports for the alumni, parking for the faculty, and sex for the students.

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