It was an eventful day Wednesday for a lot of high school football players across the nation as they signed their national letters of intent to continue their playing careers at the college of their choice.
I don’t object to media coverage of this event and have covered signing day at several high schools over the years, but I think it has gotten a little bit out of proportion. None of these kids have played a down yet of college football and yet are treated as conquering heroes, especially on sports television.
Wednesday also got me thinking about another aspect of college sports. It’s time to pay the athletes. Now I’m not talking a full salary, they do obviously get a scholarship. But no matter how many times the word student-athlete is thrown about by coaches and athletic directors and university presidents, college sports is a business.
Now,, let me put up front certain things I don’t have the answers to right now. The first is how much they should be paid and what about Division II and Division III schools or smaller Division I schools that don’t have the money-making capacity like a Big Ten school might.
And I understand that money from men’s basketball and football helps operate the athletic departments at many schools. But step foot on a major college campus on a Saturday afternoon in the fall and you will see expensive football tickets, skyboxes in the stadium for those willing to pay, souvenir stands where the university get s a percentage or all of the cost of each item sold and people in the stadium parking lot tailgating before and after a game and paying an eye-popping sum for the ability to walk a short distance from their car to their stadium seat.
And don’t forget the national networks shelling out big bucks for postseason football games and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Conferences, like the Big Ten, have created their own TV networks.
I went to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and was an editor for three semesters at the student newspaper, which was part of the university and not a separate organization. The pape did well with advertising. The editors received a stipend at the end of each semester, anywhere between $150 and $400. To a college student back in the mid-1980s, it was a lot of money.
Other students I knew worked at the library or bookstore or in the cafeteria. They were students first, but they were also contributing to the operations of the university. Today’s college athletes are contributing to a university business.
Not every college student comes from wealth and athletes spent a lot of time with their sport and the NCAA has strict rules about athletes and jobs.
Football and men’s basketball receive the most attention of all the college sports. But I would pay every athlete at a college a stipend. A track athlete might be seen in a meet broadcast on a college conference TV network that sold advertising to it. Money was made.
Talk of paying the athletes, even just a little bit, and certain members of the media and college athletic directors get all upset. It’s student-athletes this and student-athletes that.
Okay, we’ll play your way. No more expensive tickets, no more national TV contracts worth nine figures, no more stadium skyboxes, no more conference TV networks, no more coaches that are the highest-paid employee in some states.
I didn’t think so.
A LA CARTE ITEMS
I didn’t think the media was fair regarding two stories over the last couple of days. There was a murder in the parking lot of a McDonalds in the Rogers Park neighborhood of a Chicago. Another tragic event in the long line of Chicago crime. But NBC5 put up a McDonald’s logo during its studio coverage of the story. That makes it look like McDonald’s is somehow responsible. The threat of toothpaste bombs on planes heading to Russia and Sochi, site of the Winter Olympics, received big coverage. But what did I see on CNN yesterday in a teaser leading to its story? Someone squeezing out a tube of Colgate toothpaste with the label clearly visible. That makes it look like Colgate has somehow got a hand in the potential terrorism. It’s not fair to either company.
UNTIL NEXT TIME. . .