Big Time College Football

OK it has taken me a week to wrap my head around the latest goings-on at OSU re the football program — Maurice’s claims, the car program (sub req’d), OSU’s invititation to the NCAA, Geiger and Tressel responses, people calling for life bans and death penalties, etc.

Man do I love college football, and OSU football in particular. It is in my blood. Been going to games at Ohio Stadium since I was a toddler. Father played and lettered for the Buckeyes. I have Woody’s autograph. Watched the ’68 team win it all. Suffered thru the end of Woody’s career, the Bruce and Cooper years. Was at the Fiesta Bowl when the team won it all again two years ago. There is just nothing rational about my affection for the sport and for the Buckeyes.

But…Hmm…I have to say I have deep deep deep misgivings about the morality of college football. OSU brings in roughly $90M a year in athletic department revenue, and that is mostly from the football program. To keep things simple, let’s say that is $1M per scholarship football player per year (don’t whack on me about other sports, this is just a convenient ballpark figure).

That is just the on-the-books benefits to the university. You have the car program — 85 cars to everybody and their dog associated with the program. I am sure there are other benefits like this that come in to the staff. You have sponsorship and TV revenue for the top coaches. Is any of this controlled or limited by the NCAA?

And then the Big Ten and the NCAA make revenue off the top of TV packages and bowl/tournament proceeds.

Where does all this largess go? Great facilities. Support for other sports programs. Great salaries and comp packages for coaches, administrators, NCAA staff, Big10 staff. What flows to the players who we are all going to see? About a $15K annual benefit in the form of scholarship and room and board.

Do the players, who are the reason the money is coming in, have any representation in the allocation of the funds? No. Can they opt out of the system? Not really, the NFL won’t let them in. If you want to play football as an 18 or 19 year old with a chance to go to the NFL, you have to go to a college, whether you are interested in a college education or equipped to handle one.

Oh and by the way, while you are at college, you have a full time job called “playing football”. It consumes a ton of time. You have to fit in your academic responsibilities on the side, and good luck finding time for a job to earn some spending money.

So this is the system that responsible adults have created and are running for these young men. Huge benefits flowing to the administrators of the system and to other bystanders, no representation for the players. Does this seem moral at all?

And then we attack the players and destroy their careers if they somehow get some small extra benefit or extra help fighting their way thru college. With the huge inequity between value creation and value distribution, do we really believe that the system is not going to be leaky?

Honestly the rational thing for me to do is to quit supporting the sport, quit watching it. The system is taking terribly unfair advantage of young adults. I am not sure I can quit tho, the emotional connection is so huge.

Perhaps I need to start investigating reform measures and how to get involved in grass roots advocacy programs for the players. They deserve a lot more out of the system than they are getting today.