Are College Football Players Now Suddenly Going Way Too Far?

Commentary: It’s time for college sports to tell athletes take it or leave it

Mark Zeigler (LA Times)  —  Eventually, and that moment draws nearer by the day, college athletic administrators need to make a choice:

Are they going to continue backpedaling, or are they going to make a tackle?

Are they going to stand up and stand by their product?

Is enough ever going to be enough?

Because apparently college athletes — or at least college football players — aren’t going to stop asking for more even as they receive concession after concession. The latest group with its hand out is Pac-12 football players, who issued a lengthy list of “demands” Sunday with the threat of boycotting the season.

Here’s a suggestion: Go ahead, boycott away. Your loss.

The man behind the curtain is former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, a proponent of unionizing collegiate athletes who heads a nonprofit advocacy group called the National College Players Association. Twelve football players from nine Pac-12 schools identified themselves as part of the movement that adopted the hashtag, #WeAreUnited.

It’s unclear how many of their teammates have joined them. Washington cornerback Elijah Molden, a projected first-round pick next spring, offered his implicit support but admitted “some of the demands seem unrealistic and far-fetched given the context of our unique situation (COVID, financial restrictions, time, etc.).”

Many of the 17 demands involve COVID-19 and racial equality, the summer’s two hottest topics and no doubt a way to exert leverage with a sympathetic public ear. Some are reasonable and either already exist or could be implemented easily. But the crux of what this is about is no different than what it’s always about: money.

The first item under the “Fair Market Pay, Rights & Freedoms” section: “Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.”

(The presumptive math: If each Pac-12 football program gets, say, $32 million per year from TV and bowl payouts, the 100-odd players on the roster should split $16 million of it.)

On the surface, it sounds great. It always does.

College football generates billions of dollars, coaches make too much, facilities are over the top, and the poor, exploited players get nothing.

The reality: They don’t get nothing.

They get a full scholarship for five (and sometimes six) years, plus grad school if you finish your undergraduate degree early and still have eligibility. In some cases, that’s worth $350,000.

You get housing and cost of attendance stipends, recent additions because the scholarship alone wasn’t enough. That can be another $10,000 per year in cash.

You get priority registration so you don’t have to wait a semester or six for that popular, upper-division class with the primo professor.

You finish with no student loans, or $37,468 less than the average California grad did last year.

You get academic tutoring 24/7. You have food available 24/7. You fly charter, stay in five-star hotels, get per diem, get boxes and boxes of gear. You have access to some of the best doctors and dentists and ophthalmologists in the county. You work out in a private weight room with state-of-the-art equipment. You’re conferred an elite social status on campus.

Starting soon, you can enter into personal endorsement contracts for your name, image and license made more marketable by the 100-year history and branding of your university.

What’s the total value? $100,000 per year? $200,000 per year? More?

That’s not enough?

At some point, college administrators need to say it is. Need to say: “Here’s what we can offer. We think it’s more than generous. If you don’t like it, you are under no obligation to accept it. College sports aren’t for everyone.”

Daishen Nix, a five-star point guard from Las Vegas, didn’t earlier this year. Had committed to UCLA. Signed a pro contract with the NBA’s G League instead.

No hard feelings. Best of luck.

The problem is that people making the demands never operated an athletic department, never tried to balance a budget, never filed an NCAA or Title IX compliance report, never understood the delicate, flawed, intricate biosphere in which college sports gasp for breath.

The great myth is that colleges are running $100 bills through counting machines, then stashing them in offshore accounts in the Caymans. About two dozen athletic departments actually turn something approaching a profit; the rest are partially or, in some cases, heavily subsidized by tax dollars, student fees and alumni donations – and, as we’re learning now, dangerously exposed to the slightest economic downturn.

In many ways, Huma and his players are barking up the wrong tree. You want to keep and distribute the riches that power conference football generates? Send your demands to the U.S. Department of Education, which administrates Title IX and its guarantees of gender equity at any university receiving federal grants (which is pretty much all of them).

Title IX means universities must offer a comparable number of participation opportunities, scholarships, resources and amenities to female athletes with little hope of any return on the investment. If you play Division I football and its 85 scholarships, you must sprinkle 85 scholarships on the female side of the ledger – usually across several sports, which explains why many athletic departments offer more women’s than men’s sports.

One solution is to cut football scholarships from 85 to 45, or enough for a first and second string plus a kicker. Seems reasonable. That would allow athletic departments to eliminate 40 scholarships from the women’s side and drastically reduce overall expenses, presumably leaving more football dollars to be distributed among football players.

But now you just cut 5,000 scholarships nationally that would have been used for football players who, let’s face it, might not otherwise go to college (or be admitted). You just eliminated opportunities for the very people you purport to represent.

Another demand from Huma’s group is to end “lavish facility expenditures.”

Great idea. Would his players be OK asking a English Lit major for a spot on the bench press at the student rec center; sharing a practice field with Theta Chi’s IM flag football team; having 350-pound linemen cram into middle seats on a Southwest flight to road games, then stay four to a room at Motel 6; waiting in line at the student health center to get their injured knee examined and then hoping to be scheduled for an MRI sometime in the next month?

Athletic directors don’t want to build those lavish facilities either, but they’ll keep doing it as long as recruits keep making college choices based on cherry wood locker rooms instead of chemistry departments.

Nor do ADs want to pay an offensive coordinator $1 million per year. But they also understand the capitalistic principles of a free market economy and the effect of winning football games on their bottom line – and don’t want some guy with a backwards cap from the local JC spitting chewing tobacco into a cup while mulling over third-and-long in the fourth quarter at the Rose Bowl.

The Ivy League peered over the slippery slope back in 1954 and made the concerted decision not to offer athletic scholarships. You can apply, and qualify, for financial aid like every other student.

Athletes who go there know the deal and have accepted its terms.

Don’t like it? Don’t go there.

College sports aren’t for everyone.

latimes.com

__________

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Jamaica
Knighted Member
August 6, 2020 3:57 pm

When push comes to shove, as in this never ending pursuit of entitlement demands of college athletes by opportunistic organizers, it develops a backlash by both an older fanbase and unyielding college administrators. These organizers have little interest in sports itself other than what it can bring them in influence and compensation. You are dealing with a good portion of older teenagers and young adults who have been told from middle school on, how great they are and have gotten accustomed to having corners cut for them in unearned grades, escaping punishment and receiving favors. So it is easy to… Read more »

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
August 5, 2020 8:30 pm

These kids do not realize they have everything to lose in this deal. The schools say pack your bags and what recourse do the kids have? None. I really do not think these community organizers are qualified to organize anything, especially college football players in this point in time. Hope these kids organizing have the phone number of a good trade school that will give them student loans, payable right after graduation. What total idiocy this whole thing is. Ziegler layed it out beautifully and I too am amazed the Times would print it.

San Diego Trojan
Knighted Member
August 5, 2020 4:03 pm

Happy to see such a common sense, rational rebuttal to the “Ransom Demand” like madness going on in our country right now. I’m shocked the editor of the Times allowed such a non politically correct article slip through the cracks of the far left leanings of the paper.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
August 5, 2020 5:05 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Amen, Ron Ayala. And I will always remember the last second field goal you kicked to beat Stanford as my earliest Trojan radio broadcast memory!

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
August 5, 2020 8:22 pm
Reply to  ATL D.D.S.

Ayala and I played against each other in Jr. high and high school. One time I interecepted a pass of his and went 80 for the td. He never spoke to me again. But we had fun anyway playing the game.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
August 6, 2020 4:51 am
Reply to  Steveg

That’s a great story, Steveg, but now that I know how old you are, I think I should start calling you sir.😂

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
August 6, 2020 3:47 pm
Reply to  ATL D.D.S.

Call me anythiing, just don’t call me late for dinner.

RialtoTrojan
Noble Member
August 4, 2020 6:08 pm

The timing of this seems convenient. The NCAA has said students can sit out the season due to Covid concern without harming their scholarship, so students can boycott with this ticket in their pocket. I agree however, that negotiating would be a huge mistake. Football is entertainment, it may be essential for some fans, but not for getting through life. I know some players will stick to their guns, but the team can move on without them. Depth charts can change and positions will be filled. I truly hope this dies a quiet death.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
August 5, 2020 5:08 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The Left screws up everything it touches. This effort to unionize College Football Players is community organizing at its finest.

rleeholder1
Noble Member
August 4, 2020 8:29 am

In the last few days, I saw the list of football players on the list and none were from SC, thank God. I can understand the medical portions of the demand list given this COVID-19 environment, but the money part is always a contentious issue. The bottom line to me is that that all athletes in college on an athletic scholarship are getting financial and other assistance for an education, whether it be a partial or a full ride. That’s a lot of dough for an education at USC these days! When I was at USC in the 1970’s, I… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
August 4, 2020 7:45 am

This commentary appeared in the Los Angeles Times? Or, as it is commonly referred to as “Pravda Southern California and the West”? I cannot believe Ziegler wrote this kind of an article–good for him, but I hope he has his resume tuned up. He will never last at the Times with that kind of common sense thinking.

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
August 4, 2020 7:43 am

IMO — the problem we have is that most of us are Trojans and we know what it costs to get that degree. So when I hear a player, many of whom can’t even put a coherent sentence together, complain about not getting paid, I want too laugh in his face and say you’re getting a high quality education idiot! But on-the-other-hand, I could see this coming years ago. Coaches salaries, for example, are continuing to get larger. For example, in 2018, Urban Myers was paid $7.6 million and in the same year, Nick Saban was paid north of $7.1… Read more »

gametv
Active Member
August 4, 2020 9:24 am
Reply to  Terrific Tommy

i actually think that if you are looking at it from a purely financial standpoint paying the coaching staff a ton of money makes alot of sense. in college football, the players cost the same amount (the scholarship) whether they are good or bad. The coaches are the only variable that improves the team. So paying Nick Saban 10 million a year could generate the school an extra 10 million a year easily in revenues. But more important than that, the football program is a catalyst for so much of the alumni support, both financial and otherwise. While I agree… Read more »

HOF19
Noble Member
August 4, 2020 11:24 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Are their any coaches available with the initials UM ?????

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
August 4, 2020 12:24 pm
Reply to  HOF19

Personally, I’d rather have Stoops. Like Urban, he is a proven winner too — and would come with much less bad PR.

ATL D.D.S.
Diamond Member
August 5, 2020 5:10 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Utah, explanation?

UtahTrojan
Knighted Member
August 4, 2020 1:45 am

I stopped watching professional football years ago because it had become all about the money. When I read the full list of demands my first thought was that it was time to find something else to do with my time. I should have known these fools were being led by an ex-ruin.