The new college football season is about to start. As the nation gathers around its TV sets for the start of the new season, we should also look at the major events of this past offseason and how it should tarnish our sense of the college game.
The major news of this offseason was of teams changing conferences. Was this done for ideal of competition, better rivalries or the idealism of sport? No, it was done for more TV money. Some of the traditional conferences face extinction or radical changes as their top teams leave for television gold. Idealism and tradition take a back seat to financial advantage.
The other major news story was that some disreputable agents are paying to transport student-athletes to parties and other events. Yes, these agents are trying to get their hooks into the athletes so they will become clients once their professional careers begin. Once again, financial advantage triumphing over idealism and tradition.
Of course when news of the agents' actions broke the same college administrators who chased the dollars to conference realignment were shocked. This was a stain on the tradition of college athletics. These agents were wooing innocent college athletes with money and money has no place in amateur sports. This stance shows the administrators to be pure hypocrites. With one hand they chase TV money and with the other they scold agents for spending it on their athletes.
Even more hypocritical are the sanctimonious coaches. These men make millions of dollars due to the television contracts and all have corporate logos on their teams' uniforms and their sport shirts. They are also enjoying the spoils of the money in college sports. To read that these coaches had a conference call to discuss the immoral behavior of these agents strained the limits of credibility.
All the coaches talk the good talk of college sports, about teaching the kids and instilling the right values and their friends in the media lap it up. The coaches are made out to be almost mythical figures, while the agents are sleazy figures on the fringes of the game. However, any reasonable analysis will show that both coaches and agents chase money through the exploits of student-athletes they just do it in different ways.
Now I am not saying that the business of college athletics is all wrong. College football and basketball must make money in order to help fund other sports. Coaches as leaders of these teams and the moneymakers for the universities deserve much of the money they make. However, to hear coaches and administrators become all holier than thou when discussing the exploits of agents is the definition of hypocrisy.
This also applies to the treatment of college athletes. With all the money in college athletics, the athletes are held to ridiculous codes of conduct. Many of them have little money but if they accept any assistance (let's say use of a car for a day), they can lose their amateur status. This seems outdated as the game as become more and more professional.
I am not advocating that athletes get paid to play, or that boosters have outsized influence but a regulated system that allows them some assistance in getting a job would help level the playing field. Most of the players are one injury away from losing their college eligibility and the overwhelming majority will not earn their living from sports.
In summation, there is an outdated double standard in college sports. Universities, administrators and coaches earn millions dollars due to the exploits of student athletes. They are under intense pressure to win, yet anything done to help the athletes is seen as an outrageous breach of the amateur code. The establishment needs to end this double standard and get real about the game otherwise they will continue to be hypocrites.
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