Now is the summer of our discontent, to be made glorious by the return of ball in the fall?
Brothers and Sisters, Duck campers, is anyone having fun? Including the young men who play college football in The Conference of Champions? I for one, am simply bummed. Please allow a grumpy, old man to count the ways.
- COVID-19 — I hold this particular beef to be self evident.
- The Pac-12 Player Demands — I get the health and economic concerns expressed by a number of guys who play ball in the Pac-12.
The Health of Student Athletes
The very idea that “student-athletes” are being asked to assemble, to practice and to play when their fellow students are not allowed on campus, is another nail in the archaic student-athlete model. And the lack of leadership from the NCAA regarding the COVID-19 virus, while not surprising, also speaks for itself.
The health of college football players appears to be of far more concern to the respective presidents of Ivy league schools, than is does to the respective leaders of Pac-12 schools, no? The Ivy League has cancelled all fall sports. None of the members of the Power-Five (P5) conferences have done so. Why? Follow the money.
There are no athletic scholarships in the Ivies. Many college football players and other Ivy League athletes do receive tuition assistance, augmented in many cases by Pell Grants, but no one is receiving scholarship assistance based on their promise to play a given sport.
Further, the Ivy league has not yielded itself to major media companies. The conference’s athletic departments will not be rendered insolvent by missing out on NCAA money as a result of the 2019 Basketball Tournament being cancelled, and football not being played in 2020.
Ivy League athletes are student-athletes, not athlete-students, as is the case in Power-Five sports programs. The finances of Ivy league athletic departments are not balanced on a razor’s edge. No college football coach in the Ivy League is compensated anywhere near the lowest paid coach in the Power-Five.
Power-Five athletic departments are now caught in the billion-dollar mousetrap that has been built. Media money has fueled coaching salaries to the level of the absurd. In 2019, Clemson head coach, Dabo Sweeney, was paid $9M+ for coaching 15 football games. Power-Five conferences have surrendered program control in large part to ESPN, Fox and other media entities. How many big-time college football games these days are played in daylight?
The college football so-called “Playoff” is, for all intent and purposes, owned and operated by a Walt Disney subsidiary, ESPN. Since the inception of the Playoff to its conclusion at the end of the 2025 season, billions of dollars will be paid to P5 and G5 conferences and schools. But as COVID-19 has shown, this money appears to be nowhere close to feeding the college sport’s beast.
Is it just that the entertainers, the players, want a reasonable share of the proceeds the management is making? I say, yes!
Is it righteous for Pac-12 college football players to be concerned about their health? Of course!
Do all of the remedies suggested by the players make economic sense? No. Stanford endowment money in trust should not and will not be made available to the players. And the players are not going to receive a significant percentage of the game day and media proceeds.
But stalling on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) approval and other enhanced player benefits has to end sooner than later. And it is senseless for Division III programs to be represented on the NCAA Committee considering the NIL issue. As a matter of fact, does continued membership in the NCAA make sense for Power-Five schools?
I do applaud the Power-Five conferences for allowing its players to opt out of fall sports without their scholarship being affected.
Pac-12 Player Demands and Race
I reiterate, I have no beef with players raising health and economic concerns. But race? I see no nexus between these two issues and the color of a person’s skin. None.
I have watched college football for over six decades and the best thing I have witnessed, bar none, was the integration of the SEC and SWC conferences. Then came the open acceptance of the best athletes regardless of color. Thank goodness today we have no quota on the number of POC players who can suit up and start. And the idea that a POC is not suited to QB his team is today, laughable.
No one is suggesting any kind of pay-for-play system or a different health standard based on a person’s skin color.
I understand and respect the umbrage over the lack of black head coaches in college football. But this is an entirely separate issue and thankfully, is being addressed. The Pac-12 may be down college football-wise, but it is the P5 leader in the integration of coaching staffs. Not surprising considering Jackie Robinson was playing football and baseball at UCLA before Major League Baseball was integrated; integrated by Mr. Robinson.
Things to Be Grateful For
Enough whining. What I am happy about and grateful for:
- Charles — for a-keep-on-a-keepin’-on with FishDuck. Thank you, sir.
- The (Putative) 2020 Schedule — Come 2026, I would like the B1G and Pac-12 to take back the Rose Bowl.
But because of money (see above) we are more likely to see an eight-team playoff field with all P5 champs in the field. In this event, lose the divisions, play two out-of-conference games and 10 conference games. The top teams in the regular season play a champ game on the home field of the top seeded team.
- This, Too, Shall Pass — Until this happens, and it will happen, please, brother and sister Ducks, stay safe.
Top Photo From Twitter
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.
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