As I see it we have some problems in college football as clearly highlighted by the recent revelations concerning the University of Miami football program. Boosters and agents continue to pay boatloads of money to enter the “jock sniffing” club all in violation of the NCAA rules against amateurism. They’re slinging money like Tom Brady throws passes.
The Miami story might be in the headlines but this type of activity and behavior is as common to college football as butter is to corn on the cob. Since the days of Red Grange and Eric Dickerson, athletes have been compensated legally and illegally for their exploits on the gridiron. Since, the NCAA and the powers that be believe it is important to quash this type of unethical behavior (a further examination of this issue would take a complete column or two), the question is what can really and practically be done to resolve the problems without violating laws or diminishing the game of college football?
The vast majority of pundits, administrators, coaches and writers believe the problem is access to boosters and agents and that by shutting down these avenues of contacts the problem will go away as quickly and quietly as George W. Bush after his terms in office. I have never been a believer in legislating morality, rather the key is to educate morality. One never solves problems by putting band-aids on the cancer rather we need to extricate the problem to conquer the same. What is needed is some forward-thinking people with ideas to truly solve the problem.
So I went for a long run and came home in better shape and with a simple solution to this long-standing and serious problem. The reality is that if the student athletes involved were to receive increased stipends for their participation in collegiate athletics akin to the levels that the Olympic athletes receive from their athletic federations and the USOC, the temptation and need for receiving extra benefits from either an agent or a booster would significantly decrease. Then everyone will say they have this part figured out, at which point the question becomes how do the already cash-strapped athletic programs (to use the term loosely) pay for this additional stipends for their student athletes and how much is enough to cure the ills of college football?
As the great ancient Greek philosopher Plato said “Necessity is the mother of invention.” So what we need is a new source of significant revenue that will not hurt the product but improve the same. Very easy answer: Division 1 colleges schedule two “pre-season” games against geographically close (i.e. bus ride away) schools prior to each season, one home and one way. Teams can sell tickets, parking, concession and TV rights for each game. Those games should roughly generate between $5 to 10 million per game. Split this figure two ways among the competing teams and then divide by the 85 scholarship athletes and you arrive at a figure in excess of $30,000 per student athlete or roughly $2,500 per month for the entire year for each game. This would be sufficient money to avoid the vast majority of the major issues of booster or agent contact. In addition, speak to most coaches and there would be a strong acceptance and desire to play against other opponents prior to the regular season games in preparation for the regular season.
Did we really just come up with a “win-win” situation to save college football with no real down side? Perhaps I should go on more long runs. I’ll be in better shape and college football will be, too.