The author Burt Standish made Frank Merriwell the ideal of young men before 1910. In "Frank Meriwell's Sports Afield," a fellow urges Frank to quit football at Yale. "Now, don't you think you have won glory enough at baseball?" the fellow says. "I didn't suppose you were looking for all the glory there is to be gathered in."
"Is that a crime?" Frank replies. "But I will tell you frankly that it is not so much the glory I am looking for as the sport. Besides that, If I can do anything to put Old Eli on top I feel it my duty to do all I can."
Frank would smoke a cigarette in a lady's presence (to imagine the foulest behavior) before he would demand a cut of the day's gate receipts.
But this week in Washington, now the home of an old Eureka College right guard who fancied himself a Merriwell, the organization CARE suggested colleges give athletes "a fair share" of the take.
Glory is nice, CARE says, but not at the cost of exploitation. Racoon coats also are out of fashion.
The Center for Athletes Rights and Education is the creation of a former Notre Dame defensive end, Allen Sack, 36, a sociology professor at the University of New Have. CARE's "bill of rights" is familiar stuff emphasizing the absolute necesssity for meaningful degrees.
CARE adds a provocative suggestion: athletes deserve "a fair share of the revenue generated by the athlete through contracts, gate receipts, championship contests and merchandising." To get that fair share, CARE wants "to form unions and bargain collectively on all issues affecting financial aid and working conditions."
CARE didn't advocate direct wages. Sack said the primary goal is "adequate compensation, which at minimum means athletes get the education promised." At maximum, compensation means salaries.
Fine. Pay the players. Rather than cheating, pay them openly. Give the running backs $200 a week, the linemen $100, the punter $50. Work up a pay scale, because, after all, this will be pro football.
"It's already professional football," Sack said yesterday. "But the payment is indirect, including under-the-table payments and slush funds. In certain ways, it might be better if it was up front. Integrity would be preserved. We wouldn't have shady deals. Ethically and morally it would be a tremendous step forward."
Colleges resist such an idea. They want us to think Frank Merriwell, who never was real, is real today. They say atheletes get a good education for their work. That education, they say, is priceless.
Well, maybe. A pragmatist might argue. Room, board and tuition cost, say, $10,000 a year. Measured against big-time football revenue, $10,000 is ludicrous.
As certainly as players ought to be paid, they won't be -- because colleges, either in self-delusion or revenue-maximizing manipulation, say football is part of the educational process and necessarily an amateur game teaching students important lessons.
So Herschel Walker gets only free room and board. Yet the colleges sell the games on multimillion dollar entertainment to alumni, TV networks and bowl people.
Having it both ways is destructive. At the highest levels of big-time football, academics invariable is abused in favor of big bucks.
"On the other hand, if your have open professional football in colleges," Stock said, "does that fit in well with higher education? What impact would open professionalism have on the educational process?"
Philosopher Elbert Hubbard said "Football bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture."
So get rid of pretense at education, and have an NFL-type draft of high school athletes by 35 or 45 schools in a super league. Split the league into divisions and plan playoffs with a national championship game Saturday in the Super Bowl city.
If players want to study, fine. Reading and writing helped Whizzer White. ("They could use their salary to pay tuition," Sack said.) If they want only football, that's fine too. Most NFL players never graduated, and a lot earned meaningless degrees.
If a player is drafted by Southern Cal when he wants Indiana, tough luck. He can play one notch down at a no-salary, go-to-class school. If the players' union doesn't like bowls on Christmas, it can strike.
Very businesslike, with good reason. Listen to Bear Bryant on today's priorities:
"I used to go along with the idea that football players on scholarship were 'student-athletes,' which is what the NCAA calls them. Meaning a student first, an athlete second. We were kidding ourselves, trying to make it more palatable to the academicians. We don't have to say that and we shouldn't. At the level we play, the boy is really an athlete first and a student second."
On the ferocity of a big-timer's commitment to football, this from Gary Shaw, writing of a University of Texas coach's frenzied pep talk in his book, "Meat on the Hoof":
". . . Some of my teammates began pushing and shoving me in a frantic effort to get to the field; and I wasn't sure if they were anxious to get into action, or trying to escape (the coach). Running through the concrete passagway, many were crying and screaming, a couple of them hitting me on the shoulders saying, 'Kill them, Shaw, kill them.' I had the felling that I sometimes had when I was a kid and first waking from a nightmare."
Texas was getting worked up for a freshman game at Baylor.
Frank Merriwell, the pure and courtly student-athlete, rejected a baseball barnstormer's offer of "any price you mention." Today's stars might go for teh price, with reason.
Herschel Walker enriches Georgia beyond counting.
He is paid with a $10,000-a-year education.
Meanwhile, Andrea Jeager, 16, has earned $293,000 playing pitty-pat with Tracy and Chrisie this year.
It's enough to make a guy think twice about glory.