EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 14, 2012

Time to pay bigtime college athletes

Mistreatment of big-time college athletes is criminal

College Sports
Michael Muldoon

---- — Nick Saban is the best college football coach in America.

The Alabama coach makes $5,476,738 a year.

Johnny Manziel is the best player in college football, he makes about $18,200, the value of his scholarship (tuition and room and board).

They are probably of similar value to their universities, but Saban makes literally 300 times as much as the Heisman Trophy winner.

That’s just wrong. And it has to stop.

Now.

How do you calculate “Johnny Football’s” value to Texas A&M? Certainly, it’s subjective, but ESPN.com said last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Robert “RG III” Griffin, was worth $250 million to Baylor last season.

When college teams win big, the stadiums are packed, the TV contracts are mind-boggling, the merchandise flies off the shelf and endowments soar.

And Johnny Football earns $18,200?

No matter how you slice it, it would impossible to say in an open market he shouldn’t make $10 million next year as a returning legend.

Big-time college sports are corrupt to the core, but the athletes, who make it all go, are supposed to penniless amateurs.

Even if you don’t pay the superstars fair-market wages, how about a healthy salary for all big-time football and men’s basketball players from the big 5-6 conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12, PAC 12, BIG 10 and perhaps Big East basketball). Make it $80,000. The maximum is 85 football scholarships per school so that’s $6.8 million a year. For basketball, with its 13-scholarship maximum, it would be just over $1 million.

With a handful of exceptions, others sports don’t make money — most actually lose money but are bankrolled by football and men’s basketball — so those athletes would be limited to their scholarships. As would the smaller 1-A football programs and the smaller 250 or so men’s basketball programs which don’t have the huge TV contracts.

Obviously, it would make it considerably tougher for the mid-majors to compete, but that would be the cost of doing business.

They are special

I’m of average intelligence and have an average work ethic. I probably could have become an accountant, a teacher, a fireman, an insurance salesman, a middle manager and perhaps even a lawyer.

Could I have been the third-string running back at Georgia Tech? The fifth guard for the University of Iowa basketball team? Not in a million years.

Varsityedge.com reports there are 254,000 seniors who play high school football. And there are about 1,200 big-time scholarships (top 60 schools giving out about 20 scholarships a year).

So the odds of a senior football player getting one? Less than one out of 200.

The scam is the scholarship is often worth nothing. What percentage of SEC football players do you think are:

A. Hopelessly overmatched in the classroom

and/or

B. Never pick up a book.

Put a gun to my head and I’m going to say over 50 percent.

Even those with good intentions often give up because they are so tired/sore/overworked that the last thing they want to do is study. Good for the bigtimers who hit the books, but a lot of them certainly could care less.

What about Lattimore?

South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore might have been the best running back in the country. He suffered a horrific knee injury this fall. So somebody with the potential to make from $20-$150 million as a pro football player might not make a red cent.

And the Duncan, S.C., resident’s scholarship is worth just about $20,000 on the nose. That $80,000 a year could change his life.

The schools can’t afford it? Don’t tell that to Lattimore. They can afford $52 million to leave their league though, like Maryland just did?

Sadly, everybody is making big bucks except the people who deserve it most.

The time has come because the numbers have become so overwhelming and the wide-eyed chase for those tens of millions has exposed big-time college sports.

It’s a big business.

With all the wheeling and dealing, you could be talking telecommunications, automobiles, clothing or soy futures. It just happens to be college football and basketball.

Tradition is dead

College presidents leer over new leagues like they are USC cheerleaders.

Tradition, RIP. Why the Big East basketball conference, which was the envy of the college basketball world, could be officially dead any day now.

West Virginia, which departed the Big East last year, is over 870 miles away from its nearest rival, Iowa State.

Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, just bolted for the Big 10. Average distance of a road trip? 665 miles.

Why would the Terps leave? Betcha can answer that one yourself.

ESPN.com reported Big 10 schools received $24.6 million thanks to the cash cow known as the Big 10 Network. Sports Illustrated reports that could skyrocket to $43 million, a huge upgrade from the ACC’s $17 million.

Tip of the iceberg

Everywhere you look the numbers are going through the roof.

University of Texas was the runaway most profitable football program in 2010-11 ($71.2 million after expenses) with Penn State No. 2 at $53.2 million. Louisville was tops in basketball at $27.6 million.

At last look, there were 42 coaches making $2 million or more and with all the TV money that will probably be 42 making $3 million. When there is a true college football playoff, that could be 42 making $5 million.

Ex-Auburn coach Gene Chizik was just fired. He received a settlement for 47.5 million. QB Cam Newton, who made Chizik a national championship coach the one year they were together, got nothing when he left. As it turned out, he was the one worth millions, even if he got nothing.

Sorry, the players have been used for far too long. Time to pay up.

E-mail Michael Muldoon at mmuldoon@eagletribune.com. Follow him on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.