Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My sympathy equates to zero

A short article appeared in the Newspaper of Record today about the changes coming in the college athletics (mostly football) landscape as a result of both the O'Bannon ruling and the NCAA's change that gives the top 5 conferences (mostly football) more leeway to decide how they want to conduct business. As with many Times articles, the reaction to anything new or different is viewed through a prism of general distaste and trepidation for anything that might disturb The Way Things Have Been. The paper doesn't have the nickname "The Gray Lady" for nothing.

My reaction to the article is simple: Yeah, life is rough makin' millions, isn't it?

You want to pay your coach $1.4 million and another 3/4 of a million in bonuses? Pay your players for the money they generate that enables you to do that. You want an athletic center that costs $6.7 million? Pay the players that are spending more time there than they would at a full-time job, in addition to their schoolwork. You want to play with the big kids while a reporter says that your "relative isolation in California's vast Central Valley" gives you a big fanbase? Pay the players that attract that fanbase.

It's just like major companies bitching about raising the minimum wage. You say it's not worth it to do business in the area anymore? Fine. Seeya. I'm quite certain that a smaller, local business will gladly step into the shoes you left and do quite well for itself because you didn't feel like your employees were worth a living wage. The examples of that are prevalent.

If all of this is an extended whine about how you won't be able to attract the best players because of the costs involved, I'm afraid you'll have to remind me of the last time Fresno St. attracted the best players. Oh, right. That would be never. Also, there's only so much room on the rosters of Stanford, USC, and UCLA, so anyone that wants to play big-time ball that doesn't make those rosters will probably still come to Fresno St., providing that you're willing to do those things that the Times is currently bitching about on your behalf: like stipends so they can travel home or their families can travel to see them play, or health insurance post-college for injuries they incur while making you that money, or access to people who can represent their best economic interests, etc. You know, all of that stuff that means treating them like any other person in any normal economy who's trying to extract value from their talents and skills.

The galling thing is that people like (now former) FSU athletic director, Thomas Boeh, even refer to what they do as an "industry" and then somehow gloss over the fact that the workforce of that "industry" is about one step above indentured servitude (they get room and board and a degree that's worth less and less every day and are denied mobility and any access to the real value of their abilities, from their employer or anyone else.) But if you bring this topic up to most NCAA or university officials, they'll insist that it's about "education". So, which is it?

So, no, I have no sympathy for FSU's desire to keep up with the USCs and UCLAs of the world. The only reason that Fresno St. is even in the conversation is because of the millions that institutions like ESPN have been willing to throw at the school to show its students risking their bodies on the field for money that they won't see a cardinal red nickel of. Until now. It's a brave, new world out there, filled with rights and moneymaking opportunities that other workers claimed a long time ago. Feel free to start crying me a river anytime, Mr. Boeh. It may be the only way you can build a new aquatic center if you still want to pay your football coach more than most Americans will earn in 30 years...

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