Coverage of Oregon's sports teams and athletes



2020-04-09 18:52:12 by Chief Editor
Summary:College athletics is a multi-billion dollar industry with millionaire coaches while the athletes are the only ones not getting paid. Is it time for this to change?
By Herman L. Brame


On October 23, 1929, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued a 350-page report that described college athletics as, "a highly organized commercial enterprise. The athletes who take part in it have come up through years of training. They are commanded by professional coaching, little if any personal initiative of ordinary play is left to the player. The great matches are highly profitable enterprises." Over eighty years ago it was clearly recognized that major college sports is not just a school-based amateur athletic activity headed by physical education teachers. Today the physical education teachers are in many cases paid millions of dollars to lead huge commercial enterprises while the youthful athletes who provide the blood and sweat are amateurs who receive scholarships.

The college head coaches who head up these commercial enterprises are rightly paid millions of dollars for their efforts, and invariably are the highest paid employees at their schools and the systems of higher education in which they work. Go to any major college campus, and the only millionaire in sight will be the head football coach or mens head basketball coach. Among the highest paid coaches are former Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel who was paid some $27.1 million over a decade which included $3.5 million in 2010 before he was forced to resign over NCAA violations. Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was paid $4.15 million in 2010, Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops just signed a 7-year contract worth $34.5 million, Kentucky head mens basketball coach John Calipari signed an 8-year $31.65 million contract in 2009 while the University of Oregon's head football coach Chip Kelly signed a 6-year $20.5 million contract in 2010. This is contrasted by the University of Oregon's President Richard Lariviere being paid $414,397 per year and Oregon's former governor Ted Kulongoski who was paid $93,600 per year. At a glance these coaches would seem to be grossly overpaid for working as public employees, but the truth is that they are actually working as top managers in a business model that just happens to be situated in a nonprofit school setting. Not only are coaches making sizable sums so are athletic directors, sports writers/commentators,scouting services, television networks, athletic apparel companies, corporate sponsors, colleges, the NCAA ,and even fans who bet in the various pools.

Almost everyone is getting paid handsomely as they should in college athletics except the student-athletes who receive scholarships as compensation. A close look at what a scholarship is supposed to be tells us that it is not pay for work performed. By definition a scholarship is financial aid for a student to further their education, not payment for performing in athletics. The anatomy of the athletic scholarship show us that the scholarships are for one year at a time and renewable based on not academic performance alone, but primarily athletic performance. In short an athlete could be excelling as a student, but failing as an athlete and lose their "scholarship" while walk-ons participate without scholarships. An athletic scholarship is not a paycheck, even though it is an earned benefit, not a gift.

The true nature and worth of an athletic scholarship can be somewhat clarified if one compares two hypothetical scholarship students. One student is Billy Athlete who has a full scholarship to play football, and the other is Joe Mathematics who has a full scholarship to study computer science. Both of their scholarships are valued at about $120,000 for four years.

Billy Athlete
1. Injury to body, brain (possible death)
2. Public figure, represents school
3. Academic requirements
4. Brings in revenue
5. Limits on earnings from a job
6. Works out year-round

Joe Mathematics
1. No personal risks
2. Privacy
3. Academic requirements
4. No revenue
5. No limits on earnings from a job
6. Study as necessary

During the 1920s University of Oregon head football coach John J. McEwan unsuccessfully advocated doing away with spring football because he felt that it interfered with players studying. Today Billy Athlete plays in the fall, participates in mandatory winter conditioning, spring football and in the summer he conditions for fall camp. The week of away games causes Billy Athlete to miss classes due to travel requirements and causes the loss of quality study time while Joe Mathematics has no such limits on his class attendance or study time. Often after practices and games Billy Athlete is in pain from injuries and must take painkillers, endure hours of therapy or surgery which can interfere with his studies while Joe Mathematics might catch a cold and have to visit the infirmary. All scholarships are not the same or equal compensation for students and student-athletes.

A quick look at the statistics reveals how valuable these coaches and athletes are when college sports is analyzed as a commercial enterprise. Forbes magazine recently found that the Notre Dame football team is the most valuable college football team worth an estimated $101 million. Ohio State home football games average 105,261 spectators each with Michigan home football games averaging 108,933 spectators each. These attendance figures compare well against the NFL's big market New York Giants and New York Jets who both average just under 80,000 fans per game. In 2011, the NCAA was paid $771 million for the television rights to the mens basketball tournament known popularly as March Madness. NCAA contracts for football and basketball exceed $20 billion per year. The Southeast Conference (SEC) distributed $209 million to its twelve members last year. As late as the 1960s the University of Oregon's head football coach Len Casanova and head track coach Bill Bowerman were not only outstanding coaches they also taught courses at the school. The days of coaches who teach classes are over, this is the day of the full-fledged commercial enterprise model forecast by the 1929 Carnegie report

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon in his Ed O'Bannon Antitrust v. NCAA in which he asserted that college athletes should be compensated for the economic use of their names and images. The judge ruled that the NCAA broke the law by retricting school from providing money above and beyond current scholarship limits to male athletes involved in the multi-billion dollar industry known as major college football and basketball. As college coaches earn more and more, it seems that the amateur athletes they coach are becoming more aware of their economic value, and desire fair compensation for their participation in the industry of major college sports.

Are we moving toward the day when their will be the first million dollar college athlete? Do fairness and the free enterprise system require that college athletes be paid?


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