December 26, 2020
I came across two articles in the newspaper last week that illustrate the disparity that exists in college athletics. The first concerned a bill introduced by Senators Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal that is being called the “College Athletes Bill of Rights.” One of the key points in the bill guaranteed retention of scholarships until the athlete graduated. While graduation rates vary between schools and sport, the NCAA asserted in 2018 nearly 90% of student athletes graduated. What it did not say was that many of these students took five or six years to accomplish this rate, and those last years were done without scholarships. Neither does it mention the disparity between white and black athletes, with whites graduating at a rate 16.3% higher than blacks. That includes those who lose their scholarship due to sports injury and are then cut off from school health insurance with a pre-existing condition.
The other article looked at coaches who are losing their jobs during our covid-19 shortened season. Schools in the FBS (Football Bowl Series) conferences are already on the hook for $75 million in contract buyouts for eight coaches and their accompanying assistants. The SEC seems to bear the brunt of this buyout, with $21 million for firing Gus Malzahn at Auburn and $15 million for Will Muschamp at South Carolina. Malzahn amassed a paltry 68-34 record, and only went 6-4 this season with an invitation to the Citrus Bowl. This comes as Auburn announced revenues were down $62 million dollars. Apparently even $62 million could not override the “poor” season for the Tigers.
While the newspaper illustrated the disparity between Coaches and student athletes, the response to the revenue shortfall has been swift by colleges across the country. The NCAA canceled the Basketball tournament in March, along with all winter and spring sports. Football limped through delays and postponements toward 28 bowl games, 16 fewer than last year. The Bowls and tournaments produce a lot a revenue for leagues and individual schools. Schools have decided to compensate for these losses by cutting programs and dropping scholarships in their non-revenue producing sports. For many of these programs it is a savings of $1-$2 million. Ironically, Title IX is preserving many of the women’s programs. The 120-person football scholarships require several women’s programs to provide equality. Maybe if you just retained your football coach there may be more money available.
Thoughts: I walked on second semester in college and was given one of the available scholarships. I did not think about it then, but it was no doubt available because they had dropped someone else from the scholarship roles. While the league did not allow Spring Ball, I did take “Phys Ed” classes (through the football program) from 1-5 pm Monday through Friday. Every team meeting the coach stressed the same thing, if you can get out of Junior College with a “C” average, you will not flunk out during your two years of eligibility at a four-year college (i.e., 1 ½ years). The disparity between the scholarship and “job” provided by the school and the expectation to WIN clearly illustrated where the priorities were. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.