By Leo Coughlin
Major college football is a rip off.
Indulge me, please.
Let me depart this week from the usual examination of goings on around here and look at this gigantic fraud.
Those being ripped off are the players who make possible the millions of dollars for the colleges and others.
What brings all of this to a crescendo is the current major and crucial re-alignment of college football teams in their various conferences.
We are talking about major college football here, not the brand in its platonic existence played in the Ivy League or such bucolic spots as Amherst, Edinboro University, William & Mary or Hofstra.
Why is the re-alignment taking place? Answer - $$$$$.
Yes, money. More money. Major college football is now swimming in dollars. But that is not enough. They want more.
How will the dollars come? Answer - mostly through television revenues excited by rivalries and eventually a long sought playoff system to crown a real national champ.
Why is it all a rip off? Answer - because the people who make it go, the players, perform virtually for nothing.
Oh, sure. They get "scholarships." We know that. And to someone without the wherewithal to pay thousands of dollars an academic year to get an education but who can play ball it is an opportunity.
An opportunity, yes, taken full advantage of by the colleges.
Look, it costs nothing to put an athlete on scholarship. It is like hooking up another boxcar to a very long freight train. No cost, really, measured in the totality of the college financial universe.
So the school gets an employee for next to nothing and the kid gets an education (maybe) and a chance (maybe) at playing in the National Football League, which pays nothing for its minor league (the colleges) system.
Now tell me that isn't a rip off every way from Saturday.
This scribbler is an all-my-life football fan. I used to cover the Southeastern Conference. I was in conversations with the likes of Bear Bryant, Bobby Dodd, Ray Graves, et al. I covered Steve Spurrier when he played. Ditto with Joe Namath. And many more.
It has always been a little uncomfortable to observe that young men are busting their behinds for good old Alma Mater (heh, heh) while the bands are playing and the goose bumps are rising and the eyes are misting as old schools songs chorus (E.G. - Jacksonville: Florida v. Georgia; "We Are the Boys of Old Florida" - Yeah!) while recognizing that hey, someone is making a buck here.
Now making that buck has risen to such proportions that comment - at least from here - needs to be made.
We won't parse all the moving and shifting that has gone on in recent days to make a new Pac-10, new Big 10, maybe new SEC, new ACC, etc. and so on und so weiter.
Texas apparently pulled off a clever coup - getting Colorado to leave the Big 12 for the Pac 10 and Nebraska departing for the Big 10. Now the Longhorns dominate a 10-school "Big 12" and it means multi moolah.
These big groupings - 16 or so in a conference - mean that each will have a deal with a TV network, there will be mucho dinero when playoffs take place, and the dollars will flow like the Mississippi unleashed.
And the kids who play will get a puny scholarship more than compensated for by football revenue 50 to 100 times over. (Take 50 guys on scholarship at $20,000 each in a given year measured against games revenues equaling $50 million to $100 million; or do your own math. Whatever. It is monstrous.)
The players should be paid. I don't know what. But the geniuses who figure out how to put together 16-team conferences about to take humongous dollars from TV networks and sponsors could come up with something fair and equitable.
There you have it.
And this doesn't begin to address the NFL and what it should be paying for its now free farm system.
Contributing a good chunk to scholarships might be a start.
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