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Mo money, mo problems? Big Ten discusses more pay for athletes

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During their conference meetings this week in Chicago, the Big Ten addressed, among many other things, whether or not players should receive more money to help pay for everyday living expenses.

It’s no surprise, really, that the discussion comes in the middle of one of the most highly-publicized scandals of the year involving conference member Ohio State. And while there is still no excuse for the fact that Jim Tressel lied/withheld information multiple times to his boss and the NCAA about previous knowledge of his players receiving impermissible benefits, the question about the benefits themselves has been its own separate controversy.

Should a player be allowed to sell what is rightfully theirs? How about when multi-billion dollar television deals reap the benefits of a player’s talent and hard work?

Besides, just about anything counts as an impermissible benefit these days, so student-athletes can’t exactly live by the same rules as a regular college student.

The Big Ten discussed bridging the gap between what an athletic scholarship pays each year and what it costs to be an everyday college student — possibly using funds generated from Big Ten Network revenue. The conference estimates roughly a $2,000-$5,000 difference between the payout of an athletic scholarship and the basic cost of living.

“How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and a regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany posed.

Delany added that the discussions are, well, just that at this point. The Big Ten has reportedly spoken with other conferences about paying players more money, most of which said they couldn’t afford it. Paying athletes in men’s basketball and football alone reportedly could cost upward of $300,000 a year.

The idea is intriguing, but there are some loopholes in the proposal that should be considered:

1. Paying athletes more money to cover the cost of living becomes a sketchy recruiting advantage. If other conferences can’t afford to pay an athlete for the cost of everyday living like the Big Ten, suddenly there is a bidding war for a player’s talents. Delany has already stated the proposal is not about creating a level playing field, but that seems to go against just about every rule in the NCAA’s book.

2. The “basic cost of living” is a subjective term . How is it determined and what are the components? Transportation? Laundry? Extra spending money? Chances are that number varies from city to city within the Big Ten conference. My basic cost of living in college was $200 per month, most of which I spent on beer.

3. A lot of fans tend to forget that when a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent, they forfeit a lot of luxuries to be on a team. At the same time, however, they are provided with just about every imaginable resource — on-campus living arrangements, food, academic resources, you name it. A person I spoke with at WVU who has knowledge of the daily routine of a student-athlete said they essentially have one voluntary task: go to class.

With so much provided, how much more does a player really need? No one really needs a tattoo or a 52″ Sony television.

4. If you pay the football players, you’d have to pay athletes in all school-sponsored sports. Obviously, football is a revenue sport and most others are not, but they all involve student-athletes. The girls who compete in women’s tennis are no less a college student than Terrelle Pryor.

This is obviously a topic that can’t be covered in one blog and I know I didn’t touch on all the issues; I invite you to sound off below and let us know what you think of the proposal.

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.