Mark Emmert

College football is facing an identity crisis

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If NCAA President Mark Emmert had to give a State of the Union address similar to United States President Barack Obama, I’m not sure Emmert would know what to say. There would probably a lot of awkward pauses, some throat-clearing and a few hesitant laughs as he gazed at the hundreds of blank stares comprised of university presidents, chancellors and athletic directors looking back at him.

Emmert would not be in an enviable position because, as it stands today, it’s hard to define exactly where the state of college football resides. The same goes for most revenue producing college athletics.

College football has an identity crisis. If it was an 18-year-old college freshman, its major would be “undeclared”. The truth is that the sport has no earthly clue what to call itself.

Is it still considered an amateur sport? Every single player across all university-sponsored sports is given the title “student-athlete”. The mantra of athletic scholarships has always stated that the sport is the means to receiving a college degree.

But today’s college game hardly lends itself to that commandment.

With each passing year, universities in BCS conferences get richer and more powerful. The Pac-12’s new, reported $2.7 billion television rights agreement will ensure that every member equally gets somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million in revenue annually over the next 12 years. Big Ten schools have been pulling in similar numbers from the revenue-rich Big Ten Network. The sport is a hefty business.

And the words “amateur” and “business” are rarely uttered in the same sentence.

College football knows what it wants to be. It wants to be the NFL, where there is an entertainment price tag placed on everything fan-related. From television coverage to high-scoring spread offenses and everything in between, the goal of collegiate football bigwigs is to keep the fans happy and keep them coming back. But, for whatever reason, college football won’t admit they want to be just like its big brother.

Even though they’ve already started acting like him.

Paying Players: Legitimate vs. Entitlement

This was a stark indicator that college football wanted to evolve and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, of all people, got the conversation rolling. Should conferences that have the means to pay their players beyond what their athletic scholarship dishes out do so? Delany admitted that the proposal was not about creating a level playing field, but rather looking out for the best interest of the student-athlete in his conference.

Ironically, Delany argued that paying players more — a very non-amateur move — would help cover the total cost of being a college student – a very amateur ideal.

There are issues, to be sure. If universities begin paying athletes in revenue-producing sports such as football and men’s basketball, they will have to pay every student-athlete who participates in a university-sponsored sport. After all, and by Delany’s own logic, the purpose is to help with the total cost of college and the girls who play women’s tennis are no less a college student than the star player of the football team.

In some instances, they may be more so.

But where does the line between legitimate needs and entitlement get drawn?

When a football player signs a National Letter of Intent, they agree to forfeit a normal college experience and dedicate an astronomical amount of time to playing the game and going to school (or, just playing the game). Getting a job on the side, while not impossible, is practically unheard of. Many would argue that playing football is the athlete’s job. It certainly brings millions of dollars directly for the betterment of the university.

If a player wants a portion of that revenue, does that really make him an entitled person? I believe that’s a different question than asking “are there entitled football players?” to which the answer is unequivocally “yes”.

College football has already made several moves to de-amateurize the sport. While paying players extra money presents larger concerns, refusing to do so embraces an outdated philosophy in a new-age industry ruled by bottom line agendas.

(Im)proper benefits

Just about everything seems to be identified an impermissible benefit, and frankly, it’s getting old. That’s not to say the events at places like USC are acceptable  — they’re not — but punishing a kid for selling memorabilia that’s rightfully his is downright asinine.

The incidents involving Ohio State players receiving impermissible benefits have taken more twists and turns over the past year than all of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies put together. For Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, it’s been especially turbulent. If rumors that Pryor banked upward of $40,000 for signing autographs turn out to be true, the NCAA rulebook might spontaneously combust. Pryor, as a result, appears to be getting the hell out of Dodge and moving on from Columbus.

And, no, we still haven’t forgotten about former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. The NCAA’s investigation of Newton and his father, Cecil, was based around finding this unattainable “money trail” after Newton’s father reportedly admitted he solicited money from schools for his son’s talents. That solicitation alone would be a violation of NCAA Bylaws, but somehow, Cam’s eligibility remained intact because he was “unaware” that this whole deal was going on.

Yes, there are rules and they must be abided by. And that’s the problem. In no way am I condoning the allegations against Pryor or Newton, but the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude of college football is nauseating. The sport continues to make business decisions on a day-to-day basis, yet refuses to accept the idea that their players could do the same.

Memorabilia sales, alcohol sales and rising ticket prices — they’re all used to put a little more dough in the back pocket of athletic departments and schools like Texas, Penn State and Alabama do it better than anybody.

There are lots of financial benefits to college football. Who gets a portion of that pie is a selective process. I’m not sure paying players would stop players from receiving impermissible benefits, but removing the amateur title from them would.

This is the End

As a famous episode of “Seinfeld” once accused, “You just double-dipped your chip!”

College football double dips in amateurism and professionalism. More than it should. It acts like the NFL, but refuses to admit it. Like an adult, it does its best to get the most lucrative business deal available. Yet, like a child, it clamps on to the leg of amateurism, hoping that if they close their eyes and pretend real hard, the truth that sport is changing will go away.

Strangely enough, it’s the players who are affected the most from that immaturity.

There is no more “going to”. College football has changed, for better or for worse. If nothing else, the sport can’t go in reverse — it can’t get “more” amateur-ish. And when things change, those affected must evolve. For the sport, that may include paying players, or allowing them to make their own source of income.

But college football is dragging its feet. Why? I don’t know; the change has already come, and with every NCAA investigation or notice of allegations, the sport further self-inflicts wounds that prevent it from being what it really wants to be.

And you don’t have to know what you are to know what you want to be.

Matt Canada being paid $1.5 million per year to be LSU offensive coordinator

N.C. State Wolfpack offensive coordinator Matt Canada talks with Jacoby Brissett (12) during spring football practice in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
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LSU has certainly invested in its coaching staff, now under the leadership of Ed Orgeron. New details about the contract for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada reveal LSU’s newest coordinator will be paid $1.5 million per year over the course of his three-year deal, according to The Advocate.

Canada came to LSU after serving as offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh under Pat Narduzzi. Canada’s contract details at Pitt have not been revealed or recorded in USA Today’s annual database of coaching salaries, but it is very likely he was not getting close to this kind of money at Pitt. Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis was the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach in college football last season, according to the USA Today salary database. No other coach hit the $1.5 million mark, although Clemson’s Brent Venables was close ($1.43 million), as was supposed LSU target Lane Kiffin at Alabama ($1.4 million). Canada was a Broyles Award finalist this past season, so he has earned a chance to be among the highest-paid coaches in the game given his recent success.

LSU is also paying top dollar to its defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda. Aranda was the nation’s fourth highest-paid assistant coach last season with a contract paying $1.315 million in 2016. Aranda has since been given a raise from LSU and is earning a reported $1.8 million per year under his new three-year deal. LSU was paying Cam Cameron $1.211 million last season as well. Cameron was fired during the 2016 season along with former head coach Les Miles.

Having the best assistant coaches money can buy is always a nice perk, and LSU will hope paying their coordinators better than any other assistant coach will help Orgeron take the Tigers back to the top of the SEC. Paying top dollar brings pressure to win though, and if LSU struggles to take those next steps then we could be right back to square one in a matter of time.

Expect top assistants to continue to be paid handsomely moving forward though. Media rights deals and revenue shares from such deals pays well, and is a big reason why LSU has been able to afford such high assistant contracts. Canada’s base pay from LSU is set at $500,000 but the additional $1 million comes in part from media rights compensation. This is why schools in the SEC and Big Ten will likely be able to stay ahead of the pack in the coaching game more often than not, and why some assistant coaches may find it more lucrative to remain a coordinator at a program rather than take on a head coaching gig at some other spots.

Proposal for 10th assistant coach gains support of NCAA Division 1 Council

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 14: Interim head coach Mike Locksley of the Maryland Terrapins looks on against the Michigan State Spartans during the game at Spartan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State defeated Maryland 24-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The NCAA’s Board of Directors is expected to approve a proposal that will allow college football programs to add a 10th assistant to the coaching staff. The proposal has received the support of the Division 1 Council in this week’s NCAA meetings, which was to be expected. There appears to be nothing else to stand in the way of passing the proposal and expanding the coaching staff at football programs across the country.

There appears to be a widespread show of support for the addition of a coach to the staff from head coaches, which makes sense. With many programs adding on special assistants as analysts, some programs would benefit from being able to promote an analyst to a coaching role and get them more involved in the program. Just within the last week, Alabama hired Mike Locksley to a full-time coaching role after he had been helping the program out as an analyst. Alabama also picked up Steve Sarkisian as an analyst and promoted him to offensive coordinator following the awkwardly timed decision to push Lane Kiffin on his way out the door to take the FAU head coaching job.

The concern is this would lead to a greater divide between the haves and the have-nots in college football, as the addition of an extra coach will increase the payroll. This is hardly a concern for programs like Alabama and Ohio State, but perhaps more of a concern for a program like UMass or UAB (yes, UAB is back this year), for example.

Regardless, Donald Trump will happily take credit for the creation of potentially 128 new jobs in college football.

The Division 1 Council did scrap the idea of having an early signing period in the summer but there does still appear to be momentum for an early signing period in December. Another proposal receiving support from the council include the option for high school seniors to make official visits starting April 1 until the end of June (official visits currently cannot take place until September 1). The Council has also discussed organizing a 14-week season to play 12 games, thus providing two bye weeks for each team and push the start of the season into August.

Colorado adds defensive coordinator DJ Eliot from Kentucky

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Jordan Carrell #92 of the Colorado Buffaloes reacts after he sacked Ryan Burns #17 of the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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Colorado has a new defensive coordinator, but that means Kentucky is now shopping the market. DJ Eliot will leave his job as defensive coordinator at Kentucky to take on the same role at Colorado. The news was first reported by FootballScoop.com and The Courier-Journal has followed that initial report with confirmation.

Eliot has ben Kentucky’s defensive cooridnator for the past four seasons and leaves Mark Stoops in need of hiring a new coordinator after years having Eliot working with him. It remains to be seen where Kentucky will look for their new defensive coordinator, but it is worth noting that two current assistants — defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale and linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Matt House — have prior defensive coordinator experience.

Colorado had a vacancy to fill at defensive coordinator after losing Jim Leavitt after two seasons to Oregon to be a part of the new staff working under Willie Taggart.

 

Oklahoma State OC Mike Yurcich no longer candidate for Auburn

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers talks with the officials during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As Auburn looks to fill its vacancy on the football staff at offensive coordinator (previously filled by UConn-bound Rhett Lashlee), it appears that search will no longer include Oklahoma State’s Mike Yurcich. Yurcich, according to reports out of Stillwater, has pulled his name off the table for the Auburn job.

Yurcich reportedly interviewed with Auburn this week. Other candidates supposedly in the mix for the job include former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.

If Yurcich is to be the guy, Auburn will hope he can bring some of the same offensive production he ha shad at Oklahoma State with him. Oklahoma State had the nation’s 14th-best total offensive production in 2016 with an average of 494.8 yards per game (Auburn was 42nd with 440.8 ypg) and the 17th-best scoring average with 38.6 points per game (Auburn averaged 31.2 ppg). Of course, the Big 12 is not exactly known for playing solid defense, at least that is how the narrative goes, but the Tigers could benefit from a spark on the offensive side of the football in 2017.