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‘Costas Tonight’ dives into the dysfunction of college athletics

Alabama Crimson Tide's Richardson holds up the trophy with teammate Kirkpatrick after they defeated the LSU Tigers during the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans Reuters

As we mentioned in a primer a couple of days ago, “Costas Tonight: Live from 30 Rock” held a town hall/round table style special on the pressing issues of college athletics.

To reiterate the words of Bob Costas, not every angle was covered and not every voice was heard, but a few issues were brought up. Here were the highlights:

Pay for play
By now, you probably know the story. The NCAA originally passed legislation last fall to allow schools and conferences to add up to an additional $2,000 to the value of an athletic scholarship to their athletes. That proposal was met with enough opposition by Division 1 members to suspend it until what is now being reported to be an August revisit.

The issue itself is worthy of an extended deadline. Do schools allow college athletes to be paid their free market value, as ex-agent Josh Luchs suggested in a Sports Illustrated column?* Should there be a compromise and recognition that participating in college athletics is a full-time job that has a zero dollar cap? Or, is the value of an education, books, food, housing, etc enough?

(*that’s never going to happen; I’m just laying out ideas)

Joe Nocera of the New York Times related college athletics to “unpaid labor” and outlined a plan to where programs allowed a multi-million salary cap for teams where a minimum salary of $25,000 was given and select players could get more.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said “athletes deserve more than what they’re getting. What they get is not equal to what they’re giving up.”

CFT’s take: Let’s be honest about paying players. What does it mean and are we okay with the consequences? The truth of the matter is that universities provide ample resources for their athletes, from the educational, to the financial for, say, an emergency trip home. The life of a college athlete isn’t exactly that of the starving student it’s sometimes made out to be.

With that said, playing sports is a full-time job for these athletes. Not a part-time job, a full-time job. And it’s one that offers limited, although not nonexistent, opportunities for compensation elsewhere during the academic year. The question we need to ask is what’s the dollar amount associated with the time that is being put toward the sport vs. what the athletes need. Minimum wage? Skilled labor? That’s what athletes should be compensated.

It’s about finding a middle ground.

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The BCS vs. playoff debate
BCS executive director Bill Hancock said during tonight’s broadcast, as he has said time and time again, that major college football’s regular season is the playoff.

It isn’t, and Hancock knows it. Costas promptly called Hancock on his bogus spin, pointing to teams like Boise State and TCU, which had undefeated seasons in years past and yet no shot at a BCS title. Hancock was speechless. As in, he had no response.

How can I describe it? In the movie “The Royal Tenembaums”, Ben Stiller‘s character accused Gene Hackman of stealing savings bonds out of an account. All Hackman’s character could do was chuckle helplessly and awkwardly in response.

It was like that.

But BCS leaders, to their credit, have listened to enough backlash to understand something needed to be done. So they met. And met again. And will continue to meet until July. And today, we found out that postseason ideas have basically been grouped into four categories, one of which reeks so profoundly of BCS slime that I’m not convinced Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wasn’t just screwing with our heads out of boredom.

CFT’s take: There’s not much that hasn’t already been said. Anything — well, except for the now-infamous Rose Bowl idea — would be almost an immediate improvement over the current system, no matter how small or displaced. To me, there are four individuals who are running away with the oversight in college football. You can probably guess who they are, but just in case, here’s a hint: they run the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. If/when they decide outsourcing their postseason to third parties is tiring, they’ll adapt. And so will the rest of college football.

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Conference realignment
This has been downright frustrating. Driving the scenarios where San Diego State plays in the Big East, Missouri is in the same division as Florida and two conferences fold into one to form a 24-team hodgepodge has been the pursuit of the ever-lucrative TV dollar.

After two years of shifting, moving and near-superconferences, South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard was asked tonight if the realignment craze had gone too far.

The answer, of course, is an emphatic yes, but you can click the video below to see a longer answer. If nothing else, it’s interesting to get the perspective of an AD whose own conference was nearly annihilated by realignment… and then nearly annihilated another conference in the process.

CFT’s take: Realignment is a bittersweet game for us. On one hand, we’re never opposed to the benefit it brings our site, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t make the 2011 season a lot less enjoyable on the field. The worst part is the feeling of helplessness that comes with it. Tradition? Whatever, big deal. Contractual agreements? Nothing more than the paper used to light celebratory cigars following the addition of a new school to a new conference. How can you or I — the common folk — argue with the almighty dollar, no matter how weak it is compared to the Euro?

The short answer is we can’t.

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Other items from the docket tonight that didn’t necessarily involve football:

— ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, new South Carolina coach Frank Martin and former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie shared their thoughts about the one-and-done rule in college basketball. Bilas, as you might imagine, had zero issue with it, Martin wanted it taken out entirely and Flutie did his best to support staying in school. Martin suggested going back to the rule where freshman must sit out a year before playing varsity sports.

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— Former Mizzou receiver Sean Coffey was part of a panel discussing academics. Coffey said he felt sports operate essentially as a full-time job for athletes, and agreed with Costas’ assertion that academic advisers work to help athletes stay eligible, not enhance the educational experience. I think it’s fair, though, to point out that college will always be what the athlete — or you, your son or daughter  — makes of it.

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— NCAA president Mark Emmert sat down with Costas for a one-on-one interview. In between a handful of “I agrees” and “you’re rights”, Emmert acknowledged it was time to cut down on “trivial” violations and increase severity of sanctions for major infractions. That’s been the goal for the past year, but nothing definitive has been done yet because, well, it’s not as simple as ripping out the pages of the NCAA’s rulebook.

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6 Responses to “‘Costas Tonight’ dives into the dysfunction of college athletics”
  1. suprmous says: Apr 5, 2012 4:25 AM

    These guys are still missin the point on a lot of things. I’m beginnin to think they just don’t give a damn and don’t wanna hear anything but their own words that come outa their mouth. They all put “fun” in dysfunctional and I’ll just be damned if they make any sense, even a thimble full at that. Hell they might as well have a dictatorship or better yet a version of Roger Goodell runnin things (God Fobid and Hail Mary Mother of Jesus, I can’t believe I just said the latter). But it makes you wonder if this group will ever see past the nose on their face.

  2. usfkevin says: Apr 5, 2012 7:23 AM

    Doug Woolard is the athletic director of USF. Judy Genshaft is the President.

  3. nurrevir says: Apr 5, 2012 9:48 AM

    the flack-catcher in the ncaa president’s chair earned his pay…granted you can’t be too aggressive without scaring him off, but the excessive softballing and/or lack of followup let him make his points (essentially brushing you off, in defense of the status quo, until, to paraphrase “the complications of change are worked out.”

    bottom line is the bigtime college sports buz is a big one for the shcools, the media, the equipment makers, etc., and its not one that will be given up for the sake of, you’ll pardon the excess, education.

    for examples of flawed argument: there is no reason why trivial violations can’t be tossed…the magnifation of the task in the “tearing out pages” trope gives the task undue weight…as in “who would ask such a thing?…” the obfsucation wouldn’t get by in a high school debating class…the notion that sports programs represent opportunities for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have them is specious…why is that the repsonsibility of a college or university…a proper amateur league like the old aau could be a showcase but maybe not so flashy without the alma mater kool ade…

    the academic stuff, including the new standards is a joke or will be until it can be demonstrated that the new requirements are for real…that they are overseen with a rigor that prevents the kind of fix that has doomed past efforts…and if there is a successful tutorial solution why should it be available only to athletes?

    bottom line though, is the questionable existence of the national bigtime within the university system…the conference alightments, (deftly defused by one of mr ncaa’s sly reponses as “positioning for tv” marketing), across the geographical boundaries of regional rivalry being only one sympton of metastacized commercialism.

    agreed here that sports are or should be a part of a kid’s education, (mens sana in corpore sano), but it seems that the bigtime actually diminishes occasion and access for all through intra-mural programs and other form of competition that might serve the entire student body…resources and emphasis sucked up by the bigtime overshadows “play” and makes sports more rather vertical than horizontal on campus, rather elitist than populist.

    agreed here that sports build character but can’t see that footbal at ohio state or ucla does a better job than at wesleyan or williams…maybe judging from the difficulties of the bigtime, worse.

    the chief hypocrites here, or at least their logos, are the college and university presidents who know damned well that the hugger mugger of the bigtime is inconsitent with the integrity pages at the front of their catalogs.

  4. Ben Kercheval says: Apr 5, 2012 9:59 AM

    my mistake, usfkevin. thanks for the heads up.

  5. irishdodger says: Apr 5, 2012 2:31 PM

    While the NCAA & college presidents are far from pure, i remain against paying college athletes. They have a choice in not attending college if they &/or their parents deem that the benefits don’t don’t outweigh the costs/risks. Go back to the Kobe days when players can enter the draft or commit to at least 2 yrs of college…no more one & done. Then the kids that have the talent to be paid can do so in the NBA or if their talents need honed they have the D League or Europe. Let the HS football players who want to get paid be eligible for all the professional football leagues. While it’s rare that a HS kid can step into the NFL, they can compete in minor leagues, Arena leagues or Canada and pull a paycheck w/o the restrictions that come with being an amateur athlete.

    Now why would most refuse that route despite knowing they would be getting paid? Because they know damn well that the NCAA gives them the best proving grounds to showcase their talent that may or may not (likely NOT) get parlayed into millions of $$$. If the feel like they’re talents are being exploited to net revenue for the university, then they should be allowed to take their talents to the free market & sign up w/ the highest bidder.

    Otherwise, you start paying them (even a stipend) and next they’ll want to form a union & then agents will want a piece of the pie. And then, eventually, it will trickle down to high school w/ precedent to pay them something or at least allow agents to forge relationships.

  6. marty2019 says: Apr 6, 2012 8:03 AM

    To me, the biggest issue in college athletics is corruption and hypocrisy in football and basketball. These athletes are nothing but mercenaries who have little to do with the educational institutions they purport to represent. All the top colleges have bag men who know how to make money flow from boosters to players.

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