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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Author of Rich Rod book presents case against paying college athletes

(Recently, I reviewed "Three And Out," a book about Rich Rodriguez's tumultuous time at Michigan.)
“Three and Out” author John U. Bacon presents a decent argument for college athletes to continue not being paid. Around page 350, he calculates the cost of a scholarship for Michigan football players:
“By the time a fifth-year scholarship senior from out of state graduates from the University of Michigan, his school has spent over $580,000 on him, whether he’s an All-American or a fourth string, long-snap center -- and that does not include the Academic Center, strength and conditioning, facilities, administration, athletic trainers, or tape.
“When people argue it’s time to start paying players, they usually miss two vital points. First, Michigan’s is one of only a handful of athletic departments that make a profit, and it had lost money in the years between (athletic directors) Bo Schembechler and Bill Martin. If you pay one quarterback, you had better pay the women rowers the exact same, or you’ve violated Title IX. Once you start doing that, watch colleges start folding teams they can’t afford.”
… “The average player gets a very good deal financially. Only a very few, like Denard Robinson, make more money for their school than their school spends on them. The only sensible solution, I’ve always believed, is for the NFL and NBA to set up viable minor leagues to give those rare stars a real choice -- the same option high school hockey and baseball players have.”
In a very similar scene passed down through “Fab Five” lore, Denard Robinson has a Chris Webber moment. And to this day, Robinson seems content, where Webber soured on the Michigan and the NCAA’s capitalizing off his image.  
Page 353 reads: “After lunch, Robinson walked over the spot where John F. Kennedy had stood almost fifty years earlier to introduce the idea of the Peace Corps, and past a retail tent selling yellow T-shirts with SHOE at the top, LACE at the bottom, and an untied cleat in the middle.
“Think they’d give me one?” he said, walking by unnoticed.
“Only if you want an NCAA violation,” I replied, recalling a similar conversation Chris Webber had with Mitch Albom.
“‘That’s crazy,’ he said, smiling. I didn’t have the heart to tell him a replica of the No. 16 jersey he wore on Saturdays was going for $70 down the street. Paying players might be impractical, but it’s even harder to justify why some guy selling Denard’s nickname on a T-shirt should make a profit -- or EA Sports for that matter.”
With college football season about to begin, it’s only a matter of time before the Heisman hype begins anew, with Robinson’s mug and signature dreadlocks again plastered everywhere.


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