THE COUCH SLOUCH

Fair pay to play act for college athletes might be the right thing, but at what cost?

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In the rush to celebrate California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing the Fair Pay to Play Act into law – allowing college athletes in the state to finally get compensated for endorsements and the like, starting in 2023 – most pundits are failing to realize this is not as wonderful as it seems.

Everybody is treating this broadside against the hypocritical, dictatorial NCAA as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

(To be honest, I never understood why sliced bread was considered that big of a breakthrough. What's so hard about buying a loaf of bread and then slicing it at home? Heck, the knife was a big deal, and, frankly, the spork – half spoon, half fork – was ingenius.)*

(* It's amazing how often I get off track, among the many reasons I am not ever taken seriously for Pulitzer, Peabody or Nobel award consideration.)

Sure, it's always a good day when the big, bad NCAA is leveled. What do we know about the NCAA? It acts as if it's the fourth branch of government, accountable to no one except its accountants, and it has really, really nice offices in Indianapolis near Interstate 70.

The NCAA, naturally, strongly opposed this new law; it was also opposed to indoor plumbing and freeway exits.

The NCAA position on this California development – college athletes will be able to endorse products, host sports camps, sign memorabilia or autographs for money, attach their names to video games, et al – is best reflected by the response of the Pac-12 conference: "This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports."

Oh, please. Everything about Division 1 football and men's basketball is professional, with the sole exception that its labor force is unpaid and Dick Vitale never stops shouting.

Indeed, I would sum up the NCAA's modus operandi as the following:

The rich get richer and everyone else eats ramen.

Technically, the Fair Pay to Play Act is progress. In the old days, a school might sell a prospect on the quality of its football program, the quality of its education, the quality of the region, etc. Now, a school might woo a prospect with all of that plus the possibility of, say, a local Chevy dealer who is willing to pay a lot for a business relationship with the starting quarterback.

Yes, this is the free market at work. But it's not as free-and-simple as that.

California often is a punch line and often is a pacesetter. In this case, it's both.

Is it possible to take a step in the right direction and the wrong direction at the same time?

(Note: I ask myself that every time I walk down the matrimonial aisle.)

We are casting an erroneous wide net in seeking to solve our college athletics problem.

By the way – and I promise this is the last tangential interruption – why are Newsom and the California state legislature even treading in these waters? I can think of 400, maybe 405 more pressing issues at the moment in the sometimes not-so-Golden State in which I live.

So, why wouldn't colleges align themselves with companies and local retailers who can assure large payments for the best athletes? Why wouldn't third parties – boosters – engage in licit and illicit behavior to pave the yellow brick road for the home team? Wouldn't some high schools start down this path to bring in better athletic talent?

A student-athlete certainly should have the right to assess his or her best deal financially, but I again return to a basic premise:

Why are institutions of higher education trafficking in these areas?

As always, I lean on former University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins for wisdom: "A student can win twelve letters at a university without learning to write one."

Besides the fact that we are creating another level of potential impropriety and corruption, where exactly in the mission statement for most universities is the part about running sporting events for profit?

This entire unholy business stands as a complete incongruity to a university's raison d'être. What, you don't comprehend raison d'être? That's because you went to a school that prioritized basketball over books and you've spent every autumn Saturday since 1993 watching "College GameDay."

Let me wrap it up this week with my favorite antiquated, oldie-but-goodie sentiment:

Build more libraries, not stadiums.

Ask The Slouch

Q. When somebody tells somebody else "you can't hold my jockstrap," what does that mean? (Nathan Margolis; Albany, N.Y.)

A. I guess you've never tried to hold somebody else's jockstrap.

Q. New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis wears a "Man of God" headband. What would your headband read? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg, Md.)

A. "Best by 12-17-96."

Q. I do not understand the crux of this NBA-China dustup. Do you? (Scott Ayres; Houston)

A. I don't either, but I love the word "crux."

Q. Is Dan Snyder the Peter Angelos of the NFL or is Peter Angelos the Dan Snyder of MLB? (Mary Lafsky; Great Falls, Va.)

A. Pay the lady, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!



Ask The Slouch

Q. When somebody tells somebody else "you can't hold my jockstrap," what does that mean? (Nathan Margolis; Albany, N.Y.)

A. I guess you've never tried to hold somebody else's jockstrap.

Q. New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis wears a "Man of God" headband. What would your headband read? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg, Md.)

A. "Best by 12-17-96."

Q. I do not understand the crux of this NBA-China dustup. Do you? (Scott Ayres; Houston)

A. I don't either, but I love the word "crux."

Q. Is Dan Snyder the Peter Angelos of the NFL or is Peter Angelos the Dan Snyder of MLB? (Mary Lafsky; Great Falls, Va.)

A. Pay the lady, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

Houston secures a win without D'Eriq King and A&M narrowly staves off Kansas. Here's a look at what happened in the Lone Star State:

Saturday NCAA Football Recap: Tech gets hammered, Houston fights on, A&M escapes defeat

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

 Houston 46, North Texas 25

After Houston quarterback D'Eriq King and receiver Keith Corbin announced they would redshirt the remainder of the 2019 season, running back Patrick Carr stepped up, running for 139 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Cougars to a 46-25 victory over North Texas on Saturday night. In the second half, receiver Marquez Stevenson scored on a dazzling 82-yard kickoff return, the first Cougar to score on a kickoff since 2016. Although it looks like Houston's offense was the hero on Saturday night, safety Grant Stuard was disrupting the backfield on defense like he paid rent there with 11 tackles for the Cougars. Clayton Tune was rocky but he certainly made a statement, completing 16-of-20 passes with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Lark in the first quarter. Houston is off next week and hosts Cincinnati on Oct. 12.

Oklahoma 55, Texas Tech 16

Superstar quarterback Jalen Hurts looked comfortable and focused on Saturday as he led the Sooners to a demoralizing 55-16 victory over Texas Tech. Hurts threw for 415 yards, three touchdowns and ran for another score in his first 400-yard passing game since transferring from Alabama. "He's seeing the field really well," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "He's understanding how we want to attack people. He was a little more confident today, a little bit more steady." Hurt's 485 yards of total offense ranks eighth in Oklahoma history. Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb dominated the backfield and finished with career highs of 185 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday. As if breaking individual records wasn't enough, Lamb was elevated to seventh in Oklahoma history in yards receiving. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for Hurts, who threw his first interception of the season on a deflected pass in the third quarter. "We could have sat there and dwelled on it, pouted, whatever, but that's not the culture we have as a team," Hurts said. "We learn from it and move forward and keep the main thing the main thing." Oklahoma receiver Charleston Rambo, who entered the day leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns, had 122 yards receiving on just two catches in the first quarter. The Sooners entered the game leading the nation in offense and gained 642 yards. They have finished with at least 600 yards in each game this season. Oklahoma jumped to 4th in the poll after handling business against Texas Tech. The Sooners play at Kansas on Saturday.

Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27

There's something freaky about these Texas A&M vs. Arkansas games: Even when the Aggies are favored by more than three touchdowns, the games always come down to the wire. Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, leading Texas A&M to a 31-27 victory over Arkansas on Saturday. Receiver Quartney Davis finished with two touchdowns and 62 yards receiving on 7 receptions for the Aggies. "I wouldn't say it's embarrassing. I've been playing this game for the past three years and it seems like every year it comes down to the wire," Davis said. "It's a pretty interesting game." The Aggies missed an opportunity to take the lead after lineman Justin Madubuike intercepted a pass by Nick Starkel at the goal line with 5:30 left in the first half. Instead, Dejon Harris picked up a fumble and returned it six yards for a touchdown on the next play, putting Arkansas within 14-10 with five minutes to play in the first half. "I had never had an interception in my life," Madubuike said. "I just looked up to see where the ball was and it just appeared right to my left peripheral. I turned and it was right there, and grabbed it and tried to run, and he tried to tackle me." The Aggies did just enough to hang onto the 23rd spot in the poll and will face second-ranked Alabama at home on Oct. 12.

TCU 51, Kansas 14

True freshman quarterback Max Duggan was nearly flawless in his second consecutive start, leading TCU to a 51-14 victory over Kansas on Saturday to open Big 12 play. Duggan led touchdown drives on each of his first-half possessions and finished 8-of-11 passing for 100 yards and two touchdowns. The Horned Frogs defense held Kansas to only 55 yards going into the fourth quarter and handed the Jayhawks their 46th consecutive Big 12 road loss. Duggan was replaced by graduate transfer Alex Delton halfway through the second quarter with TCU in a comfortable 28-0 lead. TCU plays its first Big 12 road game at Iowa State on Saturday.

 Baylor 23, Iowa State 21

As much as I like to harp on the importance of defense, field goals can really make or break a team that has blown a 20-point lead. Baylor coach Matt Rhule passed on a field goal attempt after redshirt freshman John Mayers badly missed a kick in the first half. Then the kid got another chance from the same distance of the early miss and he slipped in the 38-yarder with 21 seconds left for the first field goal of his career, elevating the Bears to a narrow 23-21 victory over Iowa State on Saturday. "Best one of my life so far, I think," Mayers said. "It was good to have to get another chance because a lot of times you don't as a kicker. The offense did a heck of a job to get the ball down there, and I was glad to get an opportunity." Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer finished 26-of-45 with 307 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Bears are at Kansas State next Saturday.

Texas State 24, Nicholls  3

Bobcats quarterback Gresch Jensen threw two touchdowns in the second half and ran for another score, leading Texas State to a 24-3 victory over Nicholls on Saturday night. The Bobcats face UL Monroe at home on Oct. 10.

Louisiana Tech 23, Rice 20

Louisiana Tech quarterback J'Mar Smith ran for a touchdown in overtime and lifted the Bulldogs to a narrow victory over Rice in Houston on Saturday night. The Owls are on the road against UAB on Saturday.

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