Making Things Right

How to get college athletes what they deserve

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Over the past couple of weeks I've been in a couple of twitter battles with advocates of paying college football players. It's a noble pursuit. "The man" is lining his pockets with billions of dollars off the sweat of "slave" labor.

In a perfect world the players who fill the stadiums would get paid. They're the ones who people come to see, not coaches or athletic directors. Yet they're the ones who are cashing big checks while the players get paid in tuition, room, board, books and stipends. Doesn't seem equitable.

And somehow it's become racial. But this is 2019. Everything is racial.

Sports Illustrated writer Robert Klemko tweeted this out last week:

"If the most adversely affected class was wealthy white kids and not poor black kids, athletes in NCAA revenue sports would have been compensated fairly for a long time."

Hmmm.

How did we get here? Players have been filling stadiums for about a century now.

In 1937 two Chicago high school teams (St. Leo and Austin) played a game in front of 120,000 people in Soldier Field.

In the 50's 70,000 would regularly fill Rice Stadium.

The Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Peach Bowl were all filled to the brim long before integration.

The point being, football players have been making "the man" money for a while now. Granted, the money is better than ever. TV deals are through the roof. It's a billion dollar business now but all that ticket money over all those years before integration went somewhere and it wasn't in the players' pockets. It's been this way since the beginning. This is not a racial thing. It's an economics thing.

Don't get me wrong. There's money out there. The stories about bowl directors who make hundreds of thousands, even millions off one game every year are sickening.

Coaches are making upwards of $10 million per year now. Athletic directors are raking it in as well.

Meanwhile the worker bees continue to toil for what is a minute percentage of the pie. A stipend for living expenses was added to the mix a few years ago and it's helped some but the inequity that is big time college athletics remains. Stipends and tuition, room and board and books don't come close to an equitable compensation at the highest level. The big time programs bring in millions.

The problem is that the big time programs are the exception not the rule. Not everyone is Texas or Alabama. Very few programs actually make money when all is said and done. Ask most athletic directors about paying players and the first response will most likely be "Where is that money coming from?"

I asked UH Athletic Director Chris Pezman what would happen if he needed to pay players. "We couldn't do it. We have two revenue generating sports but you can't just pay them. Title IX won't allow it. You'd have to pay everyone. We have 458 athletes in 17 sports. We'd be bankrupt."

But there is a way to get players what they deserve. Let the market dictate it. Let athletes who are in demand make money from their likeness, their autograph, their commercial appeal. Sure it would be dominated by football and basketball players but in Connecticut the women's basketball team would be the most sought after. In Iowa it might be a wrestler, at UCLA a gymnast, at Cal a sprinter.

There would have to be checks and balances. Overzealous boosters would pay the moon and the sun to get recruits to come to their school but it's not like that's not happening now. If you have to put a limit on what each sponsor can pay and a compliance department in each university run by the NCAA and not the school itself you might be able to keep the cheating at a minimum as opposed to what's going on now.

Players look up into the stands of 100,000 seat stadiums with thousands of fans wearing their jerseys and feel like there's an incredible inequity and rightfully so. It doesn't have to be that way. Let the marketplace decide who deserves to be paid. I'm not sure that the NCAA has heard but we live in a free market society. They need to start acting like it.


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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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