Sports Commentariat Demands More Inequality in College Sports

Sports was much more enjoyable when reporters covered sports. Now print and broadcast coverage is cluttered with breathless opinionating regarding race, ‘gender’, inequality and which high school will next host barnstorming Colin Kaepernick’s Aerial Circus.

Koterda Omaha World Herald

The latest social justice crusade for the sporties is what Sally Jenkins terms the NCAA’s “economically preying on athletes rather protecting them.”

This doesn’t mean the NCAA is forcing scholarship athletes to pay for housekeeping in away stadium locker rooms. It means the NCAA is using player’s images to promote college football without paying the athletes. The NCAA also stifles individual initiative by forbidding athletes from cashing in on their reputation while they are still playing in college.

Or as Jenkins with high umbrage terms it, “NCAA denies athletes their natural economic rights, and hijacks their names, images and likenesses for financial gain. Ohio State’s Chase Young is a star who may not sign his own autograph for money or endorse a Columbus car dealership.”

She then pulls out an apples–to–oranges comparison that supposedly wins the debate, “What member of a university marching band is told that they must not profit from the trumpet so long as they’re at the university?”

The answer right now is none, but when the Pride of Oklahoma starts recruiting trumpet players like the football team recruits the next Baker Mayfield, we’ll have to revisit the trumpet’s last call.

Fact is the football players Jenkins is putting up for auto dealer adoption are already being paid. In 2011 Dr. Patrick Rishe – at the time an Associate Professor of Economics at Webster University – ran the numbers on the value of a football scholarship.

At the University of Oklahoma, the out–of–state scholarship value was $124,556. And that’s not all, “intangible benefits associated with the scholarship [include] free gear, free publicity, free high-quality training and coaching, free access to trainers and fitness centers [and] lower unemployment rates for college graduates.”

Plus, the relief of avoiding the ball–and–chain of student loan debt.

Rishe concludes, “adding the short-term cost savings to the long-term earnings enhancement, the value of a college football scholarship at the Top 25 schools is potentially as high as $2.2 million for those student-athletes that complete their degrees.”

Those were 2011 numbers. The total value would be higher now.

The players, whose pain SJW sportswriters are feeling, represent maybe three percent of all the scholarship players on a team. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence might cash in by endorsing hair salons but the vast majority of the team would remain anonymous and uncompensated.

And if you think the college football and basketball recruiting process is sleazy now, wait until boosters can bid for 5–star recruits! The players may as well list themselves on Ebay during their last semester of high school.

John Feinstein, another player pay supporter, does make an interesting point. Non–revenue or minor sport athletes, usually also–rans for collegiate attention, could benefit handsomely. “Why not pay a star swimmer, soccer player, tennis player or golfer to put on clinics for local kids? When Oklahoma State wins the NCAA golf championship, maybe local businesses around the state might want to use some of their players to promote products — or their golf courses.”

California just passed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” that will allow in–state athletes to go on the auction block. Other states are checking with head coaches who have winning records to discuss feasibility. While a miscellaneous congressman wants to strip the NCAA of its tax–exempt status if it doesn’t surrender.

Jenkins is convinced the NCAA is doomed because a political consultant told her so, “once the public suspects an organization’s motives don’t align with its mission, ‘we often see a rapid decline in the public seeing that organization as indispensable.’”

Maybe if Jenkins had been a paying client she would’ve been told the rest. Individuals often despise an organization overall, say Congress, but heartily approve of their individual congressman. The same is true of the NCAA and universities.

The situation may not be perfect, but players on a football team currently enjoy a rough equality. Some are more famous than others, but they all labor under the same economic system. And they are all getting more compensation than the rest of the student body.

Players are only undercompensated when compared to the NFL, which most of them will never join.

What Jenkins is advocating will replace this equivalence with a permanent caste system that geometrically enhances the inequality the left purports to abhor.

Think California, only in cleats.

Chase Young, Jenkins’ pet, will be making buckets of money, while the lineman next to him continues to labor in obscurity and now relative penury. It’s a recipe for jealousy, dissention and team disintegration.

Football Flashback to An Earlier Era

This season a remarkable decision took place on the next–to–last play of the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State football game. This intra–state championship matchup dates back to 1904, but this matchup was particularly important. Oklahoma was ranked #9 and OSU just behind at #10. The game winner would not only have bragging rights, the victor would also be the Big 12 champion.

perine-kneeMy alma mater OU got off to a ragged start. The defense was exceptionally porous and the usually reliable running game stalled. Then in the second quarter Heisman Trophy candidate receiver Dede Westrook was knocked unconscious after being hit while making a catch.

OU dropped seven points behind, but managed to tie 17 – 17 to end the half. In the third quarter, just as prospects were looking up for the Sooners, RB Samaje Perine limped off the field and into the locker room.

Perine is the Sooners’ hammer. He’s a punishing straight–ahead runner who brings back memories of Steve Owens. Without him the load would go to Joe Mixon, who so far was having an off day. It looked like a long afternoon ahead.

Then without ceremony Perine quietly returns. Viewers, like the OSU defense, learned he was back when he got the ball. On a rainy, slick day OU wanted to keep the ball on the ground and use up the clock. Perine got the ball play after play after play. OSU had eight players stacked on the line and they knew who was going to get the ball, yet he kept going.

On the last drive of the game he carried the ball 11 times and it looked toward the end like some OSU players had their fill of tackling Perine. They began making what Deon Saunders called “business decisions.”

Then it happened. On what became the last time he would touch the ball, Perine broke through line and had a clear path to the goal line. Nothing short of Divine Intervention could have prevented a touchdown, yet just before he crossed the goal line, Perine stopped, took a knee and ended the play.

The announcers didn’t make much of it at the time, as OU ran out the clock, but the significance struck me immediately.

It was an extraordinary act of sportsmanship. Maybe viewers who have never played a contact sport miss these nuances, but those of us who have appreciate a player who has some reverence for the way a game should be played.

In rivalry grudge matches, particularly when one of your star players has been knocked out of the game, it’s natural for teams to want to punish their opponent and the scoreboard is the natural place to do it.

Perine didn’t. When asked about the play after the game he explained, “I mean, what’s the point of scoring? We’re already up by two touchdowns. There’s only a few seconds left, so there’s no need to run up the score. I just did what I thought was the right thing to do.”

Coach Bob Stoops explained that taking a knee was all Perine’s idea, “God bless him. “What a class, character guy. It’s character. That’s him. Rather than padding his stats, just take a knee. No sense in running it up on somebody.”

This is typical of Perine. He plays like the coach is Vince Lombardi. Earlier in the game Perine crashed head–on into an OSU defender on the goal line and swept by him for the score. Instead of treating teammates, TV cameras and opposing players to 20 seconds of interpretive dance, Perine handed the ball to the nearest official and walked back to the huddle.

Like Lombardi said, he acts like he’s been in the end zone before.

While he’s got the ball Perine is all business and all contact, but even in this heated rivalry game he helped OSU players to their feet more than once. After the game he sits in the back of the interview room and lets other teammates bask in the spotlight.

The knee and what it signified might be Perine’s last regular season carry for Oklahoma. Perine is a junior. An average performance in the Sugar Bowl will put him ahead of Owens and probably ahead of Billy Sims, giving him the all–time Sooner rushing record. He’s eligible for the NFL draft and as my son says a running back’s body can only take so many hits, to Perine may as well be rich when he’s bruised.

If he leaves, I’ll miss watching him, but what a way to finish.

Thirty–seven carries, the most by one running back in the last 27 years, 239 yards, one touchdown for the record books and one he decided to donate to sportsmanship.