I read your comments about last week's column: Dollars and Sense. Your thoughts are appreciated and helpful and always taken seriously no matter where you're coming from. Some of you assumed I was promoting a "Play-for-Pay" plan. Not once did I mention "paying" athletes.
I hope what I am suggesting in Part 2 comes through loud and clear.
I want to build on the point I made in last week's column, namely that college football players occupy a special place and are exploited, a mild term in my view. I'm offering up what I believe is a way to get young men to earn a degree, and give back to their families as well as their universities, bringing their return more in line with their investment.
Currently the relationship is one way, with the athletes getting the short end of the deal. College football players, participating in revenue-generating programs, are at the center of a seamless web that creates billions of dollars in revenue.
|Nick Saban has an eight-year, $32 million contract to coach Alabama. (Getty Images)|
Here's the big picture of earnings and profits: Why do you think that CSI and other top programs are promoted heavily during CBS' college football and NFL games? Were it not for the success of CBS' prime-time programming, the network might not be able to afford the rights fees required to air live sports.
Why did a popular show, Grey's Anatomy, zoom upward when it was promoted after the Super Bowl? Why do you think that in the Big 12 contract -- the same is true for all conferences with television contracts -- it guarantees universities the opportunity to run ads promoting academics?
The answer to all of the above is that sports programming is unique in holding the viewers' attention, and that is what we call in the trade a "loss leader." So, college football is leveraged to create unimaginable wealth that stretches far beyond the field, and college football players make it happen.
We need to talk some about academics and athletics. What happens after their eligibly has expired?
Wallis Marsh, president and CEO of Houston-based EXTEX, says, "I've assisted student athletes by providing employment opportunities after they've graduated for some years now. And in most cases, irrespective of race, a disproportionate number lacked the maturity necessary to compete effectively in the real world. They tend to be a step behind. I don't believe their ability to learn or capacity to do the work is any less than students who focus only on academics.
"A fair percentage we hired were in the upper quintiles academically -- majoring in demanding curricula like petroleum engineering. I believe part of (the) problem stems from their highly facilitated college experience. In an effort to make their admittedly demanding commitments less complex, athletic administrators may have subtracted from, rather than adding to, their ability to compete beyond the playing field."
Marsh continues. "I've hired former athletes -- from varied socioeconomic backgrounds -- ranging from football to soccer. In all instances, the greatest strength of the former student athlete was their desire to succeed in a work environment.
"However, when success didn't come quickly in business, results varied. Some of the former athletes buckled down and transitioned in a healthy work environment. Others took the lack of success hard and moved on. It was as if the junior and senior year of 'What are we going to do with this degree' questions were being asked. I personally think that the athlete was so focused on class and their sport, that they didn't have the time or inclination (sense of urgency) to worry about the college after-life."