Friday, August 9, 2013

Pay Day

TigerBlog has never called into a sports talk radio station, or any other station, for that matter. He gets the lure of it, though he doesn't quite understand the idea of holding on for that long, only to get either talked down to or hung up on by the host.

Every now and then, apparently it can pay off in a big way.

Joe Benigno started out by being a regular caller - Joe from Saddle River - to WFAN, and he somehow parlayed that into the overnight show. Today, he's usually on from 10-1 with Evan Roberts, whose own radio career started when he was a kid.

Together they are an easy-to-listen-to team, something that's not always the case in sports talk radio.

Their show is a very hard to achieve mix of lightheartedness without being forced and fluffy, and they come across as putting together a product that achieves just what sports talk is supposed to be about - two guys having a conversation about sports the way two friends would or two co-workers would or two strangers at a game would.

Except when they talk about the NCAA, but that's okay. They're not unique in that respect.

Yesterday, they were talking about Johnny Manziel, the autograph signing situation and the apparent hypocrisy of the NCAA.

Then they took a phone call from a caller who piled on the NCAA by saying that there had been a case last spring in which a Stanford women's golfer lost her eligibility for using a hose that had been unavailable to the general student body to wash her car.

Then Benigno, Roberts and the caller laughed about it.

The next caller corrected the story, saying that she had not lost her eligibility but instead had to pay back the value of the water that she used. This caused even more laughter.

To correct the story a bit more, the golfer was actually from a West Coast Conference school, not Stanford, not that that matters.

The point is the same.

On its face, it's laughable that a women's golfer had to pay $20 to use a hose to wash her car, especially when there are so many bigger issues in college athletics to tackle than that.

The bigger conversation the two were having was about the idea of paying college athletes.

TigerBlog will get to this in a second.

First, TB is always amazed at how sportswriters and broadcasters can know so much about so many subjects and yet basically know nothing about the way the NCAA works.

Benigno made a statement that the athletes bring in all this revenue to the schools but they can't get plane tickets home in case of family emergencies. This isn't the case.

A few days ago, Roberts mentioned the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, the one that famously is suing the NCAA for using his likeness in a video game without his approval. This is the biggest thing going in college sports right now, and yet Roberts had only a cursory knowledge of it and Benigno apparently had none.

They, and most media members, know a lot about big-time college football and basketball and almost nothing about NCAA rules and procedures.

For instance, TB often hears announcers talk about NCAA rules and the NCAA as if the organization itself has the power to change them. This isn't the case. Actually it's like the federal government in some ways.

The NCAA is the executive branch of college athletics, and its charge is enforcing the rules. Also, the organization isn't rolling in money per se, as almost all of the money brought in is turned around and given back to the member institutions.

Those institutions, by the way, are the legislative branch. Their charge is to propose rules, which usually start with coaches' organizations and move up the administrative chain, ultimately being put up to a vote.

Anytime TB hears that the NCAA should do something about, oh, early recruiting, he laughs, because that would have to start with the coaches, who always want to lessen the restrictions, not add to them.

And the golfer and the hose? If the NCAA didn't enforce that, then there would always be someone else trying to figure out a way to get away with something a little bigger and a little bigger than that and so on.

Meanwhile, back at paying athletes ...

The caller before the one about the golfer said that Title IX would prevent that from ever happening, because schools would have to pay the women's athletes in addition to the men's.

Benigno and Roberts said that was ridiculous, because the money is brought in only by certain sports. They wouldn't pay the baseball players what they pay the football players, which they agreed makes sense.

And it does. Only the law isn't written that way. Pay the football players? Pay the field hockey players.

Besides, would Manziel be paid the same as his backup? Would an offensive tackle get the same as a wide receiver?

TigerBlog has never really considered the practical aspect of what it would mean to a school like Princeton if it had to pay its athletes, because he thinks it's so far-fetched that it's not worth it.

Where would the money come from? How much? To whom? Everyone? All 1,000 athletes each year?

Would that just be the end of broad-based athletic participation, which is the cornerstone of Princeton and Ivy athletics?

The world of college athletics is very volatile right now, with conference realignment, huge revenues at stake and now the outcome of the O'Bannon suit and what that will ultimately mean for the future.

It's going to be a very complicated one, a world where common sense solutions might not always be practical - or even legal.

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