Friday, January 17, 2014

Fitting In

You know what headline TigerBlog wasn't expecting to see on

"Where do the Harvards of the world fit in with big money football?"

And yet there it was.

And when he clicked on the link, you know whose picture he wasn't expecting to see? Quinn Epperly's. And yet there he was too.

Epperly actually figures into this later on as well, though we'll get back to him.

First let's answer the question. Where do the Harvards (and Princetons) of the world fit in with big money football?

It's a fascinating question.

On the one hand, NCAA rules apply to all schools on that particular level - Division I, Division II, Division III. On the other hand, applying the same standards to Princeton and Harvard that are in effect for Alabama and Texas seems a bit ludicrous.

For starters, there's no comparing the amount of money that a program like Florida State or Michigan generates with what's going on in the Ivy League or in any number of other leagues. It's easy to see why schools in the power conferences don't want to share that money any more than they have to, and why they see the NCAA as a hindrance to what they're trying to accomplish.

After all, the NCAA is there to enforce rules. The legislation itself comes from its members. And there are more non-power conference members than power conference members.

This has led to the natural question that many of the power schools have asked, which is essentially this: What do we need the NCAA for?

This is mostly true of college football, though. In fact, football at Alabama doesn't need the NCAA. Soccer at Alabama does.

On the other hand, is college athletics really about squeezing every penny out of it that a school can? Is this what it's become?

In many cases, the answer is yes. And if you're looking for unintended - or probably uncared about - consequences, consider the Syracuse men's soccer schedule. Nobody thought for a second about the impact of men's soccer in the ACC, as opposed to the Big East, when Syracuse joined the league this year. It was football driven, pure and simple.

But the SU men's soccer team played at Duke, at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina and at Wake Forest, all on Friday's during the fall. Presumably that meant leaving on Thursdays for a flight, which probably meant missing classes on Thursdays and Fridays for those four weeks.

Now multiply that out by how many different teams in any number of sports were thrown into how many different leagues simply because of the football revenue. And then how many other schools then had to scramble to find a league after their previous league - and geographically more realistic league - poached a bunch of other schools or collapsed because everyone else left?

Look at Joe Scott and Denver. He's on his third league in three years.

So that's the one hand. And the other hand?

Well, there is the quaint notion that universities exist for education first. And that's really where the Princetons and Harvards fit with big-time football. The trade-off is a simple one.

Ivy League schools and schools from other leagues get access to NCAA championship events across most sports. Hey, Princeton won four of those NCAA championships in the 2012-13 academic year, so they do more than gain access.

The current arrangement also gives all schools a say in the NCAA legislation. And a share of the money, at least from the men's basketball revenue.

The trade-off is that the power schools get to be associated with schools that are in it for the education as well as the athletics. This has always been important, either in fact or appearance.

It's getting to be less and less important as the money grab of recent years has become more unapologetic. The result could be the end of the NCAA, at least for football. Or as has been talked about, another NCAA division.

The big question these days is about paying athletes and whether or not it's something that should happen. It's a question that has trickled down to middle school projects, at least in Miss TigerBlog's case, as she is in the middle of doing something on the issue.

Unlike her father, who would have simply written a report on something, she is actually doing a Power Point presentation.

For her project, MTB interviewed three subjects. She started out with Epperly and field hockey player Julia Reinprecht, who not surprisingly said that they don't think athletes should be paid.

She also interviewed Paul Carrezola, who just finished his senior season as Rutgers' tight end. He also happens to be the older brother of MTB's buddy Bridget.

Paul's take is different. He thinks that athletes should be paid, largely because the time demands of playing a sport at that level. He's not talking about an extraordinary amount, just enough to pay for some incidental expenses.

He also thinks that it should be more for football or basketball players than for others. Perhaps it should be linked to what percentage of an athletic scholarship a particular athlete has. If a full scholarship football player gets $2,000, for instance, then a quarter-scholarship lacrosse player should get $500.

Paul, a fifth-year player, recently graduated with a double major in communications and labor studies. He took advantage of his full scholarship. Not every athlete does.

Those who disagree with Paul's position on paying athletes would point out that his education was free. Those who agree will say two things: 1) the demands of playing football preclude him from getting a part-time job and more importantly 2) Rutgers football brought in a lot of money, so shouldn't the players get at least a small share of the revenues that they've generated?

It's not an easy question to answer at all.

Princeton and Rutgers played the first football game in 1869. Nearly 150 years later, the two schools are way more than 20 miles apart when it comes to how their football programs are run and the way they impact their institutions.

It's a divide that will continue to grow as more and more money can be generated from big-time college football. 

Where do the Harvards of the world fit in with big-money football? They do and they don't.

Resolving this one way or the other will never be easy.


Nassau83 said...

Looking at the Ivy League only, I have never heard a compelling explanation of why Football is treated differently than all other Ivy League sports - in two respects: 1) Ivy League Football is not allowed to engage in any post-season playoffs and 2) the regular season the Ivy teams play is a significantly shorter one than at most other schools, even when one looks at leagues well outside of "big time" college football.

George Clark said...

The notion that the Ivy League would permit its athletes to be paid under any circumstances strikes me as beyond far-fetched. I have no strong opinion on the issue as it applies to the "power conferences" primarily because I don't give it much thought. What I do think about is the way Harvard is clearly seeking to have it both ways as far as basketball is concerned. The academic progress rate for the Crimson's men's basketball team has fallen in each of Amaker's seasons in Cambridge, an indicator of declining standards. The booster organization there is directly involved in the compensation paid to the coach, something that can not occur at Princeton. The AI system must be reviewed and reformed. This is a matter of far greater relevance to our League than the the issue of player compensation.