Am I alone in wanting the NCAA to implode? I’m a sports guy — my livelihood is dependent on organizations like the NCAA, I’m a fan. I’m that fed up, that I’m wanting the biggest lawsuit of all time to hit college sports like a cataclysm that reduces every one of their television contracts to cinders and their stadiums and arenas to rubble? Am I nuts?|
Or am I just old? I turned 51 yesterday, and I want to see college football the way it was played 51 years before I was born: Leather helmets, walk-ons, students for Chrissakes. I want a coach who’s as much of an amateur as the players are, someone who can teach them about teamwork, not about how to wriggle out of contract or keep a mistress or two on the athletic department’s payroll. I don’t want major league, major bucks, a minor league for the NFL or sex with a minor. I don’t want a playoff. I don’t necessarily need pure, either: I’d take the football game from M*A*S*H that turns on a doubled halftime wager, a hypo of sedative in the opposing running back’s arm and a trick play to win it at the final gun. Real football.
If you’re wondering which college-sports outrage has spurred today’s rant, it’s actually one that’s relatively benign, something nowhere near the top-10 misdemeanors or felonies committed in so-called amateur sports in 2012. I ought to still be venting my spleen over Joe Paterno apologists — yet, instead, here I am apoplectic about the University of Wisconsin’s athletic director, Barry Alvarez, getting paid $118,500 to coach the team during the Rose Bowl in place of Bret Bielema, who departed for Arkansas a little over a week ago.
Alvarez, whose .508 winning percentage in the Big Ten was good enough to get him immortalized in bronze outside Camp Randall Stadium, is paid $1 million by the university and appears to have no problem augmenting that salary as a pitchman. He needs additional salary — calculated as 90 percent of Bielema’s monthly salary ($195,000) plus 10 percent of his current salary as AD ($8,500) — to coach his school’s football team for one game? Isn’t this the sort of thing that killed ancient Rome?
The money is coming from the $1 million buyout stipulated in Bielema’s contract, so Alvarez’s extra compensation (including a $50,000 bonus if UW beats Stanford on New Year’s Day) will in essence be paid by the University of Arkansas. None of this matters to me. This is what college football is in my lifetime: A grab for money. Alvarez runs the entire athletic department, and to step in for just these few weeks, to give the university a little extra, he’s got to be paid extra. It’s pathetic.
And they’re all in it together. The presidents, regents, ADs, coaches — everybody but the players. They’re taken something that was extracurricular, an extension of the classroom, and built an empire. They’ve taken billions from the corporate world, millions from taxpayers, thousands from fans, and they make sure that they all get a cut. “Coach Alvarez has a one-of-a-kind skill set that the university needs to be successful,” said UW interim chancellor David Ward, conveniently ignoring the fact that the football program has scores of assistant coaches, who have given this team their collective sweat all year long and who probably share Barry Alvarez’s one-of-a-kind skill set. “We believe that this package is fair and proportional.” Yes. And totally unnecessary.