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Friday, August 28, 2020

NOT SO SUDDEN DEATH

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The politicization of American life continues. Under the guise of player safety (for a virus with a 99.4 percent survival rate and a mortality rate of .0001 percent for young adults),the PIAA, pressured by Gov. Wolf, has delayed the high school fall sports’ season for two weeks. 

Rumors persisted daily over canceling the season and still do.

Collegiately, the autumn anchor for the big five college athletic conferences is football as its revenue stream floats many boats within their athletic departments. Football raises plenty of money, and is an economic vessel for surrounding communities. 

Two of the five, the Big Ten and Pac-12, will not play fall football, but are considering spring games.  The other three conferences – the Atlantic Coast, Big-12, and Southeastern will play, for now. 

For perspective, the U.S. Department of Education reported the Pac-12 made $1.3 billion in 2018-19, while The Big Ten earned nearly $1.9 billion.maresca sports 1

By forgoing football, Nebraska will lose up to $120 million, while Oregon will forfeit $50 million.  Yet some question how coaches can command millions in salary with 42 of the 50 states having an athletic coach as their highest paid public employee. 

Stanford was on board with cutting 11 sports’ teams before they opted out of a football season.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Stanford is anticipating a $25 million athletic budget deficit. 

The financial hole sunk deeper when the NCAA announced it had reduced its disbursements to schools by nearly two-thirds after their annual March men’s basketball tournament was canceled. 

Running football aground even for one season will certainly affect Title IX, and other collegiate sports.  In this era of the aggrieved snowflake do universities dare reduce available women’s sports’ programs? 

Forgoing football is nothing short of a lockout by management, as not playing hurts a player’s potential value to professional teams.  The likelihood of players not recovering from COVID is equivalent to being struck by lightning.  maresca sports 2

Despite the risks of incurring traumatic brain injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), colleges still play football.   Ironically, a “student’s health”, albeit physical or mental, was always a nonstarter – until COVID. 

Moreover, given the risks of CTE, how is football an integral part of the taxpayer-funded mission of public education? 

Granted, athletics provide valuable life lessons, but such instruction does not have to be necessarily realized within a scholarship program.  Likewise, intermural athletic and extracurricular participation is often higher at Division III schools. 

Plenty throughout academia, especially among the smaller FBS schools whose athletic budgets are bled dry through football, would be more than happy to see their school’s program regulated to the haunts of gridiron past like Boston University did a generation ago. Their reasoning has plenty of firepower from exorbitant costs, player injuries, and a dearth of student body allegiance. 

At places like Bucknell, the athletic administration attempts to induce student turnout through giveaways and promos.  It doesn’t work.  Their football program is a major sieve on the overall athletic budget.  It has been nearly a quarter of a century since their last league title.  A dual combination of a title drought and a budget drain could mean a football flush. 

But don’t count on it. 

Bucknell is much too obstinate to consent to common sense.

After all, they won the first Orange Bowl – in 1935. 

The same budget woes concern neighboring universities: Susquehanna and Bloomsburg.   

Why does a conventional college football team need 14 coaches and a basketball team five coaches for 15 players? 

Sports has a place - it should be the tail, not the dog.

COVID-19 can be juxtaposed to a stock market correction, the result of which has the potential for rebalancing priorities. maresca sports 3

Universities need to question what their true mission is.  Evaluate who they serve against those to whom they are subservient. Gauge tuition costs relative to affordability, and the ongoing impact of protracted student debt.  Appraise their departments, their administrators, and the role of tenure.

Provided Uncle Sam got out of the student loan business, such prudence would be taken seriously.  

With undergrads carrying vast student loans and most of them having unexceptional job prospects, why should colleges continue to fund an array of varsity athletics? 

Don’t expect these college presidents that have ignored sending waves of students into a generation of debt to be any more responsible in overseeing and reforming collegiate athletics.  Their indifference to student and family financial burdens is irresponsible, not to mention bewildering. 

What did you expect from tenure? 

When provided job protection, a guaranteed salary and benefits, you become indifferent to reality.    

All savings should be applied to educational outcomes that will ensure the nation outpaces its geo-political rivals in artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, biotechnology – studies necessary for a country’s innovation and economic growth.

If there are consolations of the 2020 non-season, it is not seeing Oregon in their hideous green uniforms, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh making excuses for losing to Ohio State, and listening to Penn State’s Steve Jones trying to explain the overtime rules and the notorious transfer portal.

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Last modified on Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Greg Maresca | Remnant Columnist

Maresca writes from Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

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