oklahoma state

My 2¢ – Paying College Athletes

I came across this Deadspin article today, which tries to downplay the latest pay-for-play scandal (this time at Oklahoma State) by noting that often the money was used for basic necessities like food and clothes.  Since the piece is short, I’ll reprint it in its entirety:

Beneath all of the handwringing and pearl clutching that is laced throughout Sports Illustrated’s story on Oklahoma State’s pay-for-play schemes is this, the final paragraph:

At Oklahoma State the bonus system, the booster and coach payouts, and the bogus jobs provided players with money that was seldom spent on extravagances. One or two standouts bought a new car or expensive jewelry, team members say, but the vast majority of the players used the extra cash to purchase everyday items — food, clothing, tickets to a movie. “There were some athletes who were almost starving,” says Carter. “Wherever the money came from, they were like, Yeah, I’ll take that.”

After 3,000 words about wads of money being stuffed into envelopes and socks—after all that scandalous B-movie imagery—we are finally told the only thing that really matters about this story: All that money was going towards clothes and food for college kids who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford either. Everything else is just useless muckraking on behalf of the exploiters at the NCAA.

This certainly changes ones perspective, as well as the assumption that these players are blowing their illegal cash on cars, jewelry, and other frivolous items.  But there is just one problem:

I don’t buy it.

I’m pretty familiar with Okie State and their athletic program, as they were in the same conference as my Nebraska Cornhuskers for most of my life.  While the OSU Athletic Department isn’t as big and well-to-do as their in-state rivals in Norman, they are not exactly hurting for resources – even without including the mega contributions from billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens.

English: Oklahoma State University Logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why does that matter?  Because it means I feel very confident in saying that no OSU football player should be going hungry or be without clothes to wear.  I’m guessing* that scholarship football players at Oklahoma State have ample access to:

  • Plentiful amounts of food.  Schools like Nebraska and OSU have athletic dining halls (Nebraska calls theirs a training table) with vast amounts of nutritious (and delicious) food choices.  And to be clear, this isn’t the same cafeteria slop the coeds in the dorms are eating.  This is steaks, seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, and other choices.
  • Tons of free clothes.  Oklahoma State has an $11 million dollars apparel contract with Nike.  Yes, a good chunk of that goes for uniforms, cleats, gloves, and other game equipment.  But players also receive a number of shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, pants, socks, shoes, and other free clothing.

*Yes, it is a guess.  But it is a very educated guess.  With my familiarity of college athletics, I’ll need somebody with deep knowledge of OSU policies to prove me wrong.

I’ll allow that college football players (other than Johnny Manziel)  are not living a life of luxury, but the inference from the Deadspin piece that OSU players are sitting in their underpants eating ramen noodles because they cannot afford clothes or food is crap.  A scholarship football player – at Oklahoma State or any other BCS program – may not be able to eat out every day, or wear designer labels…but a lot of college students don’t do those things either.

And let’s not forget:  Joe Student doesn’t get meals at the training table, several hundred dollars worth of Nike apparel, academic tutoring, or free tuition.

The BCS Got It Right.

The BCS got it right.  Alabama should be playing for the National Championship.

I keep seeing people complaining about the LSU-Alabama matchup for the National Championship.  From what I can tell, their main complaints are 1) Bama already had a chance at LSU and lost, 2) the first game was an ugly and boring 9-6 game, 3) Oklahoma State is more deserving and 4) OSU would provide a better (i.e. more entertaining) game.  I disagree on all counts.

1.  Alabama already had a chance at LSU, and lost.  Therefore, they do not deserve another chance.

Frankly, this is the best point the anti-Bama crowd can make.  Alabama already lost to LSU this year – at home.  That fact is indisputable and it gives people a solid reason to deny Alabama a rematch.  Of course, doing so ignores the fact that no other team has been within 12 points of LSU – let alone taken them to overtime.  It also ignores the fact that if Bama had a kicker who could connect from beyond 40 yards (1 of 5 in the game) the argument would be which team is good enough to face #1 Alabama.

2.  The fans do not want a rematch of November’s boring 9-6 defensive struggle.

What is an exciting football game?  Exciting for most people is the season opening game between TCU and Baylor (a 50-48 Baylor win), that featured over 1,000 yards of offense, 5 touchdowns by a QB, and numerous big plays.  There is no way to spin it – the first go-round of LSU-Alabama was not what most people would call exciting.  But was the issue boring play, a lack of scoring, or did the weeks of pre-game hype (“Game of the Century”) set the expectations too high?  LSU and Alabama are evenly matched (as witnessed by the 3 point win in November) and I believe they offer the best chance for an epic title game.  Put it this way – if the first game had been a 38-35 thriller, would you still be opposed to a rematch?

3.  Oklahoma State is more deserving than Alabama.

This is a great example of using a vague term (“deserving”) to make an argument.  Yes, Okie State beat more ranked and bowl eligible teams that Alabama.  Yes, the computer rankings believe that the Big XII was a tougher conference than the vaunted SEC.  But Alabama’s sole loss was to the #1 team, by a field goal, in overtime.  Oklahoma State’s lone loss was to an Iowa State team who came into the game at 5-4, and finished up at a very pedestrian 6-6.  I understand that the OSU team was rocked by the tragic plane crash that took two of their women’s basketball coaches that day.  I also understand that Iowa State beat Northern Iowa (a FCS team) by 1 point.  Face it – if Okie State wins at Iowa State, they are in this game.  They had their chance to be undefeated and they blew it.  So now they have to be judged with all of the other 1-loss teams, and their loss is worse than Bama’s (and it is also worse than Boise State’s lone loss).

4.  Oklahoma State would provide a better (i.e. more entertaining) game than Alabama.

On paper, this one is dead wrong.  The basis for this argument is all about matching strength against strength:  Okie State’s high-powered offense against LSU’s amazing defense.  That would be fun to watch, but unfortunately, there is another match-up:  LSU’s offense against OSU’s defense.  LSU has an average offense (375 yards per game, 75th nationally), but Okie State has a putrid defense (445 yards per game, 107th nationally).  LSU would not have much trouble scoring 28 points against OSU’s defense, but I don’t think you would find many people who believe OSU could put up 28 on LSU’s defense.  Oklahoma State’s defensive weakness would be the key to another SEC title game blowout – and nobody wants to watch that.

You may have noticed that I’m ignoring the elephant that always comes into the room this time of year – the cries for a playoff in college football.  I’m planning to talk BCS vs. Playoffs in more detail this week, but there is something that I find interesting (and slightly hypocritical):  Many people hate the idea of a LSU-Alabama rematch as determined by the BCS.  Yet, I’m guessing that if LSU and Alabama made it through a 4, 8, or 16 team playoff to the championship game (as would be expected given their #1 and #2 seeds) nobody would have a problem with the rematch.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed college football’s post-season….Read more about:

And feel free to let me know how right (or wrong) I am in the comments.

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