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Former SMU player says College Athletics is corrupt

By Lynn Woolley

David Blewett knows of what he speaks. [1]

He was a member of the 1987 SMU football team [2] that was handed the so-called “death penalty” by the NCAA. In those days, SMU was paying football players $300 to $500 per month more than the rule allowed.

He says today’s big-time football and basketball schools are cheating even worse – and they’re ALL in on it.

David Blewett

He mentions under-the-table payments that are significantly more than what SMU was penalized for. In a not-so-veiled reference to Baylor, [3] he says known pedophiles [4] and rapists have been protected by coaches and administrators.

And he says colleges have created fake classes for athletes to attend. Blewett also says big money is pouring in from apparel companies and boosters to agents, coaches, and athletic staff – and to athletes. Blewett’s answer: bring back the death penalty – and use it [5].

http://www.wbdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/LM-3-13-18.mp3 [6]

Is he right? Should we kill off many of the best programs in college football and basketball?

This is all just food for thought, but it seems to me that there is a better answer. A lot is wrong with big-time college sports that is easily fixable – if there were a will to do it. There isn’t.

But consider the Texas Lottery and other big-time “Lotto” games around the country. Texas has had its share of problems keeping the Lottery honest [7] –and I’ll wager there’s bad stuff going on now that we don’t know about. The possibility of corruption always exists when millions and even billions of dollars flow so freely.

College sports is like that too. 

Tom Herman’s new house in Austin.

But, hey, the networks, driven by ESPN, are willing to pay gigantic sums of money to purchase programing to fill up an insatiable 24-hour sports day – and don’t forget there’s ESPN, ESPN 2, (maybe ESPN 3 – I’m not sure), ESPN News and other ESPN backed networks like the SEC Network and the Longhorn network.

All of this resolves around money.

Note too, that the football realignment did not take place because athletic directors enjoy flying their teams to faraway places like Morgantown. Nope, it’s all about money and how much can be brought in. This has all led to an incredible inflation in coaches salaries.

When a coach wins out side the “Power Five “conferences, he becomes a hot item. Texas won the bidding for Tom Herman [8]after his teams did well at Houston. UT simply paid what it took to get him. The amount did not matter. UT is flush with money and needs to fill up a 101,000-seat stadium – and it can’t do that consistently with the product the school has putting on the field. So Herman waltzed into Austin with a multi-million dollar contract and promptly bought himself a mansion in the Westlake area [9].

“Bevo Beat” is a service of the Austin American Statesman. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article about football coaches salaries: [10]

According to data acquired by USA TODAY Sports, Texas coach Tom Herman has the eighth-richest salary in college football this season. He is slated to make nearly $5.5 million in 2017. If Herman were to be fired before Dec. 1, the school would owe him a $20.4 million buyout. That is the ninth-highest buyout in college football, just behind Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. The maximum bonus Herman could earn this season is $725,000. Texas has the largest coach salary in the Big 12. Next-highest is TCU, which will pay Gary Patterson more than $5.1 million this year. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will make a minimum of $4.2 million. Elsewhere in Texas, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is locked into $5 million from the school in 2017, with a buyout north of $10.4 million if the Aggies were to let him go before Dec. 1. Alabama coach Nick Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football, with a salary of $11.1 million and a maximum bonus of $700,000. His buyout is $26.9 million.

That’s a lot of money. And that’s just the head coaches. The assistance all do quite well, too. And if Blewett is right, so do the star players.

Blewett says we ought co clamp down.

“The Pony Trap” [11] — Blewett’s book about corruption in college sports

We’re way past the bud, but we still ought to nip it.

Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there a way that could redirect some of the big money back into programs that help students get through school without student loan debt dogging them for years. Maybe there’s a way to help college athletes grow up and mature [12] before they move on to pro sports – which is what so many of them want to do. That’s about the money, too.

Maybe there’s a way fan like me can take a date and a couple of kids to the game for less than $500. The big contributors that are part of the problem have their own skyboxes and the rest of us pay $100 for a mediocre seat.

Here are some suggestions – if college football (and basketball) will listen.

• Realign again and make conferences about regions of the country like they used to be. That would eliminate some of the long travel.
• Cap head coaches salaries at something that makes sense – like $250,000. If they can’t live on that, they can drive a truck.
• Cap assistant coaches salaries at $150,000. There are a lot of tougher jobs out there that pay far less.
• Force colleges and coaches to finish out their contracts before they move on, unless they are fired for cause. Some schools are paying three or four head coaches at the same time due to contractual obligations. Texas A&M’s former coach Kevin Sumlin comes to mind.
• Pay the players. They are risking their bodies to make millions for the colleges. Pay the starters and key players something like $25,000 per year and the other team members slightly less. Then, put part of that money into an account or a trust for the players to be given to them upon the occasion of their graduation. That’s right. Part of the deal is that they graduate.
• Stop red-shirting, and sign a contract with players for four full years of eligibility. No more leaving early for the NFL. That helps the schools keep their talent, and helps the players mature before they go pro. (There would, of course, be exemptions for major injuries.)
• Ticket prices should get reasonable again and not block out normal families that now find it hard to justify even one game per year.
• A great deal of the money made by football and basketball could be used to help poor families get their kids into colleges without going into incredible student loan debt.
• Players that are criminals have to be kicked off the team with due process – and coaches and administrators that cover it up should be jailed.

Of course, some schools will cheat, but if we made these reforms, and it still goes on, then Blewett is right. College and universities are supposed to educate – not act as football factories. College sports should be a part of going to a big school, and a point of pride for fans and alumni.

What we used to call “sportsmanship” has been corrupted by TV money. Winning is a good thing, so that’s not the problem. Winning at any cost is the problem – especially when the money spigot is wide-open, and nothing else matters.