For decades, NCAA leaders have been dead set against paying athletes beyond scholarships.
Why the change? When did they cross that philosophical bridge? What has happened to ignite this sudden realization that the performers, many obviously needy, deserve a piece of the pie? The reasons have piled up over time, and it is now a matter of working out a stipend formula. Consider:
(1) The pie is bubbling over and elite schools are wallowing in money. The level of TV revenue in football and basketball has reached Monopoly level with Big Ten schools anticipating more than $40 million each by 2017. And how much more will it be if the BTN sells D.C. and NYC?
(2) If Mike Krzyzewski is nearing the $10 million level and Nick Saban is topping $5 million annually, it occurs that the performers who got them there deserve a little something. Even average basketball and football coaches at major institutions are hitting seven figures.
(3) Big-revenue programs in the five major conferences have grown tired of being outvoted by their smaller brethren. Separation is now inevitable, and they’ll soon be able to establish rules more pertinent to themselves. Most members of these five conferences can afford stipends.
(4) The four-year-old Ed O’Bannon case is picking up steam with the addition of six current athletes, including two Minnesota football players.
When the NCAA severed relations with Electronic Arts, that act indicated awareness they’re vulnerable to the wisdom (or whims) of judges.
EA video games were producing images of college teams and specific athletes as a lure. The O’Bannon legal team sought remuneration for the athletes, and may have a case.
Now, with six current players joining the suit, a lot more is at stake: current football TV money. And you can be sure that some current basketball players will join to put the NCAA basketball tournament money at risk. We’ll soon learn whether the courts will permit a class-action suit, or whether each plaintiff will be handled separately.
Point is, we’re now involved in a lot more than retroactive payments. The upcoming football season is in play.
You heard about the Curt Flood case. Look what it’s done to free agency. When an aging Joe DiMaggio insisted on $100,000 in 1951, it became a cause celebre. Sixty-two years later, the Yankees have been paying five veterans — Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis — $100 million for mostly whirlpool baths. Best example: Youkilis, slow and aging, got $12 million after hitting .236 in 80 games with the White Sox last year.
That’s the ticket
Concern over attendance — a drop of nearly 15,000 per game since 2009 — is surely behind the UI’s decision to hire Collegiate Consulting to hawk tickets.
Purdue, which has similar problems, is one of 12 others using the firm.
Look for your telephone to ring as a staff of six works on campus alongside Jason Heggemeyer’s DIA ticket staff. In addition to mini plans, group sales and season offers, the Atlanta-based company will deal with the Sept. 14 game with Washington at Soldier Field.
In Chicago, Sports Management Group will work with Soldier Field (run by the Chicago Park District) to stage the 5 p.m. game. SMG has guaranteed Illinois $1.3 million while requiring the UI to absorb a ticket requirement of $1.2 million. The latter is surely attainable. Tickets run from $30 to $80. If 25,000 are sold at an average price of $50 (or 30,000 at $40), that would meet the $1.2 million requirement.
At the same time, Illinois is responsible for costs of marketing, refs and game-day operation, while all revenue from parking and concessions goes to Soldier Field.
The UI hasn’t tried this since a 10-9 loss to Washington State drew slightly less than 40,000 in 1994. The Iowa-Northern Illinois game last season attracted 52,117 with both teams drawing fans. Washington has been allotted 3,000 tickets to sell, but these won’t count toward the UI numbers, nor will Washington be responsible if they’re not sold.
ADD NOTE: This will mark the 50th anniversary of the Illini’s last Rose Bowl triumph, 17-7, against Washington. Dick Butkus, star of the 1963 champions, will be honored Sept. 14. Why not the whole team?
— With the Marmol-Garza-Soriano dumpings as a backdrop, the Cubs went into Monday night’s game with 12 wins out of the last 19. Go figure.
— The injury to Jeremy Maclin, Eagles star who drove the Illini crazy at Missouri, reminds that the news coming out of training camp is nearly always bad.
Escaping August without injuries should be the goal of all football teams. And no team has more serious depth concerns than Illinois.
— Maybe we should vote Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame based on their performances BEFORE they fell from grace. They were certainly good enough without enhancement. And here we are without a single living person being inducted.
— Is there a bigger football mystery than Marc Trestman and the Bears? Who knows which direction they’re headed?
— In a period of 42 days starting yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals are scheduled for 24 games against their primary challengers, Pirates and Reds. And no games against either after Sept. 8. Crazy!
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.