AC/DC famously lyricized that money talks.

The current predicament college football, and in turn college athletics as a whole,  finds itself in knows better than anyone that those rockers were right on the money.

Ah, the almighty dollar.

College athletics have abused it. Often, they misuse it. Now the potential lack of it has them crying the blues.

Facilities

The “Standard” cost LSU $28 million.

Whatever happened to a few wood benches and a metal locker with a combination lock? I know, too old school.

Coaches

Dabo Swinney gets paid $9.3 million to coach football. Nick Saban gets $8.9 million to coach football. John Calipari gets $8.2 million to coach basketball. I guess, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Of course that doesn’t explain USC coach Clay Helton making $4.6 million to do whatever it is he does for the Trojans. Point being, even lousy coaches are making a small fortune these days.

Non-Revenue Sports Costs

Penn State’s volleyball team made trips to Provo, UT, La Jolla, CA, while hosting USC and UCLA last season. Those are expensive cross country trips for a very non-revenue sport to be making. USC’s golf team took a trip to Hawaii. Penn State’s women’s soccer team hosted Stanford and tripped to Los Angeles and Loyola, CA.

Is it not possible for small, non-revenue sports to play a bit closer to home in the non conference schedule?

It is those very same non-revenue sports that will now feel the pinch if college football can’t be played this fall. College football funds most of the other sports at a university. Basketball rules the roost at places like Duke and Kentucky, but football still plays a big part.

Where did it all go wrong

The almighty dollar.

College athletic departments have access to lots of them. From multimillion dollar TV deals to licensing money from one of the apparel companies to 75,000-100,000 tickets sold for home football games. Dollars are not in short supply at most universities across the country.

I suppose it is understandable to see why schools keep trying to outdo their rivals with locker rooms and facilities. They try to keep their successful coaches happy by adding more zeros to the back end of their salaries. In theory the bottom line improves when you can lure the best players to your program. Top notch facilities and a top notch coach are two great pieces of bait to do just that.

The problem is that most athletic departments let that money burn a whole in their pocket. They over spend, misappropriate, and misuse the dollars they have. There is no better example than USC paying a below average coach $4.6 million. And maybe the LSU players could have done without foot warmers. How cold do your feet get in Louisiana anyway?

Now what?

Enter COVID-19. The pandemic is threatening to snuff out college football season, and boy are the powers that be in panic mode. They desperately need the money that comes with football season. Sure they want the kids to get a chance to play. They absolutely want to give fans and alumni alike something to cheer. The normalcy that would come with holding a season would be a nice feeling. But make no mistake, the only reason they haven’t pulled the plug on the fall season is money.

Since most of the athletic departments spend, spend, spend, they don’t have enough saved for a rainy day. Or a pandemic. Who will pay the price for the misguided budgeting? Golfers, wrestlers, and soccer players, that’s who. They will be the first to go. Stanford has already cut 11 non-revenue sports. It is unfortunate.

Nobody could have predicted a situation like the one we all find ourselves in. Little to no guidance has come from the federal government. Some schools are in states where governors are being overly cautious. Some are in states where governors are throwing caution to the wind. And it sure appears that the Power 5 conferences are ignoring what little has come from the NCAA. When is the last time anyone paid attention to Mark Emmett?

Not enough money for the heroes?

The NCAA has its hands full trying to petition Congress to prevent college athletes from benefitting financially from the use of their likeness. No one at the NCAA is suggesting spending be curbed. No one is suggesting coaches and administrators accept a lower salary. But the athletes who make those millions upon millions upon— well, you see where this is going— for the schools shouldn’t be compensated?

Oddly enough it is these very athletes who are supposed to risk their health and well being, and that of their family and friends, by playing football during a pandemic. MAC commissioner, Jon Steinbrecher, referred to players as “heroes” when suggesting he hopes they can get back on the field this fall. Yes, nothing like unpaid amateurs being heroes. Hey, at least they will have feet warmers while being quarantined.

What is the answer?

This is an untenable situation with no easy answer.

We all want football this fall. We want to hear fight songs, cheerleaders yelling, and pads cracking. As fans we want it back to fill our weekends, to give our Saturdays purpose, to improve our mental well being.

Athletic departments need the season. Without it, wrestling, lacrosse, and many other smaller sports will hit the chopping block. The purge won’t be pretty.

State of the art facilities are great, but so is the golf team.

A top notch football coach is wonderful. So is water polo.

There has to be a happy medium between wooden benches and leather sleeping pods.

Dabo Swinney can still be the highest paid coach, but maybe he could get by on $5 million instead of $9.2.

Maybe regional scheduling would be better for non-revenue sports.

Unfortunately for many athletic departments, they’re backed into a corner. The bread winner in the family may not be able to go to work for awhile. Many schools have maxed out their credit cards and won’t be able to use a deferment plan.

So while the athletic department was spending money like they were trying to make it rain up in the club, a bouncer named COVID stepped in and threatened to shut things down. That’s going to leave the athletic departments with some tough decisions going forward. Hopefully lessons will be learned, but I wouldn’t count on it.

A fool and their money backed into a corner won’t be pretty.

Two Cent Takes

Baseball

~The 60 game season is a bit contrived. There will, and should be, an asterisk applied to the season. However, everyone is going to try to win. For the Philadelphia Phillies that won’t be an easy task. Their schedule is littered with the Braves, Nationals, Mets, Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees. They do get a few breathers in Miami, Baltimore, and Toronto. If they can find one more pitcher to go with Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler, the Phillies have a decent shot. The offense should be really good. But, man, that schedule.

~The Pirates were on TV Saturday night, playing an exhibition game against Cleveland. Of course there were no fans, announcers were located remotely, and crowd noise was pumped into the stadium. For Pirates fans— and I know this sounds harsh— it wasn’t all that different. Small crowd sizes were common at PNC Park in recent years, so there wasn’t a discernible difference watching on TV. One thing that will be nice is getting Bob Walk back on the call. He is recovering from COVID-19. Michael McKenry filled in, and was really hard to listen to.

~How embarrassed should the United States be for its handling of the coronavirus? Canada won’t let the Blue Jays play home games in Toronto. They feel it is too risky having players going from the US to Canada because of how poorly we have dealt with the virus. I guess our friends to the north aren’t buying the whole “Make America Great” stuff.

Golf

~Tiger returned this week at The Memorial. Naturally, 123 articles were written asking if and/or proclaiming he should be the favorite. Can we please stop that? The man hadn’t played competitively for almost half a year. His back is hit or miss with how it feels. This isn’t 25 year old Tiger who could roll out of bed and shoot -4 in his slippers. It is time to be more realistic in regards to Tiger expectations. Will he win again? Absolutely. Should he be the favorite every tournament he enters? No. It’s not close to realistic.

~Bryson DeChambeau proved hitting it a mile doesn’t guarantee success. He missed this week’s cut in large part because he took a 10 on the par 5 15th hole Friday. He did his best Tin Cup impersonation by dropping and rehitting several times in route to a quintuple bogey. He argued with a course official, then sulked off without talking to reporters. Ah, Bryson being Bryson.

NHL

~Long ago when the NHL season was in full swing, the Pittsburgh Penguins had one debilitating injury after another. The worst being the season ending injury to Jake Geuntzel. The pandemic allowed Guentzel to get healthy, and he is now ready to go. This weekend word out of Pittsburgh had Sidney Crosby leaving practice Saturday and not being there on Sunday. With the virus potential, team officials aren’t permitted to disclose what is wrong with Crosby. This policy comes down from the league. Either way, an injury to their star would be damaging to the Pens and a continuation of the bad luck they endured much of the season.

NFL

~Last week we all thought the biggest issue facing Washington owner Daniel Snyder was a name change. That has now dropped to number two. A Washington Post report printed a few days ago indicates 15 women came forward to allege sexual misconduct, harassment, and a toxic workplace. Many in Snyder’s “inner circle” were named in the report. Longtime broadcaster Larry Michael was named, prompting his immediate “retirement”. When is enough, enough? Snyder has been an arrogant, abrasive, bumbling owner his entire tenure in Washington. Shouldn’t Roger Goodell soon step in and request he step down? Fay Vincent managed to rid baseball of George Steinbrenner, and Daniel Snyder is no George Steinbrenner.

~Penn State fans know how special Saquon Barkley is. Barkley is doing his best to make the rest of the world realize it, too. Patrick Mahomes may be the face of the NFL, but Barkley is looking over his shoulder. Barkley’s brand is going to be huge. If he can remain healthy his football career will put him in elite company. Barkley is making sure life after football is just as good, as he told Ryan Dunleavy for a story in the New York Post. Barkley has Nike backing him, Disney’s Bob Iger is his mentor, and he knows the importance of focusing his endeavors with kids in mind. Smart guy.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

~As an addendum to the main column, ESPN released a story on coaches taking/not taking pay cuts. Of note, only 3 SEC schools had coaches take pay cuts(Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina). On the flip side, 8 PAC 12 and 9 Big Ten schools had coaches take pay cuts.

We are talking about guys who, even on the low end, make $3 million per year. Most of the cuts taken amounted to 10%. If coaches wanted to truly make a sacrifice for the betterment of their university or state, how about taking a 50% pay cut.

Just picking one coach at random, do you think Georgia’s Kirby Smart could manage to live on $3.45 million for one year? Do you think his family would get by? Once the pandemic is over, his salary would revert back to $6.9.

Funny, in my local community there was a lot of griping about school teachers continuing to get paid full salary even though they had “less to do” working from home. The average teacher salary in my community is somewhere around $50,000. We don’t seem to take aim at the people who can better afford to make a sacrifice anymore.

Coaches signed contracts and the terms should be honored. But in these unprecedented times, it would be nice to see them make a sacrifice that truly shows compassion for the current situation.

As stated in the main article, money in college athletics has gotten completely out of hand, and now with the pandemic people are finally taking notice. I guarantee you that these coaches never thought in a million years they would make this kind of money. Clay Helton is living, breathing proof that you don’t even have to be good at your job to get one of these escalating contracts. And it isn’t just the salary, but the buyouts have skyrocketed, too. Helton’s buyout essentially holds USC hostage. To rid themselves of Helton, the Trojans would need to pony up $20 million. Unreal. And in this uncertain financial time, it is going to be tough to justify paying the buyout to get rid of a coach.

The total value of James Franklin’s contract is $44.2 million. That one single contract—guaranteed mind you—is, or should be, enough for at least three generations of Franklin’s to live comfortably. If he would have volunteered a 50% pay cut, Franklin would have received approximately $3.5 million rather than $7 million. The Franklin’s, I have to assume, would survive.

For the coaches who took a 10% pay cut, good for them. It was a nice gesture. A 50% pay cut would have shown they have a true understanding of how fortunate they are to be receiving those inflated salaries.

It would have been great optically, as well. Showing you have compassion for the terrible times we are dealing with by taking such a substantial pay cut would be tremendous optics. As we are quickly learning with this pandemic, optics matter.

It may have even gotten some unhappy fans off their back for awhile. No, no, not you Mr. Helton.

Just my two cents…