GRAND RAPIDS — Needless to say, the year 2020 will go down in history; every facet of life has changed.
Will these changes be permanent? Will they usher in a paradigm shift in the way we live our lives from now on? Will the precautions we are now taking become standard practice?
The sports world has definitely turned upside down. The NBA looks to be opening up in mid-July with either an extremely shortened season or a move right into playoffs. It looks like the Orlando area with its many hotels and basketball venues will be the site for the playoffs. No fans of course.
The NHL has a little more work to do. With 17 percent of the league’s players outside of North America, quarantine and travel restrictions must be addressed. There is no momentum to restarting a regular season; a 24 team playoff is likely – if, that is, the league starts up at all.
MLB looks like it will start up in July, playing in empty stadiums with a number of stipulations and social distancing guidelines in place for players, coaches, umpires and staff, and greatly reduced salaries for players. As much as I would like to see the season start, I have a suspicion that the Players Union might nix the entire proposal. A few players have come out publicly and stated they would not play for less than their contractual salary; I believe others feel the same.
College athletics is taking a huge hit. Smaller schools have already eliminated some sports due to the financial crunch. Major colleges and universities are also about to get hammered financially with very little revenue coming in this fall. Football dollars help fund many other athletic programs. Athletic directors have tough decisions to make – shortening up seasons, reducing travel, and possibly eliminating programs.
Maybe 2020 might change the status quo in college athletics. Maybe some changes can take place that might be long overdue. Here’s my “dirty dozen.”
1. A head coach should never be paid more than the president of the university. At Minnesota, the university president earns $640,000 per year. The Gophers football offensive coordinator makes $720,000! Head coach PJ Fleck will make $4.6 million this year; he makes more than the CEO at the Mayo Clinic who earns a tidy $2.8 million.
Alabama’s Nick Saban earns $7.5 million and will see an increase of $400,000 each year of his contract. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney? Ten years, $93 million. My take? If a coach wants to be making the big bucks, head to the NFL. And it’s not just football. Gophers’ basketball coach Richard Pitino, whose middle name is mediocrity, makes at least $2 million per year!
2. Eliminate long-term contracts with those multimillion dollar buyouts. Two-year contract maximums Here in Florida, Florida State’s Willie Taggert was paid $17 million to go away after posting a 9-12 record in two seasons. He got a $17 million dollar gift for poor performance! That’s ridiculous.
3. Reduce the number of full ride scholarships at Division 1 schools by at least 50 percent.
4. Reduce the number of coaches on staff. Sometimes you look at the sidelines during a football game or the bench during a basketball game and it seems like there are as many coaches as there are players.
5. If games are out of conference, keep them in the same geographic area to reduce travel expenses.
6. Many college teams stay in hotels the night before a HOME game. That’s got to go.
7. Universities should not be tax payer- subsidized minor league sports franchises. It’s time for the NFL to do what MLB and the NBA do – start a professional developmental minor league program to develop its own players at its own expense. Five star high school stars can sign with an NFL minor league team if they’re good enough, just like high school baseball players do who sign with a minor league team rather than go the college route. This will also eliminate many of the expensive, shady, unethical recruiting practices that now take place.
8. For sports like tennis and golf – can’t both the men’s and women’s teams share a coaching staff? Do schools really need a separate men’s golf coach and women’s golf coach? A separate cross country coach?
9. Athletes must be admitted on the same academic merits as any other student.
10. No pay for college athletes Those athletes who sign on with a professional minor league developmental team will earn a salary plus share the league revenue.
11. All coaches should also be educators – required to teach at least one class at the university.
12. Last year the NCAA generated $867.53 million dollars. Perhaps that money could trickle down and the NCAA could give more to D2 and D3 and community college athletic programs and not merely fund the lavish D 1 big spenders.
Remember Barbara Streisand’s song “The Way We Were” from the movie of the same name? It’s hard to imagine that we will ever go back to “the way we were” in the real world or in the sports world. Maybe however, some changes in college athletics would make college athletics better- for everyone, at every level. At least we could give it the old college try!