Who College Football Needs the Most
For those unfamiliar with that name, Marvin Miller was a man who changed sports forever. He was arguably the most influential figure during the past 50 years when it comes to reshaping the four major professional sports leagues and revolutionizing where the money goes.
Miller died last month. Back in his heyday, during the 1970s, Miller headed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). He’s the pioneer most responsible for transforming professional athletes from seasonal blue-collar workers into multimillionaires and celebrities.
Team owners hated Miller. That’s because he made them all share their wealth. Unfortunately, many sports fans also despise Miller — largely because of what the player labor movement later deteriorated into after he retired. His aims and objectives twisted by the likes of Donald Fehr and others, Miller’s original intent were simply to achieve fairness. He recognized that athletes possessed special skills which were not being rewarded proportionally to the risks they were taking and the sacrifices they were making. While team owners supposedly take risks when purchasing sports franchises (highly debatable, since virtually no pro team is ever sold at a loss), it’s the athletes who take staggering levels of risks every second they’re on the field, on the court, or on the ice. Careers can be over in an instant. Future earning power can be shattered with the tear of a tendon. This doesn’t even begin to address the intense pain of injuries of the potential for a lifetime of disfigurement. Go take a look at former pro football great Earl Campbell, who can barely walk after a career in football.
Before Marvin Miller arrived on the sports scene, most baseball players had little or no control over their lives or careers. They had virtually no say-so as to the cities where they played and where their families were pretty much forced to live by economic necessity. And, they weren’t paid very well either, given their extraordinary skill sets. Most pro athletes even worked odd jobs during the off-season.
No doubt, dividing the wealth was the right thing to do. Forty years ago if playing sports was a risky business, today by comparison — it’s downright treacherous. Modern athletes now are much bigger, stronger, and faster. They hit harder. Indeed, playing sports places inexorable physical demands on the human body. Accordingly, athletes are entitled to their rightful share of the economic pie. And the pie is plenty big enough to go around.
Marvin Miller’s work in major league baseball triggered similar movements, and ultimately sparked changes in other sports, too. The NFL, NBA, and NHL gradually followed suit as pro athletes getting their fair cut of the money, largely fueled by an explosion of television revenue dollars.
Marvin Miller may be gone. But his imprint on sports and society will remain indelible.
Last night, Alabama beat Notre Dame in college football’s national championship game.
Over on the sidelines, one head coach will make a reported $5.3 million this season. The other head coach will earn slightly more than $3 million. Their assistants, trainers, and staff will also all do pretty well financially, this year.
The television network which broadcasts the game sells ridiculously expensive commercial time, costing about $1 million per minute. With about 40 to 50 commercials spread out over the course of the entire broadcast, do the math on what the network will rake in from four hours of coverage.
Then, there are the universities, which usurp the lion’s share of revenues — accrued mostly from ticket sales, merchandising rights, and the huge television contract. That money ultimately goes to pay administrators, staff, and other employees.
Some people out there are getting very rich. Indeed, everyone seems to make a buck. Everyone except for one critical component of college football.
It’s unfathomable that with so much money lining the pockets of so many leeches feeding off the system, the people that work the very hardest, sweat the most, sacrifice the most, and taking the greatest risks are getting shafted up the ass with a giant telephone pole.
The athletes don’t make a penny. And if they dare risk taking a free meal or doing something the NCAA doesn’t like, supposedly violating their rules and codes that might as well have been written in the dark ages, then they get suspended from play, or worse.
If there’s anyone in America that desperately needs a powerful advocate like Marvin Miller — it’s college football players.
Consider that some 2,000 so-called “student-athletes” participated in this season’s bowl games. Most of the bowls are meaningless. The games are trash. They take place in half-empty stadiums. Few people watch them, other than gamblers. And none of the real “stars” will make a cent. Everyone else gets rich, especially the do-nothing fat cats who run these bowls — those who selfishly milk every dollar they can from the system. Look at what some of these lazy-ass robber barons are making to oversee one football game. One game!
|Fiesta, Insight||John Junker*||$587,216|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Gary Cavalli||$375,176|
|Music City||Scott Ramsey||$310,715|
|Capital One, Champ Sports||Steve Hogan||$295,298|
|Holiday, Poinsettia||Bruce Binkowski||$283,095|
Source: USA Today
How much time does it take to manage one football game? A few weeks? A month, perhaps? Tell me — you think Mr. Bruce Binkowski is out there busting his ass in the middle of July getting ready for some travesty played around Christmas called the “Poinsetta Bowl?” That barnacle is making nearly 300 grand a year, enough to pay every player on a college football team a monthly stipend of $1,200 a month for six months of the season. He’s a thief.
Of course, no one forces players to sign up and play football. Or college basketball — a system that is equally as obscene (perhaps even worse given the number of games and abysmal graduate rates).
But do they really have a choice but to play and risk life and limb? The economic reality of these times is clear. What other options do they have? What other opportunity does a poor kid from the inner-city or a small-town hero have to make big-time? Never mind that only perhaps 2 to 3 percent of all college football players will ever go on to play pro football. The vast majority of players will soon be cast aside like worn-out auto parts, littering the junkyards of our communities with their broken dreams.
Once the lights go out on the bowl games and the cheering stops, most of their names are soon forgotten. Sure, some will go on to graduate. Some will enter careers in fields other than sports. But a sizable number — and embarrassing percentage — of the players we cheer for on Saturdays soon will be driving trucks, working in a warehouse, or doing manual labor for peanuts. They’re washed up.
Let’s hope someone like Marvin Miller will emerge and demand justice and economic equity for those who have truly built college athletics into an entertainment powerhouse. Let’s hope that an advocate for justice will step forward and fight for a piece of the pie — perhaps something as trivial as a monthly stipend — for those who sacrifice and risk so much for their schools and communities.
All that stands in the way of true justice is “the system.” The loathsome system that we tacitly endorse with our allegiances to the charade enables coaches, administrators, bowl pimps, and other parasites to ride the coattails of those who carry the load.
They should all be ashamed. We should all be ashamed.
Yes, college football desperately needs a Marvin Miller.
nolan, i’m afraid that your point of view on this issue ignores one very important point.
why does a college football player go to college in the first place?
to get an education, perhaps? to acquire some skills (like readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic) that might help when he seeks a job or a career, perhaps? to prepare him for the remaining 50 years of life, perhaps?
unless, of course, this college “student” doesn’t yet have (and will never get) skills such as readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic … because he never had to learn ’em in high school and managed to get accepted into some “college” solely because of his perceived physical abilities.
no, college football players don’t need a marvin miller. they need an education, first.
and if that means an end to the bowl championship season (or whatever else they might call it), that’s probably a good thing.
But big time college sports are here to stay and as long as billions of dollars are changing hands, those who do most of the work are entitled to compensation.