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Hustle Belt Discusses the Meaning of "Fundamental Change"

As we approach the start of college football season, a lot of questions still remain, like whether Tyler Tettleton can handle starting quarterback duties at Ohio, or whether the rest of the defense can help out Roosevelt Nix out at Kent.

Some larger schools like Miami and their head coach Al Golden (we miss you buddy) are facing extra questions, after the Hurricanes' announcement today that they have tabbed a baker's dozen of players ineligible (including presumptive starting QB Jacory Harris). Will they get any of these players back? Can the program survive?

This all prompted Hustle Belt's own round table (email swap?) as we discussed our own feelings on the latest firestorm of mess that has been exposed in college football and somehow managed to miss the MAC completely. Mr. Mark Travis taking the lead:


Mark Travis - I know the MAC isn't exactly in the midst of controversy or anything but we do represent the opposite side of the spectrum to the "pay the players" debate because the schools in the MAC don't generate as much revenue as schools like UT or Florida. I was curious as to what you guys think about how to fix college sports, if at all possible.


Matt Sussman - I'm pretty jaded toward the big schools so I don't have many/any answers myself.


bmiraski - Does it make sense to go in the opposite direction of paying players?  Cut the number of scholarships available to football, give the kids the forum to showcase skills, but don't pay the full amount for them to do it.

For football and basketball, it isn't like there is another league they can choose to go to out of high school to prepare to be drafted (basketball in Europe being the exception, but not an option for everyone). So if there were only 50 scholarships available to the football team and you let the kids have a job, or something that would allow them to pay the rest of the way for their school, could you get away from some of the craziness?

It might actually force basketball or football to develop an actual minor league system as opposed to just looking at college as free labor development for them. I don't know... I am also not sure that everyone could go the way of the Ivy League and have NO scholarships, although you could gradually move in that direction. Then kids would have the same type of choices as in baseball, where they can go to school or go to the pros, albeit most likely in the minor leagues. As we have seen there are the rare kids who have the talent out of high school that can compete on day one, but they are rare.

I don't know... just thinking out loud here... and probably have thought too much now.


Brown and Gold - I personally think that a college education is payment enough.  You think about the smaller MAC schools.  They don't get much attention nationally, but the players get roughly $80,000-$100K in a college education and living expenses to play sports.  Bigger schools = bigger "paycheck" but still the idea is the same.

Also, if players are paid, then does Marcus Lattimore make big bucks, and yet the full-back that has to block for him gets barely anything? Or do we compare him to the basketball team's back-up shooting guard? These players get free education and free exposure, that's payment enough.


bmiraski - I definitely don't advocate paying players...

The problem I see from the people who do advocate it is that they all undervalue the education that the players are supposed to be receiving for free. Yes, the University earns money from the skills of these players, but that money in some circumstances (not all, because some schools overvalue athletics) funnels back in to make the schools better, pay for better professors, research, etc.

They all assume that the only reason the players are at the school is to play sports, which in some cases is true, but in a lot of cases isn't. What was the old commercial from the NCAA?  98% of our athletes go on to do something other than sports.  That isn't just the non-revenue generating athletes; there is a large number of football and basketball players lumped into that 98%.

You can't make kids value the education, but that doesn't mean the value isn't there. And I think the ESPN talking heads forget that because they also look at the NCAA like the minor league for the NBA and NFL. Which in the end is kind of funny because without his Duke education, Jay Bilas doesn't go to law school. 

Mark Travis - It's interesting that you guys have brought up the NCAA/minor leagues parallel. I've been thinking of a way to make that into an actual reality. Is there a way to make NCAA Basketball and Football minor league options for professional leagues? I'm sure that the pro leagues and the NCAA rarely see eye to eye and this will probably never happen but what if leagues started drafting kids out of high school and, like baseball, they weren't actually used at the major league level until they would become eligible (1 year for basketball players and 3 for football). This way, kids would be getting paid a salary by pro teams (a minimal one but one that wouldn't hurt pro teams and would certainly make a difference for college kids). 

In an attempt to cut down on schools "convincing" players to go their universities the team that drafted each player could go step-by-step with them in their decision making process. The benefit for the NCAA is that they'd completely abolish the idea of paying players and, in theory, clean things up. Pro teams would get to watch their prospects develop and own their rights up until they got in the pro's. In a way, every college kid would be Ricky Rubio. They'd get drafted at 18 and they'd make money playing for another team until they were ready to go pro. The players would have the option complete their degrees while still remaining paid players. Pro teams would have the option to renew the player's contract after graduation/declaration so they can either continue their investment in a player or allow them to sign with other teams. 

It's not a perfect idea and so many things would have to happen for it to be even considered. I don't hate the idea but I understand how far out it is.

This is not the end of the discussion, but we wouldn't want to shove too much genius in your face in one post. Come back tomorrow for part two of this discussion.