Go Figure

In the recent issue of Sports Illustrated in a section they call “Go Figure,” we find the following:

“$240,000 [is the] amount paid by a Wall Street businessman for a 70 foot RV — stocked with prime beef, lobster, and caviar, and staffed with two waitresses, a driver and a chef — to transport him and five other fans 20 hours from New York to Sunday’s Giants-Packers game.”

If the economy were booming this would be hard to fathom; in this economy it is positively obscene. It really doesn’t warrant further comment. But it is certainly worth pondering.

And speaking of obscenities, the same issue contains an editorial that suggests a plan to put some of the huge amounts of money generated by college football to good use. It stops short of the notion that the athletes who generate the money should themselves be paid (as I have proposed elsewhere), but suggests instead that the money be taken away from the “coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and bowl officials” and doled out to the “destitute communities from which so many of their leading performers come.”  It mentions, almost in passing, that the average football coach at a BCS school today makes $2.1 million. Not a bad day’s pay!

The plan actually comes from Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Shaka Smart who himself recently signed a contract with that university for eight years at $9.6 million, also not a bad day’s pay. As it happens, Smart is wiling to put his money where his mouth is and has given of his time and money to the Richmond area where the university is located. He envisions a tithe system whereby money would be made available for academic scholarships “or a foundation to shore up school districts imperiled by budget cuts.”

It’s an intriguing notion and helps to draw attention the the rotting state the colleges and universities are in that take in huge amounts of money from athletes who now complain they can hardly get by on the amount given them in the form of athletic “scholarships.” In the face of the fact that the NCAA recently met and simply sidestepped the athletes’ request for some sort of assistance, one must suppose that Smart’s suggestion will fall by the wayside.

In addition to tithing, the editorial also endorses a plan to have top-tier NCAA schools  reduce the number of football “scholarships,” cut spending on non-revenue sports, and institute a NCAA football playoff — an idea that’s been “out there” for years and is discussed and dismissed summarily by the football conferences who see it as a reduction in their profits. And there’s the rub: any plan, no matter how sensible, will not fly because it will take money away from those making huge profits from college football and basketball. As I say, it’s obscene, especially since these are supposed to be educational institutions.