#WeAreUnited or Not?

A group of athletes from the Pac-12 conference have created a movement demanding some fundamental changes in the landscape of college athletics. Some of their demands seem very fair and logical, others maybe not so much, but the demands have been made.

I am an old-school coach who spent many years working at smaller schools with limited budgets. We had players who received scholarships but who also had to do fundraising work, field work, rode in 15 passenger vans and ate picnic lunches out of a cooler between games because that was what we could afford to do. So my outlook on some of the demands is very clearly jaded by those experiences.

That being said, I do think that players deserve a safe environment where all precautions possible are taken in the face of the coronavirus. I agree that no player should be required to sign a waiver that removes responsibility for the athlete’s health from the schools and places it on the player or their parent. I agree that any player who wants to opt out of playing in the world of COVID-19 should be able to without any kind of repercussions.

But what starts off as a list of reasonable demands spins out of control pretty quickly.

Demanding that all athletes be given a 50% split of the revenue their sport generates is preposterous. At first blush it sounds like it would be great for football players who generate all this money for their schools but only a small number of schools generate a profit from their football programs. How about the players at the 90% of schools where football loses money? Are they supposed to kick in 50% of the financial losses?

Didn’t think so.

Requiring schools to cut the pay of coaches and administrators also sounds like a good idea, at first glance. I agree that it is hard to imagine anyone coaching a college sport being millions of dollars a year, but that is what the market has created. We can discuss changing the market but the few schools that make a profit are making that profit in part because of the highly paid coach that runs the program. If Alabama gets rid of Nick Saban and his huge salary, and then ends up becoming one of the many schools that loses money, what are the players gaining?

If they get 50% of nothing…

And then there’s Title IX.

In the demands made by #WeAreUnited ,they show a limited understanding of the impact of Title IX on the decision making of college athletic departments. If big-time football program X gives millions of dollars to it’s players, they need to do something for their volleyball and softball players too.

Sorry guys, but it’s the law.

Finally, listening to players who have access to the finest weight rooms, training rooms, training tables with more food options than you can count, tutoring, priority registration, first-class travel and a lot of other benefits saying that schools should limit the lavish spending to make things more equitable is a pretty hard pill to swallow.

So you want to go to the recreation center and get some random guy to spot you while you do your workout? Right?

Here is the bottom line that athletes might want to keep in mind: If they don’t want to play, someone else will. There is an almost unlimited supply of football players who would jump at the chance to play at USC or Oregon or UCLA.

We don’t need to cheer for future NFL superstars each week to enjoy college football. At the end of the day, we are really cheering for the uniform, the logo, the mascot and the school, not the players in the uniforms.

If all the current big-time players boycott tomorrow, there will still be players on the field wearing the school colors. They won’t be future NFL players, but after we get used to that fact and the games are competitive, we’ll be cheering just the same.

Be careful what you wish for!