- - Monday, May 15, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I suppose there’s no limit, no amount that might make the NCAA pause and reconsider its depravity. Everything concerning adults’ salaries, merchandising deals and TV revenue is based on free-market forces, a bedrock American principle that works great for schools, conferences, coaches and administrators.

Even better for those entities, player expenses are fixed at artificial rates, held firm by a diabolical scheme that makes Good Fellas seem like choirboys. With the racket’s continued ability to hide in plain sight, under the heartless veil of “amateurism,” there’s more loot for the bosses to take, make and keep.

It’s an offer they can’t refuse.

That’s why there was no objection from the status quo Friday when USA Today reported Big 10 Conference commissioner Jim Delany is due a $20 million bonus. The news undoubtedly sparked visions among other conference commissioners and their deputies, who imagined what they’ll buy when the trickle-down reaches their direct deposits.

The same hidden grins surely occurred earlier this month, when Alabama football coach Nick Saban signed an extension that pays him $11 million this season. Coaches across the nation secretly broke into high-fives and backflips, knowing that a rising Tide lifts all foes. Assistants on Saban’s staff didn’t have to wait for the undulation.

They felt the ripples immediately.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt gets a $300,000 raise to $1.3 million this season, and will make $1.4 million in 2018 and $1.5 million in 2019. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is slated to earn $1.2 million each season in his three-year deal. Strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran is on the books for $535,000 this season.

But outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi and incoming athletic director Greg Byrne are the Powerball winners. Byrne gets $1.2 million in base salary, a 70 percent increase over the $706,000 taken home by his predecessor. Lupoi hit a bigger parlay. After turning down an opportunity to become Cal’s defensive coordinator, Lupo gets a 73 percent raise, from $550,000 to $950,000.

At least Saban can’t be accused of hogging Alabama’s largess. There’s definitely a share-the-wealth mindset … stopping well short of the players.

Michigan fullback-tight end Khalid Hill noted the discrepancy between paid employees and student-athletes after Delany’s bonus was revealed. “I’m broke over here and the big ten commissioner making money off who?” he tweeted.

Apparently, Delany is making money solely off his amazing acumen, not amateurs’ athleticism.

“Commissioner Delany has provided invaluable leadership for Big Ten member institutions while delivering first-in-class performance during a time of great transformation in college athletics,” University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said in a statement. “He has not only successfully balanced the missions of academic achievement, student-athlete development and athletic success, he has successfully developed the resources necessary to strategically position the conference for success well into the future.

“His compensation is market-competitive, based on an independent third-party analysis, and reflects the value and impact of his leadership.”

College leaders never hesitate to mention the market, individuals’ value and competitive compensation when defending pay on the sideline and in administrative offices. But the same economic fundamentals are anathema when attention shifts to the football fields and basketball courts.

Look, if proponents insist that scholarship athletes don’t work for free, fine. We can agree that tuition plus room & board have monetary value. Everyone who attends (or pays for) college without those benefits concurs.

But athletes can “get something” and still get a raw deal.

This isn’t an either/or proposition.

Let’s say you work for a company like Crimson Tide Football, that according to Forbes surpasses $100 million in annual revenue and posted a $46 million profit in 2015. You’re inarguably among the firm’s most valuable, vital and recognizable employees – perhaps in line for nationwide honors as a finalist for the Heisman, Outland, Maxwell, (etc.) awards.

You’re paid for your work. However, relative to the company’s income and other employees’ compensation, you make the equivalent of minimum wage. All because the powers-that-be determined that workers at your level are prohibited from receiving true market value.

How’s that make you feel?

(And please don’t argue that money spent on equipment, training, travel and amenities are equivalent to player compensation. Those costs are business expenses meant to boost the bottom line; they don’t benefit the 98 percent of college athletes who don’t move on to pro sports).

Sadly, there seem to be no point at which enough outsiders would rise and say, “Enough already!” Likewise, there’s evidently little risk that a critical mass of insiders will develop guilty consciences and call for reform.

But I wonder what would it take.

Head coaches making $20 million a year? Assistants making half that amount? Administrators raking in $30 million bonuses?

Or, is the sky the limit as long as the ground remains frozen?

Not to be judgmental, but your values are highly questionable if the status quo doesn’t bother you.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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