- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The governor of Nebraska wants to pay Cornhusker football players a stipend.
Which got me wondering: If such a measure were pushed through and the 'Huskers went 7-7 again, could the quarterback be fired?
Actually, what Gov. Mike Johanns is suggesting should make the NCAA at least a little nervous, because the last thing it needs is a national debate on this subject. A national debate would bring some uncomfortable facts to light, No.1 being that college football is basically bankrolling women's athletics at many universities.
Let's use Nebraska as an example. According to figures supplied by the school in its Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act report figures that were published recently by the Orlando Sentinel Cornhuskers football turned a $22.7 million profit in 2001. Twenty-two million bucks! The women's athletics program, on the other hand, showed a $6.25 million loss.
Where would women's volleyball have been without Eric Crouch and Co.?
And yet, Title IX advocates continue to complain about inequities in athletic scholarships inequities that exist essentially because there's no female equivalent of football. In most places, this would be known as biting the hand that feeds you. But in the Never-Never Land of Title IX, such behavior brings only cries of "You go, girl!"
Granted, every college football program didn't pull in $20 million in 2001. A dozen of them did, though. And plenty of others made a significant amount of money. In fact, among the top six football conferences in the country (the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern), only three programs finished in the red Wake Forest, Rutgers and Temple.
That's three programs out of 62, more than half of major-college football.
For all 117 Division I-A schools, meanwhile, the figures were these:
Average profit by the football program: $4.97 million.
Average loss by women's athletics: $3.4 million.
But let's get back to Nebraska. Gov. Johanns says, "College football has become a multi-million dollar industry that should do much better for its athletes." So he's backing a bill in the state legislature that would provide players with some walking-around money, the kind banned by the NCAA. If the bill passes and it passed in 1988, only to be vetoed by another governor it wouldn't go into effect until three other states in the Big 12 passed similar laws.
So maybe it's a moot point, because not only would other states in the Big 12 have to go along, the NCAA would have to go along and that would require a lot of arm-twisting. Then again, every journey begins with a single step; perhaps this is an idea whose time has come. Football players at many universities are undeniably exploited. The legislator who's sponsoring the Nebraska bill told the Lincoln Journal Star that in the past decade the football team has generated more than $155 million in revenue, while the school has given out a mere $14 million in football scholarships.
This same legislator, State Sen. Ernie Chambers, thinks it's ridiculous football players aren't given additional financial help, considering how much time they spend, year-round, on their sport. "This is not a game," he told the Journal Star. "This is not an extracurricular activity. This is a cut-throat business."
Chambers' bill would pay players at least the minimum federal wage of $5.15 an hour. If a player, in other words, devoted 40 hours a week to football, he would receive a stipend of about $200 a week or about $4,000 for the season. For 85 scholarship players, that comes to $340,000. (In the offseason, of course, there would be smaller payments.)
Surely a football program that raked in $20 million a year could handle such an expense. And so could the one at Texas ($16.2 million profit in '01), Oklahoma ($12.1 million), Texas A&M; ($12 million), Colorado ($8.2 million) and Kansas State ($7.8 million). In the SEC, there were seven programs that cleared $20 million in '01. I suspect they could afford minimum-wage stipends, too.
What schools might find, if they ever took this step, is that many of the nickel-and-dime, improper-benefits infractions that land them on probation would disappear and with them the expensive legal bills they end up paying to clean up the mess. Translation: They might actually save money in the long run.
Which would give them more to "invest" in women's athletics.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide