This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
How would you feel if you were a Texas A&M; football player who lost to Tennessee at the Cotton Bowl over the holidays? Your team goes down 38 to 7, you lug through the tunnel, into the locker room, perhaps proud that you made it to one of the major Bowls but, nevertheless, not elated to finish the post season with a lopsided loss. You grab a shower, some dinner with the guys, and ponder if maybe you have what it takes to enter the NFL draft come summer, instead of playing out your college eligibility. You-ve had a tough time at school. The allotment of cash for food and living expenses has made for a weekly struggle to even get your laundry done. On-field practices, weight room time, game film revue hours, have proven to be so rigorous that actually attending all your classes and keeping up with course work has been virtually impossible. So you think about bailing on college and heading to the pros. Your life is that of a pro player already, except you-re the only link in the organization that-s not staking a stable financial future for yourself. And every time you suit up and honorably play the part of cash cow for your university, you take the risk of blowing out your knee, so that NFL contract dream may never come true, the longer you put it off. Your parents and mentors, perhaps your high school coach, all chime in to say that your education must come first. You can-t count on football to support you. You need that university degree.
Then you pick up the next morning-s newspaper and notice the bold headline of the sports page. Your coach, Dennis Franchione, will be getting both a contract extension and a raise. His current $1.7 million yearly salary spikes up because he took his Aggies to the Cotton Bowl in only his second season at A&M.; Right next to that article is the news that the University of Florida has just inked a new 7-year, $14-million dollar deal to bring in Urban Meyer as head coach. And there-s passing mention of the current highest paid college football coach, Oklahoma-s Bob Stoops, at $2.5 million per year.
It-s long been true that big football programs at large Division 1 schools carve out a career of summer camps, radio shows, and apparel deals for the coaching staff, especially the head coach. And the boosters of these football schools, thirsty to rub shoulders with victory, have a long history of supplementing coaches- salaries. In 2000, for example, Seminole boosters delivered a whopping $31.4 million bundle to the Florida State football program, which sweetened the coach-s pot considerably. These boosters often operate under a nonprofit '501 C3' charity title. And there are charities that have expressed their displeasure at calling a football booster club a charity when the work includes raising money to install recessed lighting in the stadium-s luxury booths.
But back to the kid from Texas A&M.; Isn-t he the revenue producer for all this free-flowing cash at his university? Isn-t he the one who wears the ultimate advertising, the school-s jersey, in the school-s colors? Isn-t he the one who takes all the risk of concussions and separated shoulders and ripped tendons? He plays for pride in his school, for the love of the game, and for a free education. That-s all good.
But would you blame these players for feeling more and more like the slave labor for rich management? The disparity between this labor force and this management has always existed, but these days, with college coaches competing for NFL jobs and that fact in turn bumping up their value in the college arena, the disparity has become glaring. The general who sends his men out into the thick of battle has now become a multi-millionaire. Let-s not be surprised when the foot soldiers, sooner than later, stage an organized revolt.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.