Morgan got it right in less than 140 characters
Purdue's A.D. got it right in just a few lines...I'm going to plead the case in one of my longest posts in the history of this site...
We know that we're tough on the athletic department at times when it's warranted...but we don't always disagree with the higher-ups at our Alma Mater's AD office. In the case above, Purdue's AD Morgan Burke got it absolutely correct.
The debate for paying college athletes, specifically college basketball and football players, seems to have heated up in the last few years. There's a movement among football players right now in which players put "APU" (All Players Unite) someplace on their person to show their solidarity.
Just recently, Houston Texans running back, Arian Foster told the media that he took money in college because he was literally starving at times during his college days at the University of Tennessee. He said coaches would have to buy him tacos because he just didn't have enough food to eat, so taking lumps of cash to help him get nourishment was imperative for his survival, not as an athlete, but as a person.
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I used to work in food service at Purdue in the 90s. I got to serve players steak for dinner multiple times...large amounts of steak. And later, when they implemented the use of dining dollars in lieu of meals, students, including athletes, could get food at dorm convenience stores if they missed a meal in the cafe. I'm not sure of the policies now at Purdue...nor am I positive of the letter of the law at Tennessee...But I think I'd bet my car AND my house that Foster never starved while wearing creamsicle orange on Rockytop. Former UT coach Fulmer and others have told the media that they think Foster's story is garbage too.
Foster isn't the only one whose sense of entitlement has blurred the lines of reality.
I had a friend years ago who was a great high school player in the state of Indiana...then went on to play for a BCS conference university outside of Indiana. The school he chose was a private school...and at that time (in the late-90s) tuition for that place was over $40K...today, you'll pay nearly $70,000 for tuition and room and board there.
After mere weeks on campus, my friend started telling me about how he deserved to be paid because he was being exploited by the school and the NCAA. That was a pretty tough pill for me to swallow, even from a friend who I had known since he was in the third grade- At that time, I was paying for my student loans and scraping by as I worked at my first job following graduation.
I didn't leave Purdue with a ton of loans, but I left with enough that I felt pressure to pay them off as quickly as possible. My buddy left his school, a few years later, with a degree from a well-respected university and zero dollars in student loan debt. Years later, the network that he gained at that school helped him get an astoundingly-good job for a very well-known company. I haven't talked to my friend in a few years...but I wonder if he still feels like he was exploited. Age and experience sometimes changes perspective.
As Morgan Burke alluded to, athletes don't only get tuition, travel, housing and good food paid for, they also have handlers and staff that act nearly as a concierge service for them. If any athletes are reading this and think I'm exaggerating, they might want to try living like a normal college student some time.
No joke- when I was at Purdue, there was an ATM across the street from Mackey Arena that allowed me to withdraw $5 at a time from my account. On Sunday nights, when there was no dorm food available, I'd check my balance...If I had over $10.00 in the account, I was happy; I'd take out $5.00 and go get a small cheese sticks or chicken sandwich from Burger King...Eating with the King!! (and like one too!!)
I'm not whining because I still consider myself privileged to have gone to Purdue...and I had friends who had less than I did during my time in God's country. But my friends on campus who played football or basketball or ran track were never starving during their time on campus...nor should they ever get even close to going hungry.
I understand the sacrifices these guys and girls make for Purdue...and still appreciate it. They risk their physical well-being, give up free time and live under a lot of scrutiny because they play college sports. But I don't think they need to get paid any more then they already do.
Another good friend of mine blew out his knee while playing football at Purdue and never played football again...Like my pal above, he was one of the best athletes in this state out of high school...and was recruited to play at Michigan, Notre Dame and other places...but chose Purdue because he came from a Purdue family and always loved the place. To this day, even though he never earned his degree from Purdue, he attends Purdue football and basketball games...and doesn't blame Purdue or the NCAA for what happened (but, for the record, he does blame the QB who threw the pass behind him on the play that he tore his ACL).
I understand the sacrifice he made for Purdue.
But even though Purdue was a pretty lousy football team when he played there, that program still was an economic engine that pulled the dead weight of sports that didn't generate any money...and that's the case today.
Athletes in the profitable sports help earn the TV deals from BTN and EsPN...and the money being thrown around is astronomical. But Purdue, like many schools, takes a chunk of the TV contracts and puts it into non-athletic coffers...the rest goes to facilities, athlete expenses, coach contracts and
to lawyers that send cease and desist letters to BoiledSports.com. errrrrrrrrrr other staff.
A football program, even a middling one like Purdue, makes money- no doubt about that...but keeping an entire athletic department in the black is another story...just ask IU's A.D. a few years ago...or many schools across the country, right now.
If you read this site regularly, you know that we don't care for the NCAA too much. They seem to punish the wrong individuals and programs while they let their cash cows thrive with mere slaps on the wrists for the most-egregious rules being violated. So we understand why some athletes see the NCAA as an enemy.
As we speak, the NCAA is quickly-lifting a punishment leveed just a year ago on Penn State for corruption that led to crimes that preyed on children and a subsequent, university-deep cover-up. A few weeks ago, investigations found players being paid at 'Bama and LSU as recently as last season and the NCAA sits silent. Last month, the lid was blown off of major improprieties at Oklahoma State and the NCAA stands by idly. Years ago Oregon violated major NCAA rules and escaped with a slap on the wrist. And nearly a decad ago, Miami's football program was found to be breaking nearly every major rule...and some laws while recruiting football players...and they still haven't been punished. With the exception of the Reggie Bush case at USC, one in which the arrogance of that program forced the NCAA's hand, the NCAA's pattern of unequitable punishment for major violations is apparent.
The fact is, the NCAA has created a system in which it simply can't enforce all of its own rules. First off, because there are too many of them...secondly, if they slaughter their cash cows, all of the non-profit sports would cease to exist immediately. In the wake of this action, programs like Title IX would be unsustainable. Big time football and basketball drive the bus, so to speak.
But, instead of revisiting its rule book and setting a group of enforceable, easily-understandable rules, its decided to take less and less action on major rules violations by the big boys, as it caves to the ever-increasing pressure to its foundation from many sides.
The toothless, inconsistent NCAA is surely not the best possible governing body for college sports; we all recognize that. But what seems to be coming our way isn't a good one either.
The five mega-conference concept that threatens to crush college athletics as we know them is far from ideal. Many believe that sweeping changes will come as these mega conference dissolve the BCS (finally...yay!) and the NCAA as we know it. One of those changes would be that basketball and football players would get paid for all of the trouble they go through...and college sports (at least at these institutions) would become pro sports farm teams.
I know that big college football and basketball fans have helped to create a monster. This beast wants more games on TV...sells advertising, video games and gear by Under Armour, Nike, Adidas and others AND has helped create an arms race (of sorts) in the form of opulent facilities for practice, games and player comfort.
If the trajectory continues the way it is, Purdue would be a part of the B1G (16) and become one of the minor league institutions for the NFL and NBA, sadly. And while I love gameday Saturdays in a packed Ross-Ade, I don't want Purdue to include itself in a concept in which Purdue students officially become pros while attending the school.
I think this concept brings massive problems- Programs like Alabama, Texas, T A&M and others would get richer as they raise more and more money. Unless a revenue sharing rule was implemented, the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots of the college football world would become even greater. Programs like Purdue, Vandy, Northwestern and others would be forced to the perpetual cellar as they simply couldn't compete with the dollars being thrown around. More importantly than that, I believe academics would be further trivialized in this system, and the student athletes at these institutions would leave even less-prepared for real life than they already are (probably without a meaningful diploma).
Slave to the NCAA?
One argument that people like Jay Bilas throw around is that the athletes value isn't taken into account in the current system...and many even compare NCAA athletes to indentured servants or slaves, with the rules as they stand now.
These statements show how little people really know about history and greatly trivialize the monstrosity of human trade, forced labor and bound servitude under an oppressive, murderous, abusive master.
The slippery slope of what many are asking for, is that when you say a player isn't getting what he's worth, the negotiations must begin. Are skilled players worth more than linemen because they put butts in the seats? Is a blue chip shooting guard's stipend greater than a 2-star power forward who is a rebounder because he's a franchise-type player? A simple system of paying guys a few thousand dollars will not be enough for those that are now asking for payment for play. How long will it be before agents represent individuals? Would Rob Henry get a cut of the massive amount of profit Nike receives from the sale of #15 jerseys (disregard that other #15 from Purdue a few years ago for a second). Will larger revenue programs get a higher salary cap than the smaller schools? It's a big can of worms that we're opening. A can that will not simplify the rules, but make them messier and more complicated.
This is the one time in which Morgan Burke's smalltime thinking will aid Purdue as a school with football and basketball programs...not just an athletic department that's in the black.
The same guy that refuses to put lights up because it costs too much (disregard the fact that every major high school in America has lights at their stadium) can act as a stop sign...or at least a speed bump to Purdue's collision course with being part of a super conference that has professional athletes. Surely his consistent focus on Purdue as a school with athletes, instead of an athletic department with athletes who happen to go to school, will help keep Purdue out of a league of professional college athletes...or at least delay it.
Sadly, this seemingly-inevitable force of nature that's being pushed by EsPN as an essential next step in college athletics is neither inevitable nor essential to sustaining college athletics...but more and more people believe it is because they're being told that's the case at every turn. Hopefully Purdue can stay above the fray and affect change instead of becoming part of the mess.