By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Colleges and universities engage in a cut throat business of recruiting the top students in the world. The best and brightest may virtually write their tickets to the top schools in the United States.
A young man in rural Pennsylvania who applied to Princeton, Harvard, Chicago, Cornell and Pittsburgh was contacted first by Pitt and was offered a free education and with the ability to tailor his academic journey to his interests.
The other four are certainly more prestigious, certainly with the resources to provide similar offers if he interests them. Ivy League schools in particular, because of the level of expense, can choose those that can afford to attend or – with endowments bigger than the gross national product of some Third World countries – can pay to allow a potential student to enroll for free.
Once admitted, the students may have incredible freedom. Many often work a small job or two because the grants usually don’t fully cover the cost of attending school. Toilet paper and toothpaste are usually extra, but there are no limits on the money a student makes.
Some schools are structured for work-study and help secure a job, often from a benevolent alum, to complement a student’s class schedule or during an off semester.
Again, there are no limits on the money the student can accumulate.
If a skill or niche result in – say – a Web page that becomes an instant sensation and generates millions of dollars, there are no limits though it may require declining further aid from the school.
Sanctimonious college administrators and hypocritical fans don’t see scholarship athletes the same as they do virtually every other student on campus. Athletes are limited to scholarships – tuition, room and board – and some perks, but the intent is to keep them tethered to the school and their sport year round.
Not so many years ago athletes were permitted to work part-time jobs, on and off campus. Some schools became creative and some kids did next to nothing for the money. George Rogers likes to joke about his job turning on the sprinklers and watching the grass grow. Much of the money he was paid was sent home to help pay the family’s bills.
Football players generally receive a lot of swag from the equipment supplier contracted by the school, and should they play in a bowl game the haul can be generous. Consider this. It isn’t uncommon to see a player in tears because he finally had gifts for his family at Christmas because he didn’t have money to buy them before then.
Many receive Pell Grants in addition to their scholarships, money provided through a government program based on need. Some players live from semester to semester squeezing the last cent out of his Pell check to pay for incidentals like toilet paper and toothpaste.
Over the last decade Clemson’s athletic budget has virtually doubled. Based on a summary of the 2014 budget, Clemson plans for more than $72 million in revenue, more than two-thirds from ticket revenue, IPTAY and TV money from the ACC.
More than half the money — $30 million – was slotted for personnel. The next highest figure was nearly $8 million for tuition, room and board. IPTAY covers that itself.
Sounds like a lot of money, but consider this.
Clemson wants its athletic program to be considered among the top in the nation, and in many respects that has been achieved. In the last survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Clemson was one of the few NCAA schools to avoid finishing in the red. And yet in the last USA Today survey of athletic department revenues, Clemson was 37th.
Schools want the best students and want the best athletes money can buy. It’s a precarious balance, and using two sets of criteria to make those determinations leads to double standards at the very least.
The NCAA’s usefulness on matters pertaining to athletes on college campuses seems to lag behind the over site in other disciplines. If a kid can make a few bucks giving cello lessons then a football player ought to be able to sell his autograph.
If the cello teacher also plays football, we have a conundrum created by the hypocrites who preach purity but expect to be wined and dined by bowl representatives or demand seats on the 50-yard and a prime parking spot.
Plus, none of them have to worry about how they’ll pay for their next tube of toothpaste.