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Thinking out loud: What is going on in college sports?

John Rooke
June 19, 2020 - 10:51 am
Categories: 

Thinking out loud…while wondering if I could go back, would I do it all over again?

  • What in the world has suddenly emboldened college athletes?

 

  • If you haven’t paid attention, there is a clamor for change across America on many campuses, including current racial issues at big places like Oklahoma State, Iowa, Clemson and Texas. 

 

  • We know how racial issues have recently become inflamed.  Yes, it’s a shame we’ve arrived at this point.  But the truth is, this is only the tip of an iceberg beneath the surface surrounding what college athletics are all about, and what the NCAA can and should govern.

 

  • The impending name, image and likeness rules being developed for student athletes – so they can ostensibly receive a slice of the NCAA’s ever-growing monetary pie – is a factor, but not the only reason for athletes wanting to be heard.

 

  • A loosening of transfer rules is coming, too.  Long gone is the simple satisfaction of receiving an athletic scholarship for many Division I athletes, especially those at major schools playing revenue-generating sports. 

 

  • It’s worth so much more today.  A free education on the table, sure, is still worth much.  But today that educational meal also comes with an extra-large side of opportunity.

 

  • The key word here, is “revenue.”  25 years ago, who saw this coming?  40 years ago, having a game on TV was nirvana for your school.  Today, it is an expectation…and a necessity. 

 

  • Starting with scholarship limits for football in the 1970’s to ‘control the market’; moving into Title IX for equal opportunity; the ‘subletting’ of TV rights in the ‘80’s so more schools and leagues could gain exposure and $$$; the conference shape-shifting and even the thought of ‘unionizing’ college athletes over the past decade – intercollegiate athletics began the creation of a market that continues to grow unfettered by its’ own rules and regulations.

 

  • We’ve asked student-athletes to play by rules that simply no longer apply today.  The dollar signs are too big; they tantalizingly dance for all to see in the form of huge stadiums, facility improvements, school exposure and TV ratings that have escalated into some sort of Soviet era-styled arms race.

 

  • We are our own worst enemy…and today’s student athletes aren’t blind to what it is we’re asking for.  College kids are not ignorant to the fact that a dollar today isn’t what it was 25-40 years ago.  Some of them it seems, at the least, have been in school to learn.

 

  • Athletes can protest, complain and demand.  No longer can coaches threaten to pull a scholarship.  It won’t work – athletes can transfer.  Regular students generally don’t have academic scholarships revoked because they’re socially active or vocal.

 

  • College athletics today are a result of market desires and demands.  Pro sports are too, of course, but they’re in business to entertain and make money.  Colleges can no longer hide behind a veil of ‘academia.’ 

 

  • There’s room for school, too, of course.  But the kids are too smaht to know that’s all it is today.  Academics have become a means to an end. 

 

  • We should be proud of them.  They’ve learned well, and they learn still.  We all do.

 

  • Except for Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.  At some point, don’t you think that a person’s actions, and not their words, actually SHOW who they are?

 

  • College football’s restart plan has been approved, which puts schools across the country on the clock for their summer workout and subsequent fall safety plans.  Schools and teams can begin preparations six weeks before their first scheduled game.

 

  • But there remains the real possibility that not every team (130 of them in FBS) will play this season.

 

  • Robert Morris made it official this week, departing the Northeast Conference for the Horizon League July 1st, and football will join the Big South.  Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne is also joining, bringing the Horizon roster to 12 programs.

 

  • The NEC, where Bryant holds conference membership, will be at 10 teams for next year.

 

  • After wandering in the collegiate wilderness for the past 13 years, NJIT has apparently found a logical home – leaving the Atlantic Sun to join America East and bring that league to 10 members.  Maine is the northernmost member, Maryland-Baltimore County the southernmost. 

 

  • Hartford, Vermont and New Hampshire are all within the league boundary.  Seems like a good geographic fit when most moves these days don’t.

 

  • Remember the story last year of Division III St. Thomas, kicked out of its Minnesota-based conference because they were too good?  The Tommies are headed for a waiver, skipping over D-II and now straight into D-I for most of their sports, joining the Summit League.

 

  • New Boston College athletic director Patrick Kraft came from an athletic renaissance at Temple and has been replaced (temporarily) in Philly by long-time hoop coach Fran Dunphy, who retired from the bench a year ago.

 

  • ICYMI, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a name-image-likeness bill into law, which means Florida college athletes could start earning money on NIL rights as soon as next summer.

 

  • Unless the NCAA and/or Congress step in with rules or regulations for everyone by then, it’s a decided advantage for those schools (as it is with those in California) within the state.

 

  • Shouldn’t Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut legislators also consider their own such legislation?  I mean, can the NCAA or Congress be trusted to do ‘the right thing?’

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but the revenue losses for all sports due to Covid-19’s presence is staggering.  Nearly $4 billion in the college ranks, $5.5 billion for the pros.  Youth sports ring in at nearly $2.5 billion in losses – all told, $12 billion.  And counting.

 

  • The college sports losses may be just a blip on the radar, however.

 

  • TV rights will open for re-negotiation in several conferences, starting in 2023.  As recently as a year or two ago, these fees looked to fall flat with a glut of ‘product’ in the marketplace.  Now, schools and their leagues will hope to make up for some of the revenue lost due to the pandemic, as will the networks look for programming they can sell.

 

  • It’ll be interesting, for sure.  And the next round of NFL rights negotiation is open again in 2022 – but the big question there, will that leave any $$$ for everyone else?

 

  • The College Football Hall Of Fame ballot for 2021 has been released, and there are several names with local ties:  Former Patriots’ Andre Tippett (Iowa ’81), Kevin Faulk (LSU ’96), Kenneth Sims (Texas ’81), Matt Cavanaugh (Pitt ’77), Tony Franklin (Texas A&M ’78), Michael Bishop (Kansas State ’98) and Vincent Brown (Mississippi Valley ’87) are all on the ballot.

 

  • Others on the ballot with local ties:  Tom Ehrhardt (URI ’85), Pete Mitchell (BC ’94), John Dorsey (UConn ’83), Rene Ingoglia (UMass ’96), Steve Schubert (UMass ’72), Bill McGovern (Holy Cross ’84), Carl Morris (Harvard ’02), Tim Whelan (Tufts ’76) and John Zanieski (Yale ’84).

 

  • Former Trinity (CT) coach Don Miller (1967-98), who retired as the all-time winningest D-III coach in New England history is also on the ballot, as is Amherst’s Jim Ostendarp (1959-91).  The HOF class will be announced in early 2021.

 

  • What’s in a name?  The Belk Bowl, played in Charlotte, NC, has a new name and sponsor – Duke’s Mayonnaise.  That means – it’s now called “The Mayo Bowl.” 

 

  • It’s brilliant, if not slightly nauseating.  And I love mayo as a condiment.

 

  • Hey Jerod?  You ought to file for copyright infringement or something.

 

  • I miss the simpler days when we had games like the “Poulin Weed Eater Bowl.”

 

  • College basketball coaches can begin summer workouts with their players next month.  They haven’t been able to do anything since the pandemic shut down March Madness.

 

  • Props to the Friar hoops team for their 2020 performance in the classroom – a 3.24 GPA for the spring semester.  And a shoutout to academic advisor Jaime Lipski for droppin’ the dimes on these guys. 

 

  • She handed out major assists, for anyone who doesn’t follow my talk.

 

  • Rhody has released its’ home non-league schedule, which will include visits to the Ryan Center from Seton Hall, Brown and Boise State.  Road trips will include the visit to play PC (at the Dunk?) and two more at Mohegan Sun, including one against Marquette.

 

  • Three Big East teams on the schedule, one from the ACC (at Boston College) one from the Mountain West and another from the Big Ten or American.  That’s a slate that can measure up, especially with a few wins on it. 

 

  • It will also help if there are a few players to go along for this ride.  The Rams are still mighty thin, at least without some waiver help via the transfer highway.

 

  • Perhaps a positive sign – as Ohio State transfer D.J. Carton received a waiver to play next season at Marquette.

 

  • Tamenang Choh has withdrawn from the NBA Draft process and will return as a senior next year for Brown.  Absolutely zero wrong in testing the waters to see what needs to be worked on for the next level of play…and his return as one of the top players in the Ivy will help his team, as well as his pro aspirations.

 

  • College basketball scribe Adam Zagoria wrote this week about Bryant’s Jared Grasso – who extended 136 scholarship offers Monday to the Classes of 2022 and 2023.

 

  • The hustle, at the very least, is impressive.  Will the results be likewise? 

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @CharlesPPierce, in response to a CBS News tweet that read “There may be more than 36 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way, scientists say.” 

 

  • From the ex-Boston Herald scribe and one-time ESPN radio partner of yours truly: “One day, we might be one of them.”

 

  • When does 100% actually = zero?

 

  • When Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is doing the math.

 

  • The latest?  Sixty games, full pro-rated salaries for the players. And the players still need to decide on this?  They want 70?  Great.  Split in the middle at 65 and call it a day.  Sheesh.

 

  • They want more games because they’ll make more money. 

 

  • “Tell us when and where” has turned into one great, big fib.  Baseball is a cesspool of thought.

 

  • Despite the local nine’s leaving us out in left field this year, and in spite of the cutback from 40 to just five rounds…a shoutout to the locals selected in last week’s MLB draft, a true testament of baseball quality with a distinct northeast flavor.

 

  • Five former Newport Gulls and another from the New Bedford BaySox (NECBL), New Bedford native Jared Shuster, former Johnston, RI catcher Nick Raposo, URI’s Jackson Coutts, New Haven’s Matt Chamberlain and BC’s Joe Suozzi have all signed pro contracts as draftees or free agents…outside of the requisite and expected Cape Cod League influence.

 

  • Sorry, TB12.  Don’t care what your new Tampa Bay uniform looks like, or what you look like in it.  You play for someone else.

 

  • Love this.  Smug Brewing in Pawtucket has launched “Traitorade” Beer, throwing serious shade at TB12 and Gronk.  It’s a Key Lime Sour (a decidedly Florida influence) with the Tampa Bay Buc logo having the face of a ‘chicken.’ 

 

  • Several Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans tested positive for Covid-19 this past week, including Ezekiel Elliott.  The league is exploring an expansion of practice squads to help accommodate what appears to be a foregone conclusion – positive tests and players getting sick during the season.

 

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci told Pro Football Talk this week it’s going to be hard for the NFL to pull off what they’re hoping to pull off without a ‘bubble community’ similar to what the NBA has planned. 

 

  • Right now, it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen as all 32 teams are planning to play in their own stadiums.  Hope they’ve all got back up plans.  They’ll need them.

 

  • The WNBA also plans for a start up with 12 teams, 22 games, a traditional playoff format and a late-July tip-off.  Their ‘bubble’ will be at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.  Half-expecting my buddy Edward in E. Providence to plan a visit, even with no fans allowed to attend.

 

  • Kyrie Irving is a s**t stirrer.  Plain and simple.  Please, go start your own league, Kyrie. 

 

  • Tweet of the Week II from @arooke2, in response to the amenities NBA players will have at their disposal within their ‘bubble campus’ in Orlando: “I knew I shouldn’t have quit basketball after the 8th grade.”

 

  • Among the goodies – a players’ only lounge, video games, private concierge, daily entertainment, manicures, pedicures.  Yeah, it appears they’ll have to rough it.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Ex-Friar assistant and current Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said this week he caught the coronavirus back in March, about 10 days after the league shut down.  He has since recovered.

 

  • The USTA says they’ll hold the US Open in August and September without spectators at Flushing Meadows, NY.  Some foreign players are already balking at making the trip, calling the USTA “selfish.”

 

  • Seems like that’s the professional tennis-tantrum equivalent of “I’m taking my racquet home and not playing with you!”  Which is fine – one less person at risk of being infected.

 

  • The vaunted WWE suspended production this week, at least temporarily, after one of their developmental wrestlers tested positive.  Once tests have been completed on all employees on site and Covid-19 has been put in a sleeper hold, shows are expected to start up again.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez Mrs. E recently served fish and Brussel sprouts for dinner when the grandkids paid a visit.  Healthy stuff.  All actually went fine until E’s grandson found a fish bone while chewing.  He asked, “what do I do with this thing?”

 

  • “Big E” replied, “just put it where you know you won’t eat it.”  He then watched his grandson put the fishbone right back into the middle of his Brussel sprouts.

 

  • I feel old.  Wade Boggs turned 62 this week.  Whoa.

 

  • Age is but a number, or so we’re told when we get older.  50 is the “new 30.”  60 is the “new 40,” and so on.  If you’re 40, 30 or 20?  You guys s*ck. 

 

  • But age is also whatever you make of it.

 

  • The pandemic has left some of us wishing we could ‘go back and do it all over,’ as the late, great Eddie Money once sang.  You know, turn the pages of time back to what we’ve been accustomed to seeing, hearing and doing?  And also grab maybe one more shot at our youth? 

 

  • I’ll include myself in that group.  Mostly, because there are things (like popular trends and people) that sometimes sail over my head when it comes to real understanding.

 

  • There aren’t too many things I’d like to ‘do over.’  And you’re not old if you’re still engaged.  Or active.  Or involved.  Or interested in all things around you.  I suppose I’m lucky I guess, more than old…but I’ve been all four of these. 

 

  • And I’ll take ‘em all.  You?

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

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