Changing Collegiate Sports Landscape Has WVU In Its Midst

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — College sports are broken and if they don’t get a complete overhaul, they will find themselves in deep trouble.

It has become professional sports — on steroids — and has lost the charm it once had. Its hold on the public is going to go next and this one you can’t blame on the COVID-19 pandemic that took the steam out of this past season.

This one goes on the players and on the NCAA, with the deep pockets of television’s assistance and the lure of the professional dollars being the driving force.

And WVU is caught in the middle of it all.

One might say it’s always been there, as far back as there were college sports, for there were recruiting scandals and players who would play under assumed names, so-called amateur football players who played professional baseball under an assumed name back in the 1920s and before.

Recruiting always has been sports’ dirty little secret, with a $100 bill behind every handshake.

Let’s use WVU as an example of what is transpiring and how its ability to control its own athletic department is creeping out of the open door of the transfer portal or into the NFL, professional basketball or even major league baseball.

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Basketball season, for example, isn’t over yet and already the season was disrupted by the departure through the portal of Oscar Tshiebwe, Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Jordan McCabe, while Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil and now Deuce McBride, the glue that held the team together and elevated it above an average team, have ventured into the NBA draft to evaluate whether they should or should not leave.

In truth, there is no roster upon which Coach Bob Huggins can build toward next year for he can have no idea of who will be here, or who will be gone.

Football was no different. There was a coach vs. player flap even before the year started that forced the football team’s defensive coordinator to leave.

Players — some who had no complaint with a coach or playing time — transferred at will, including star players like Dreshun Miller and Tykee Smith among them.

Fans try to attach themselves to the players on the team for the moment, but they soon saw that their attachment to the players was not reciprocated, each announcement on Twitter or Instagram sounding more and more like a form letter, which in reality is what it was.

“First of all, I would like to thank God because without him none of this would have been possible,” wrote Deuce McBride on his Friday announcement that he was going to enter the NBA draft. “From the first time I picked up a basketball my dream was to one day be in position to play in the NBA.

“After conversations with my family and the WVU coaching staff, I have decided I will be declaring for the 2021 NBA draft. Thank you to everyone who helped me get to this point, I’m excited to go through this process!!”

Following a crushing defeat to Syracuse a little more than a week earlier, the carpet the Mountaineers ran out onto the Coliseum court had been yanked from under the fans’ feet, their heroes moving forward.

That is the system as it is today. Even major league baseball players have to wait for five years before they can declare for free agency or until their contract runs out or until they are released.

The players who are transferring, who are looking into professional careers, are playing within the rules. It isn’t they who are wrong. It is the rules that are wrong.

And, the thing is, which each passing year the players get more and more for their efforts. Once they truly were the downtrodden, picked-on athlete who wasn’t compensated for playing. That is no longer the case, for they now receive an education and tutoring, first class meals and facilities, room and board, and some stipend money. More is on the way, as the right to profit from their own name, image and likeness will soon be allowed.

Yet they are out for more and they bring in so much money — it’s measured in the billions of dollars throughout sports — that concessions continue to be made to keep it going as it is, with a parade of meaningless bowl games, with mock tournaments such as the CBI, all of it looked at through a funhouse mirror of distortion.

They still cling to the image that education comes first, knowing full well that is nowhere near the truth. If it were, would not the Ivy League be college football and basketball powerhouses?

The professional sports aren’t about to intervene. They have free farm systems in both basketball and football.

Television isn’t going to be of any help. They fill air time and their pockets through college sports, which make up much of their identity at what still is a reasonable cost considering what it would cost to be producing or purchasing non-sports programming.

WVU has made it work for itself, but the costs keep rising and, in the latest example of the changing times, WVU is caught at the forefront.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of NCAA v. Alston on Wednesday. The Alston is former WVU running back Shawne Alston, whose name is used on the class-action suit that would redefine ‘amateurism’.

The case boils down to lifting “strict limits on compensation to student-athletes, forcing schools to compete for top recruits by offering more than just scholarships,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Despite the fact that they already are doing that in many ways, Alston won in the lower courts.

This is how the Wall Street Journal summarized the case:

In its brief, the NCAA argues that the lower courts “erroneously redefined amateurism” and that “eligibility rules limiting athletics-based compensation for student-athletes” are required to “preserve amateurism.”

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Alston, schools would be allowed to reimburse expenses for academic-related items such as computers and science equipment.

Schools would also no longer be prohibited from offering student-athletes internships after their eligibility expires.

Although these are relatively minor, incremental changes, the NCAA has argued that rewards such as internships have been used as a “thinly disguised vehicle for funneling” student-athletes “professional salaries,” and that “allowing pay-for-play would ‘significantly’” affect the demand for college sports.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research from last September tht found less than 7 percent of the NCAA’s $8.5 billion in revenues finds its way to football and men’s basketball players through scholarships and living stipends, estimating that if men’s basketball programs in the top conference split 50 percent of the revenue equally each player would earn nearly $500,000 annually.

If the court were to rule in favor of Alston, it almost certainly would force the Power 5 conferences in football and basketball to form their own “NCAA” type of governing body and completely rewrite the definition of college athletics and the rules by which they operate.

Something has to give … and when it does there are plenty of takers willing to profit from it.

Home Page forums Changing Collegiate Sports Landscape Has WVU In Its Midst

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  • #143708

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — College sports are broken and if they don’t get a complete overhaul, they will find themselves in deep trouble. It has become prof
    [See the full post at: Changing Collegiate Sports Landscape Has WVU In Its Midst]

    #143713

    Well written article.

    #143715

    Ditto!  Right on target.

    #143722

    “Fans try to attach themselves to the players on the team for the moment, but they soon saw that their attachment to the players was not reciprocated, each announcement on Twitter or Instagram sounding more and more like a form letter, which in reality is what it was.”   I think this is the best paragraph in a very good column.  Fans care more about WVU than the players do.  They’re hired guns.  And that is ruining college sports for me.  We cheer for these athletes, try to kid ourselves into believing that they actually care about our school, and then we get a goodbye tweet which, as Bob notes, is a form letter.

    #143724

    Great article..  First of all, the  problems with freedom of movement stems with the NCAA, Universities and Fans.  NCAA allows this by changing rules.  Universities allow it by bowing to the money grabbers that want part of the action.  Fans pushing the agenda are the ones that for the most part push the professional side and disregard the academic side.  And all of us are at fault because we are afraid of the cancel culture.

    Then there is this statement and train of thought.

    The Wall Street Journal quoted a survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research from last September tht found less than 7 percent of the NCAA’s $8.5 billion in revenues finds its way to football and men’s basketball players through scholarships and living stipends, estimating that if men’s basketball programs in the top conference split 50 percent of the revenue equally each player would earn nearly $500,000 annually.

    People look at this and run with it saying that Universities are taking advantage of the players and it’s just a money grab.  What isn’t stated is that it takes millions and millions to attract good coaching staffs, Strength coaches, administration, scouts, Doctors for the players.  Then the facilities that need to be built to attract top players.  Stadiums, coliseums, ball parks, tracks, pools ….. There are a lot of schools that don’t make a dime off of the FB programs.  Most universities that do make money off the FB and BB programs still don’t make anything because they have to support all the other programs … much because of Title IX.

    So, that 7% is a farce.  But there are a lot of stupid people that will run with this inaccuracy and throw it out as fact.

    #143733

    I disagree with several of Hertzel’s points. College basketball has NOT “lost its charm.” This was one of the most exciting WVU seasons in my lifetime. March Madness has been one of the giddiest in years. Nothing has approached the Gonzaga-UCLA game for drama. 

    Coaches change schools all the time. Why shouldn’t players? And for those who say the players should re-pay their scholarship money if they leave: Did YOU re-pay your employer the money he paid you when YOU changed jobs?

    I understand you don’t want to see a good player leave WVU. Neither do I. But players aren’t owned by the schools. They were free agents the day they first walked onto the campus. We all are, in every walk of life. I worked for the Morgantown Dominion-News, the Williamson Daily News, the Charleston Daily Mail, the Dayton Daily News, the St. Petersburg Times and the Akron Beacon Journal in an effort to better my journalism career and my bank account. Why shouldn’t college basketball players have the same opportunity to see more playing time elsewhere? Why do fans want players to be restricted in ways that fans would be outraged about if their employer did the same thing to them? It’s a puzzlement.

     

    #143734

    CFE, I notice that you compare college athletes to employees.  So, as employees, should they have the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining?

    #143735
    • By the way I agree that Division 1 athletes in football and basketball are definitely employees as defined by labor law.
    #143736

    First of all I agree with all of Bobs points. I think one of the most attractive things about college sports is amateurism. The common thread of fans who love their favorite schools teams played by players who love the school is important. The uneven punishment handed out by the NCAA who seems to have favorites is awful. I believe there are a few more very important item that will end up affecting college sports in a negative way. I think the total cost for fans going to games is out of control. When I had 4 season tickets it would cost me 5-6 hundred dollars per game to go from Charleston to Morgantown. In addition there are less students attending games nationwide. Students are future fans and if it doesn’t matter while they’re in school it won’t matter when they’re out. Another huge thing is social issues can become more important than the event. I watch a game for the escape not the latest social catastrophe. The last item is the 85” flat screen. I can stay at home watch, pause the game, go to the bathroom, fast forward through the commercials and replay till my hearts content at a fraction of the cost.

    #143744

    Athletes are NOT employees. I just said if you can change jobs then they can change jobs. Not because they are employees but because they have the same freedom to change where they perform as you do to change where you perform. Stop trying to be a YeahButHead by distracting from my main point, which you knew but like to throw sand into the gears of a poster. It’s demeaning to you.

    #143746

    Your entire post is based on an analogy of college athletes to employees.  Can you defend your position without relying on this analogy? You continue to say that athletes can change jobs just as others can change jobs.  Your use of the word jobs certainly supports the position that athletes are indeed employees.  If so, I agree with you.

    #143747

    BTW what IS your main point?  It’s anything but clear.

    #143748

    Glad we agree. Playing basketball for WVU is a job. Where you work is a job. But you ARE an employee. Players are NOT employees. Can we agree on that, too. They also have the same right to freedom of movement as you, me and Bob Huggins.

    #143758

    I see this coming down to an argument where the issue in debate is being viewed with a political lens instead of doing as Hertzel’s article outlines and just sticking to the facts at hand.

    How do we fix the problem?  That should be the conversation.  Not a dissertation on the merits pro and con of the problem.  Jesus, can nothing be discussed anymore in this country without choosing up political sides before even giving lip service to addressing the problem?

    #143761

    Well, “we” can’t fix the problem.  Just like most of the decisions that are made in our society, a small group of powerful people make the decisions.  “We” rarely have any say in any important decision made in America.

    I don’t see this as a political discussion.  My politics has nothing to do with this.  So, yes, we can discuss the merits of the issues raised in Bob’s column without bringing politics into it.  When I say that the players of Division 1 sports are employees, I mean that in the legal sense.  As a lawyer who knows quite a bit about labor and employment law, I could make a strong argument to a court or to the National Labor Relations Board that what used to be student-athletes are now employees in a legal sense.  That’s not politics.  These kids are rendering services that generate gigantic profits.  How do they differ in that sense from someone working in Amazon’s warehouses?

    I agree with Bob that the “charm” is going out of college sports.  I know there was never an ideal time in a mythical past when college sports weren’t deeply influenced by money.  But Division 1 football and basketball are being ruined by greed and selfishness.  I see coaches as vastly overpaid CEOs and players as employees generating giant profits for a handful of colleges with gargantuan athletic budgets that rival the GDP of some countries.  That’s why the charm is gone.  If WVU Football, Incorporated is just another business, then why should I care what happens to them any more than I care what happens to Walmart or Amazon?  I doubt that I’m the only fan in America who is turned off by what he’s seeing.  Greed and selfishness have dampened my interest in pro sports, and now the same thing is happening with major college sports.  The charm of college football and basketball is a thing of the past.  That’s not a good thing for the future of sports in my opinion.  Ultimately “we” the fans might make a decision that is within our power.  We could stop caring.  The NCAA might want to consider that possibility.

    #143762

    Paying athletes will be the demise of college sports in general.  You’ll have the Bama’s, LSU’s, TX’s, OK’s, tOSU’s, Mich’s, FSU’, UF’s, Criami’s, Dook, UNCheat and a couple CA schools buying all the top players.  There will be 20 top teams and then the rest will fend for themselves.  You see this now in FB where for the last 30 years the same group of teams are constantly on top.  Soon in BB you won’t see the mid majors like Zags, Nova, Creighton, Houston, Memphis, Loyola ….  Not even Mount St Mary has enough divine intervention to carry them past the almighty dollar.

    Do you actually think that the 20 or so top teams now all looking like Cal’s KY will keep the viewership of the other 330 D1 team fans?  Do you think that the networks will pour money into putting those other 330 teams on TV?  This will go the wayside of the NBA.  Interest will wane.  Cost for the regular fan will be out of reach.  Student game day participation other than the top schools will  fall faster than the present trajectory.  Take a look at what has happened with MLB, NFL and NBA when they piss off the fans.  Biggest part of supporting a team year over year is having that somewhat personal connection with the players.  MLB screwed this years ago.  NBA example is LeBron and his movement from Clev-Miami-Clev-LA killed the fan base of former teams.  NFL movement in the last couple years is hugely concerning.  There are exceptions, but few.

    Let the NBA supporters come out of the cracks in the wall to say this is wrong.  I’ll tell you that in my peer group (two golf leagues, one of 16 golfers, the other 45+) I could count on one hand the number of guys that watch NBA on a regular basis and most of them couldn’t tell you more than 2 or 3 players on the teams that they do watch. NBA numbers may be up from prior years.  If you’re a true marketer you would know that starting from such a small number the percentages don’t mean squat.  You can believe me or not, but I’ve successfully played those games with numbers in marketing presentations for years.

    #143773

    Great post, Butler.  I don’t want to be misunderstood about the players as employees issue.  I don’t like it, but it’s getting harder and harder to argue that they are primarily student-athletes at least as far as division 1 football and basketball are concerned.  I’m not trying to persuade anyone to feel the way I do.  It’s subjective.  But when Bob wrote that the charm has gone out of college sports, he summed up perfectly how I feel.  I’m beginning to get more interested in non-revenue sports because those athletes truly are playing for the love of the game.  I also get more fun out of minor league baseball because it’s just more fun than watching greedy millionaires play.  I’m probably somewhat guilty of idealizing the past, but I remember going to games at old Mountaineer Field with my dad.  We sat in the bowl.  Dad’s ticket cost 6 or 7 bucks and since I was a kid my ticket cost a dollar. The opponent was usually someone like Richmond or The Citadel.  And it was fun!  A factory worker like my dad couldn’t afford to attend a Mountaineer game now.  And that is depressing because no one ever loved the Mountaineers more  than Dad.  How many fans do we have who would love to see a game but can’t afford to?  Quite a few I believe.  As I said, this is all subjective, but when Bob wrote that the charm is gone, I knew that he knows how folks like me feel.  I’ve made my point.  No more homilies from me on this topic I promise

    #143780

    “Have the terms freshman, sophomore etc. gone the way of he dino in terms of college sports? Maybe a more appropriate classification of a player’s status In terms of their availability to a team in the future should be “status of development” in proportion to outside opportunities!? Is there a new paradigm in college sports! Does It pretty much dispels the “student-athlete” myth?”

    Hold on there, General Lee Mistaken breath!
    Like many other discussions, arguments, etc, generalities rule the roost and broad swipes of the brush tend to hide the truths of the matter.

    In analysis of the opening questions posed, what proportion of the athletes playing a sports do they really apply to? What per cent of college basketball players actually have opportunities at higher levels? Football players have even less!

    Are we trying to throw out the baby with the bath water by making rules for everyone that should apply or are caused by a few?

    There definitely is something amiss in the athlete vs institution arrangement in terms of benefits to whom!
    But there needs be a calm to reasonable solution to a defined problem!
    But then, there’s the NCAA!!!???

     

     

     

    #143781

    Not sure what definition of charm applies here, but does the Gonzaga/Butler game lack it?

    #143790

    Bingo! Nothing has been as exciting as the Gonzaga-UCLA OT game with a 40-foot shot at the final horn to win it! That was MORE than just charming. It was ectasy without using the drug by that name!

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Home Page forums Changing Collegiate Sports Landscape Has WVU In Its Midst