Kyle Whellison is a borderline personal hero of mine. He'd be over the border, except that he seems like the kind of guy who'd defer praise. I hesitate to call him a visionary, but her certainly has a unique view of college athletics. He saw this coming.
On Jan. 16, 2009, Kyle posted on his website, midmajority.com, about the impending collapse of the current sports culture (financially at least). Kyle's job at ESPN.com was eventually a casualty of this collapse. You may notice that this past week ESPN.com's focus has been on the financial challenges, dropped programs and budget cuts. Fallout from a serious financial miscalculation across all aspects of our lives, including the world of college sports. And now our nation's athletic directors are finally having to deal with.
While there are many negatives to this financial crisis, most of which are felt by the athletes and coaches whose programs are restricted or cut, there are also positives. It is time for a little reality check in college sports. Meaningful reform must be enacted at all levels of collegiate sports to help it become sustainable in the face of this reality.
I propose few changes that could be made in college basketball:
(You may ask, why just college basketball, and my reasons are these: 1. I know more about college basketball than any other sports from top to bottom, 2. College basketball is a large group, having more than double the Division 1 teams of FBS, that volume makes change here more effective, and 3. I just have some issues with the way things are done in college basketball.)
Encourage Regional Competition-Once upon a time, this was a reality (and sub-D1 it still is, the regions from the national tournament, are actually the geographic regions the schools come from). Not every game can be a national powerhouse, made-for- TV, match up. Yes, we all love to see UCLA play Duke, followed by Boston College at Arizona, followed by Texas at Gonzaga, but maybe we should incentivize more regional play.
Make your regional record matter when tournament selection time comes. Because college sports is an arms race. The teams listed above might be able to play for pay. But common knowledge is that all but the cream of the crop lose money every year in athletics. Those 'almost' teams will want to be on TV as well, and they will spend the money to do it. Even at their own financial detriment. Lets find a way to reward and encourage those teams that fill their schedules with competitive, but financially (and geographically) viable opponents
Reasonable Pay for Coaches-The arms race of college basketball rears its ugly head again. Yes, schools like UCLA can afford to pay hefty prices for their coach and his staff. UCLA wins, a lot, and everyone knows the name, the history and owns the tshirt. But what about a school like Washington State, where they are competitive, but certainly at a different level. They are conference opponents. How can the Cougars ever keep up with UCLA?
Realistically, they can't. Not in terms of money. So, instead, they have to be creative, and have excellent leadership. Maybe now is the time for those borderline schools find a rising star, pay him a bargain price, with modest incentives. Then if it all works out and he leads the team to success, he can go on his way to get paid by a true power program. Washington State can use their new success to pay someone else a little more, and start over.
That's the reality of not being UCLA. The current situation of multi-million dollar, long term contracts in a sport as fickle as college basketball is unsustainable. Because buy-outs aren't cheap, and it makes no sense to be paying a coach who doesn't work for you anymore
University presidents need to step up and make it clear to their AD's that this brand of management isn't going to fly anymore. If the coaches demands are too high, let them walk. It makes no financial sense to bet against your own future interests out of desperation or a lack of patience.
Enough With One and Done-Let these poor kids go to the NBA. They're a waste of resources and time. They have no concern for the university, the community or even the team. They make a mockery of the academic goals of student-athletes. None of that is their fault. They have to go to college because the option was taken away. But coaches spend massive amounts of resources running after these recruits, when both sides know that the 6'7" physical freak will be going top-10 in next summer's draft.
The financially viable option, is to not force these kids to serve time in college. Coaches should focus their time and energy finding players who want to be in school, and then on developing them properly. One and Done equals lazy coaching. Why develop players, when you can just recruit future lottery picks.
Its just another arms race, which can ruin the careers of coaches (see Tim Floyd) or the consistency of a program (again, see Tim Floyd and USC). Where is Memphis going to be without back to back one and done phenoms? What if they had spent the last two years recruiting and developing players instead of chasing recruits?
I parrot Whelliston again, in the hope that we're returning to a time of logic and reason. Colleges and college coaches will be forced to realize that you can't just throw money at every problem to fix it. You need institutional leadership and ingenious game planning, not just a new building and a charter jet. We can only hope that the current crop of AD's and coaches are up for the challenges.