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Leaders are Teachers II
Posted by James Beckham on Friday October 28 2011 @ 12:37PM CDT
[ Contributors ]
Coach Bryant saw college football as a microcosm of life, a lesson in hard work and sacrifice. The game is about character building – values of teamwork, about winning with pride and losing with humility and class. There are highs and lows. Football is sometimes unfair, but so is life. It’s a workshop in leadership both on and off the field. Like John Croyle who 36 years ago started the Big Oak Ranch for “children who need a chance.”

There’s a test of leadership on Saturdays that brings to mind an observation by a founder of the Navy Seals. We teach them the ultimate skills needed to fight in indescribable conditions. We turn men into warriors. But when the metal starts to fly, leadership takes over. Winning teams aren’t just about talent. They’re about using that talent under the heat of changing game conditions.

Kids learn the ropes early. Here in West Houston there are 60,000 students, 53 schools and six high schools in the Katy Independent School District and it’s growing. Texas has Independent School Districts with their own taxing authority. People come because of high academic standards and superior athletics. There are teams at the middle school, freshman, or ninth grade, and high schools levels. The typical high school has more than 3,000 students. With this concentration of talent it’s no wonder you get an Andy Dalton and Andrew Luck.

Staying near the top in the classroom and on the field of play carries a heavy price. School taxes are high. Multi million dollar bond issues are needed to build training centers in each high school for swimming and diving, track, soccer, tennis and football. Stadiums seat more than 20,000. Each high school has its own performing arts center. It’s common for coaches to earn more than teachers and principals with a variety of outside help. So with all the pride that comes from sports, it’s still a huge commercial enterprise.

It’s fair to say that college football is America’s game. Estimates are between 75 million and 80 million fans follow college football regularly. That includes Division 3 teams where there are no scholarships. There the Montclair State’s and Bethel’s duke it out for the national title. Division 3’s top award judges players on academic achievement, community service as well as athletic ability. The rivalries are just as intense as the other divisions including 1A.

Division 1A has star power. According to CNN Money, last year the most profitable college football teams were Texas, Georgia, Penn State, Michigan and Florida. Texas had revenues of nearly $94 million and recorded a profit of nearly $70 million. The combined profits of these teams are roughly $1 billion. On average the 68 teams that play in the six major conferences averaged a profit of $15 million.

Where does all this money come from? It’s all about TV market power. The current BCS contract with ESPN pays $125 million yearly. The six major conferences plus Notre Dame make up the BCS. It has nothing to do with culture or academic standing. Here’s how Harvey Perlman, Nebraska’s Chancellor and head of the BCS Oversight Committee, put it.

“Those teams (outside the BCS) have certainly performed well, (such as Boise State) but you’re talking about adding value,” Perlman said. “The real question is whether including those conferences when you negotiate a TV contract adds to the willingness of the network to increase the bid. I don’t think we’ve seen evidence that that’s true.” That’s why last year BCS conferences pocketed $115 million spread among its teams and non-BCS conferences got $24 million.

And since we’re on the subject of the BCS, talk about a playoff is waste of time, because the Presidents who run the BCS don’t want one. In testimony before a Senate subcommittee Perlman said that if the courts should find the BCS in violation of the Sherman Act or engaged in antitrust, the organization would ignore it. As far as the BCS is concerned it’s their way or go back to the old system.

Then there’s the NCAA, a “non profit” with an annual budget of nearly $800 million. It’s to football what OPEC is to oil. It makes its own rules, enforces them and is the final arbiter of appeals. The next step is the courts. Since 1995, the NCAA has spent more than $84 million on legal fees, a figure that includes some of its settlements. In April 2010, the NCAA signed a $10.8 billion television contract with CBS and TNT to televise March Madness. The NCAA says more than 90 percent of that money will go directly back to schools.

This brings us to conference “realignment.” The reason Texas A&M is now a part of the SEC isn’t because of the Aggies’ tradition and academic excellence, although the university has both. The fan base of Auburn, Alabama, and Florida are each roughly 1.9 million. Texas A&M has a fan base of more than 2 million. Now you know why Houston, a member of Conference USA where teams shared $2.8 million wants to go to the Big East where members shared nearly $18 million. Still there are those who live in an academic parallel universe. Chief among them is Mark Emmert the head of the NCAA, and former President of the University of Washington.

He actually said this about conference “realignment” and wasn’t doing a comedy routine. “This is not the NFL, NBA. This is not a business. It’s a “subtle rearrangement of existing parts into a more manageable and marketable whole” The NCAA pays Emmert north of $1.7 million each year to lead this powerful influential organization. Instead he acts like he’s running the football equivalent of the Flat Earth Society. When pictures sent back to earth showed a “big blue marble,” clearly round, the society said it was an optical illusion. Since the earth is flat space travel is impossible. There you go. Dr. Emmert’s view of college football is just as unreal.

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