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College Sports Has Jumped the Shark

College sports has jumped the shark

Aggie coach bolting for rival Texas is emblematic.

By Robert Hall

Dallas Morning News

July 6, 2024

Jim Schlossnagle, center, stands with Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte, left, and Texas president Jay Hartzell, right, after he was introduced as the new NCAA college head baseball coach at Texas, Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in Austin, Texas. Schlossnagle left rival program Texas A&M. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)(Eric Gay / AP)

Jim Schlossnagle, former baseball coach at Texas A&M University, left for the University of Texas less than 24 hours after losing in the finals of the NCAA Men’s Baseball College World Series. Just days after Schlossnagle’s announcement, 11 A&M players entered the transfer portal.

They joined a whole gaggle of college sports “leavings” in recent years: Texas and the University of Oklahoma left the Big 12 for the SEC. The University of Southern California and Oregon started a Pac-12 jailbreak by leaving for the Big 10. Football coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams left OU for USC, where reportedly Williams made $10 million in name, image and likeness deals his last two years. Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for Louisiana State University. Kelly Maxwell, the OU pitcher and tournament Outstanding Player in their fourth straight Softball World Series, was cross-state rival Oklahoma State’s ace before transferring. Transient players playing for transient coaches at schools in transient conferences. Leaving is such sweet sorrow — but so easy and profitable.

Schlossnagle coached 17 very successful years at TCU before being lured to A&M. His new salary at UT has not been disclosed but most think it will be considerably north of his $1.35 million per year at A&M. According to The Austin American-Statesman, UT paid $2.7 million to buy out his contract. In addition, they had to buy out the two years of the remaining contract with their own coach, David Pierce, reportedly, $1.68 million.

Schlossnagle cited one of the reasons for his taking the UT job was the slowing timeline for a promised new baseball stadium, which he connected to the school’s $75 million buyout of football coach Jimbo Fisher and the subsequent turnover in the office of Aggie athletic director.

Money has always played a role with the college sports haves and have-nots. But what has made college basketball’s March Madness great is that, from time to time, David rises up and slays Goliath. Even professional leagues like the NFL and NBA have salary caps to ensure that the less rich have a sporting chance. College sports has been transformed from amateur contests with “student athletes” to a professional sports arms race that comes down to “My college’s donors are richer than yours.” The home team is no match for the money team.

In addition to multibillion media network deals, reports of private equity investments and enormous naming rights offers in the Big 12 Conference are only going to further increase the dominance of money. As the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen is often mistakenly credited as saying about government spending: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

If you were a part of the television or radio audience for the recent College World Series, you noticed the growing insertion of marketing and player transiency. Projecting out the current trend, I can imagine a game sounding something like this within the next couple of years:

Vanderbilt by Google coach Jim Yellin, the former coach at Gatorade College, is making a pitching change. He is bringing in the lefty Mike Heater, transfer from Budweiser Tech. Heater, the “Allstate Big 2 Dozen Conference” pitcher of the year, replaces Dickey Dunn. He will be facing the left-handed hitting Wesley Whiff, the big first baseman who transferred from Under Amour State before his freshman year at Sports Illustrated Junior College. The fans here at Ram Truck Stadium give Dunn a nice hand. This pitching change is brought to you by First Relief, your go-to medication for acid stomach and indigestion on the Louisiana Hot Sauce baseball network.

And you wonder why these games are so long. They really need to consider putting the logo of each player’s former school(s) just below the name on the back of their jersey — along with a flow chart documenting their college heritage. You know, like

Loyal and true just doesn’t mean what it used to. It appears to be good for the players — as they can get promoted from the minor leagues (the lesser, Group of Five conferences) to the major leagues (the Power Five). The pay for the coaches and the players, via NIL, just keep going through the roof.

Since this is working so well, I recommend we lean into it. Why wait until the end of season to enter the transfer portal or to poach a coach? That is way too long. How about just holding a draft after every game? Or better yet, let’s allow players and coaches to leave at half time. Heck, if you are having a great game, why not strike while the iron is hot? Monetize your success. Just catch the plane with your new team to your new home, wherever that is.

As to game plans, signals and signs — just let each player do their thing. After all, there is no “we” in team. And there is little-to-no team in sports these days.

I think that pretty much does it. Problems solved. Players taken care of. Universities getting big, TV-generated revenue boosts and exposure that builds their brands. Cross-country conference realignment that looks like it was designed by airlines to grow their revenue while university executives, coaches and players load up on frequent flyer miles. Coaches making more than their college presidents and state governors combined. Everyone is happy.

Well, except for one inconsequential group: the fans. The ones who attend games or watch on TV. The ones who actually attended the universities and are not looking for a transfer portal so they can leave their alma mater.

It is old thinking, but these “customers” were once considered the golden goose. While everyone else is playing musical chairs — or Russian roulette — these folks who spent four or five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars at a college will remain loyal alumni for the rest of their lives. At some point, they may just have had enough.

Like so many other institutions — our churches, schools, politics — it feels like the relational ties that college sports provided are coming apart. Local communities, local businesses and sports-based relationships anchored by the home team and friendly competition are fading, at a time when we need them more than ever.

I was at a dinner a few weeks ago and a prominent and well-connected supporter of nonprofit causes said, “If I was a little younger, I would organize a strike of donors, fans and alumni of college sports until they come to their senses.”

This arms race called college sports is not sustainable.

Robert Hall is an author and speaker. His latest book is “This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics and Faith.” He played college baseball for Oklahoma State University.

1 ความคิดเห็น

Robert Hall effectively highlights the increasing commercialization and transiency within the industry, painting a vivid picture of the challenges faced by players, coaches, and fans alike. Excellent take!

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