Here is a link to my Tuesday column about the corruption of college football. The full text runs below:
Another thing about Jim Harbaugh. I object to his new contract. I strongly object.
I’m referring to that obscenity the University of Michigan put together which, according to reports, pays him $5 million a year. The contract puts him among the top-five highest-paid college football coaches. If he reaches his incentives — at $5 million he needed incentives? — well, if he reaches his incentives, he could earn $8 million a year, making him the highest-paid football coach on the planet, the NFL included.
How do you say wretched excess?
Be clear. I have nothing against Harbaugh. I like Harbaugh and wish him well. My beef is with Michigan. My beef is with college football, the biggest fraud going. I’m not wild about college hoops, either.
I spent much of my life on college campuses — four years at Lafayette College, six years at Stanford. I thought about the mission of a university, thought about it a lot. And, yes, “mission” is the word I intended.
The mission of a university is to educate people — mostly young people. To enlarge their minds. To help them think independently about the important questions in life. To help them think about what is valuable and what is not valuable. To help them learn who we used to be, and who we are now. To help them learn science and engineering and art and how to read and how to write. To help them be informed citizens in a complicated country.
I may be leaving out something essential.
I intentionally left out football. No mistake there.
In all the time I spent at universities, I never once told myself, “This place owes the students a great football team.” Or, “We will be better-informed citizens, better people if the football team kicks butt.” Or, “We need to pay the coach (insert name here) millions so he can win a bunch of games and get famous and improve his profile and get endorsements and become a divine monarch in his personal fiefdom of young men and maybe one day leverage all that into an NFL job.”
Somehow, I omitted all that.
I understand the University of Michigan is not paying Harbaugh all those millions. Donors are. Boosters are. I keep thinking tuition is going up around the country, and universities are crying poverty, and those donors could have given some of those millions to chemistry labs or the library or new computer systems. Or they could have created scholarships for eager, worthy students who don’t play football.
Call me simpleminded.
Our values are all wrong. Big-time, professional football does not belong in college. Millionaire coaches do not belong in college. The NFL is for all that. The NFL is a professional league. The college game is for amateurs.
I am not in favor of paying college football players. I am in favor of taking the big money out of college football and shrinking the game down to size.
College football should not be the minor league for the NFL. Let the NFL invest in its own minor league. Being a minor league for the NFL mocks the mission of the university.
It also creates a sad and dangerous fiction. At so many colleges — you know them — football players pretend to be student-athletes. They are forced to pretend. The majority, I believe, don’t care about the student part of student-athlete. They are plain athlete athletes. Many don’t attend class. Many don’t graduate.
Even at elite universities — you know them — tutors help football players with homework. Even at elite universities, tutors show football players the previous years’ final exams, even though tutors are not supposed to. It’s a rigged system and it’s a phony system and it’s a bad system.
And America loves it — partly because of the gambling. People love betting on college football.
The idea of a national championship game is disgusting. For years, fans wanted a championship game to determine the best team in college football.
We already have a national championship game. It is the Super Bowl. The concept of national champion does not apply to college football, which should be regional, which should match schools in the same area.
A national championship game is grossly unfair to the players. It’s unfair to make them play yet another game to determine a champion. Some of them will get hurt. It’s unfair to put their bodies at risk so everyone else can make money.
Oregon already has played 14 games this season. That national championship horror against Ohio State next Monday in the Cowboys’ horror of a stadium will be the Ducks’ 15th game. It’s almost like playing a full NFL schedule.
After the national championship game, Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Heisman winner, will have played 41 games in three years. In his three seasons at Stanford, Heisman winner Jim Plunkett played just 32 games.
When do players like Mariota go to class? When do they study? Why subject them to injury so a coach can look good and say how much he loves his players — until he leaves for something better.
Do colleges even care about the wellbeing of the players?
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.