Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder had some strong comments for the state of college football today, suggesting that schools have “sold out” by chasing money over integrity and the quality of the individuals involved. Rather than leaving money on the table, the NCAA and member schools today regularly do everything they can to increase profit margins and make every last dollar. Sure, you could argue this is simply capitalism at its finest, or you could have views similar to Snyder and be concerned that prioritizing money over everything else will eventually lead to very grave consequences.
I cannot think of another business in the world where an employee makes substantially more money than the company president/CEO. But that’s exactly what has happened in college sports, where major DI football and basketball coaches regularly make 5, 10, and 20 times the amount of money as their own bosses (college presidents) do. We have also never before witnessed so many student athletes arrive on campus completely unprepared and disinterested in academics and social responsibilities. The reality, as Coach Snyder knows, is that the only thing that matters is making as much money as possible and doing it by any means necessary.
Will the current trend of win (and spend) at all costs change? That’s hard to say, but without being forced to change the money has become too great for schools to reverse-course and re-prioritize grades and conduct over sheer athletic ability. Without salary caps for coaches and irrelevant, remedial “majors” available for student athletes only concerned about using college sports as a trampoline to get them to pro sports, it’s unlikely things will change anytime soon. Still, there are always those threats that eventually a tipping point will occur, where university personnel outside of athletics (i.e. alumni, professors) speak out about integrity and the decaying of university reputations because of the lax academic requirements, or the money being spent on coaches versus professor salaries, university resources, and student scholarships. Or perhaps the caliber of future student athletes will so decay that the ever-mounting stories of arrests and social indiscretions will mandate positive change.
It’s sad and unfortunate that so many student athletes arrive on campus with their only goal to “go pro,” prompting them to disregard school and only focus on making it to the next level. With only about 2% of all college student athletes able to make it to the professional ranks, that leaves 98% of student athletes to have to pick up the pieces upon sport retirement and do things like complete their degrees and gain meaningful work, internship, and volunteer experiences. There are countless sport retirees today that are ill-prepared to move on, lacking their education and work experience, and without a support system to help. I believe these are some of the unforeseen consequences of “selling out” as Coach Snyder speaks about, and reasons why it’s important to balance capitalism against simply doing what’s right.