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Bowl invite proves college sports no longer fun and games

December 8, 2012 12:10 am

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Virginia Tech (Randall Dunn and Joey Phillips pictured in touchdown mode) is bowl bound. But should it be?

VIRGINIA TECH'S football team is bowl bound!

Even three decades ago, it would have been unthinkable to invite a team with a 6-6 record to play in the post-season, but Tech gets to go.

Why? Because those who do the inviting know that the Hokies always have a large following and fans bring money to a bowl game and the city in which it is played.

There are other major-college teams with better records, but they would put fewer students and alumni in the stands. So Tech gets the bid.

That's what major college football and basketball is all about these days--money. Big money. How big? Well, the University of Maryland may have to pay the Atlantic Coast Conference as much as $50 million to leave that league and move to the Big 10.

A tremendous amount of money for a college team to pay? Apparently not. Although the Terps are challenging the ACC's departure bill, those in the know say that even if Maryland has to pay the full amount they will get that money back--and more--very quickly in the Big 10.

We have reached a point where football teams with mediocre records get bowl bids and schools jump from one conference to the other without batting an eye. Quality and tradition mean little today. Money is the key.

To say that major college football and basketball programs should still be awarded amateur status is quickly bordering on the ridiculous. The amount of money these programs generate is incredible.

Yes, some of that money--brought in from television revenue, ticket sales and the peddling of school-themed clothing and other merchandise--goes to fund other low-profile school sports.

But with many major-college football and basketball coaches basking in the sunshine of multimillion-dollar contracts and stadiums with multimillion-dollar scoreboards getting more and more lavish, we can be sure that all that revenue isn't being used to buy soccer balls and softball bats.

Let's face it: Major college football and basketball has been transformed from "Rah, rah, rah-go team!" Saturday afternoon get-togethers to huge businesses.

Then, too, major-college football and basketball teams have pretty much become the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA. Unlike baseball, which has its own farm system, pro football and basketball teams allow colleges to develop their talent.

Understanding the tremendous revenues generated by college football and basketball, there are two questions that need answering.

First, shouldn't the players whose performances put the fans in the stands, sell the jerseys and provide the ESPN highlights be paid for their work? After all, minor-league baseball players sign contracts and get salaries.

Second, shouldn't college football and basketball scholarships be classified as taxable income? Some of these players are getting $250,000 worth of (yeah, right) education to perform in an entertainment arena that generates tens of millions of dollars.

Traded services are taxable in every other business, so why not in major college sports? Most of these kids are not in college to get an education; they are there to play basketball and football. It is simply the next step from high school to the pros.

Just check the graduation percentage rates among major-college football and basketball players and you'll see that this is a fact.

This might be another tax loophole to close during this "fiscal cliff" battle. Make major-college football and basketball scholarships taxable income--especially if the players don't graduate.

Those are a few things to think about while you're watching all those endless bowl games this holiday season and watching Maryland wave bye-bye to the ACC.

And if you're a Virginia Tech fan, understand that you're going to the Russell Athletic Bowl because of the thickness of the alumni's wallets, not the team's 6-6 record.

Donnie Johnston:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com





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