College athletics sold its soul 20 years ago, which is why its athletes should go ahead and squeeze

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

engel Shortly after he became the president of Baylor University, one of the first pieces of advice Ken Starr received was from a prominent member of the school’s board of regents.

Starr was told the key to building a great school was to “win football games.”

Only in America does this make perfect sense.

From Georgetown to Colgate to Michigan to Texas, ballgames are the best way to build an institution of higher learning.

Since Starr took over in June 2010, Baylor has won football games. The Bears are 36-16 the past four years.

Bet every dollar you have ever had and will have that Baylor’s donations and applications are at an all-time high in these past four years.

This week, Baylor opens its latest toy, the $250 million McLane Stadium, where fans can watch in great comfort big games against Northwestern State, Lamar and Incarnate Word, among others.

This is no knock on Baylor — OK, playing Incarnate Word is embarrassing — because this is a pandemic of priority-skewed spending on a generation that has shown no interest in a cure. And since there is no cure and we clearly do not care, all parties involved should be in on the squeeze.

College administrators at the schools that participate in this madness can no longer say it’s about education after they announce fundraising plans for sports facilities that are more costly than anything associated with higher learning.

College coaches and athletic directors can no longer defend a model that does not include increased compensation for the athlete-students while they attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for another facility that is barely used.

This is the pinnacle of having it both ways.

To pay student-athletes is a Pandora’s Box that will eventually lead to the elimination of more non-revenue sports from Division I programs, but I can no longer rationalize the ancient amateur model when everything around it is professional.

It is 2014 and a new part of the Great American Way is to squeeze whomever before they do it — or as they are doing it — to you.

Of course the cost of a scholarship is worth $250K at some schools, but the American Way is to squeeze for more.

College athletes, whether it’s the starting quarterback at Texas or the women’s golfer at North Texas, are silly not to demand an increased cut, priorities and consequences be damned.

Since the mid-1990s college athletics has been about revenues, leaving universities exposed to this inevitable cash-grab by the athlete-students.

It won’t be too long before Texas A&M is done with its $450 million face-lift to Manziel Field. This is after SMU, North Texas, TCU, Houston, Texas, Texas Tech all poured in millions for new or improved football facilities.

Since 2000, the state of Texas has seen eight venues built or remodeled at a cost of more than $1 billion. You would think that at that cost they would be open 24/7/365. These eight venues are open roughly, maybe, 10 days a year each.

Only in America do we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on venues we barely use, and it makes perfect sense.

This price tag does not include the costs of other new facilities, salaries for coaches, raises for assistants and increased support staff. The University of Texas spent $13 million to change football staffs earlier this year, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

We talk about the importance of math and science, but priorities can be easily evaluated in how you spend your money. Math and science are important, but winning football games in a nice stadium is more important because it’s more fun.

Today’s big-time Division I athlete-student cannot worry if the athletic department will go broke or sweat whether their potential increased compensation will jeopardize the future of the softball team or any other non-revenue sport. This is America, and we no longer worry about the next 10 years but rather what will happen in the next 10 months. This is the YOLO generation.

Thirty years ago, it would have been preposterous to think a university was built on the back of a winning football team. Today it makes perfect sense.

Twenty years ago, it would have been preposterous to spend nearly $500 million on a face-lift for a college football stadium. Today it makes perfect sense.

This is how you build an institution of higher learning.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram/com/sports/. Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Saturday, November 22Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Saturday, November 22Full Scoreboard
Phoenix «106Final | Box
Indiana83
Miami «99Final | Box
Orlando92
Toronto «110Final | Box
Cleveland93
Philadelphia83Final | Box
New York «91
Dallas92Final | Box
Houston «95
Sacramento «113Final | Box
Minnesota101
Washington «111Final | Box
Milwaukee100
Brooklyn87Final | Box
San Antonio «99
New Orleans «106Final | Box
Utah94
Full Scoreboard
Week 12Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Kansas City20Final | Box
Oakland «24Gridiron Replay
Sunday
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Atlanta TV: CBS
Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET
Chicago TV: FOX
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Jacksonville 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: CBS
Green Bay 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
Detroit 1:00 PM ET
New England TV: FOX
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Philadelphia TV: CBS
St. Louis 4:05 PM ET
San Diego TV: FOX
Arizona 4:05 PM ET
Seattle TV: FOX
Miami 4:25 PM ET
Denver TV: CBS
Washington 4:25 PM ET
San Francisco TV: CBS
Dallas 8:30 PM ET
NY Giants TV: NBC
Monday
NY Jets 7:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Baltimore 8:30 PM ET
New Orleans TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Saturday, November 22Full Scoreboard
St. Louis «3Final | Box
Ottawa2
Montreal «2Final | Box
Boston0
Detroit1Final | Box
Toronto «4
Minnesota1Final | Box
Tampa Bay «2
Pittsburgh1Final | Box
NY Islanders «4
Columbus2Final | Box
Philadelphia «4
Buffalo «2Final | Box
Washington1
Florida2Final(SO) | Box
Nashville «3
Los Angeles4Final | Box
Dallas «5
Carolina3Final | Box
Colorado «4
New Jersey4Final(SO) | Box
Calgary «5
Chicago «7Final | Box
Edmonton1
Arizona «4Final(SO) | Box
San Jose3
Full Scoreboard