If I had to choose only one level of sports to watch the rest of my life, it would be the college level.
Way back in the day, basketball was my game, but today I love to watch college football.
This past weekend was a tough one for me. It marked the 20th year Rick Thompson and I, along with changing sidekicks through the years, have run the crab races at Seafair. As a side note, when I first rolled into town back in 1984, the Seafair powers that be thought it would be a great idea for the new publisher to head up the crab races to “gain a little exposure.” As another side note, the local chamber didn’t take the reins for Seafair until 2000.
So, I ran the crab races (and a crab beauty contest … don’t ask) for the first six years I lived here. If one does the math, he or she can quickly figure out I’ve chaired the crab races from 1984 to 2019, with the exception of the years 1989 to 1999.
So here was my dilemma. We run the crab races Saturday and Sunday, and my beloved Aggies played Alabama Saturday … at home.
One of the perks of my job is I’ve had a sideline pass to A&M home football games for as long as I can remember.
I struggled with the choice of going to the game, or being here with my crab sidekick for our 20th year.
It really was a no-brainer, for me anyway, when I weighed the cost (i.e. – overall tiredness) of driving four hours to College Station to watch a game, in which I figured we’d get outscored, and then have to drive home. The crowd would have been awesome … at least at the start of the game … but in the end, I would have hated the drive home alone.
Focusing back on the original topic of my favorite sport, I’m afraid it is about to change dramatically in the years I have left in this life.
And, it’s all because of money.
I figured it was only a matter of time before players started to get stipends, then more payments of one type or another, and now California has passed a law allowing student athletes to hire agents and make money on endorsement deals, something the NCAA actively opposes.
This column isn’t about whether I think that’s right or wrong, but it will change the game experience I’m afraid.
One of the biggest reasons I don’t like pro sports, unless it’s the playoffs, is because it seems, maybe only to me, that the players don’t play as hard as they can unless something is really on the line.
College sports are going to change because there is simply too much money involved.
I received an email the other day under the heading, “If College Sports Were A Stock, They Would Be On Everyone’s Buy List”.
I don’t doubt that for a second.
Emory Bellard, the inventor of the famed Wishbone offense at the University of Texas in 1968, before moving to Aggieland, actually lived a few houses down from my wife in Bryan back in the 70s.
When was the last time a major college coach lived in a middle class neighborhood?
Big money and big-time college sports have been entwined for many years, but Northwest Financial & Tax Solutions President and CEO Jason Lambert said, “You have some top college football programs that bring in well over $100 million in revenue, with a 50 percent profit margin.
“If that were a business, I would definitely invest in it. It’s a unique business model.
“Some schools are making an insane amount of money on their sports teams … but not everyone. There’s a big disparity between the haves and the have nots.”
He further points out college sports – at least at the top level – are as much a financial undertaking as they are a school-spirit booster, because of enviable profit margins. Topping the list is Texas A&M, which had revenue of $147 million and a profit of $94 million. Others in the top five were Texas, Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State.
Lambert also noted wins equal cash and television money has completely changed the landscape of college football.
When the University of Texas reeled in the Longhorn Network, it was only a matter of time before the Aggies ran from the Big XII to the SEC, a conference with an extremely lucrative, and fair SEC Network contract.
Lambert said, “Scholarships are valuable and great, but something is going to have to change when you see the money that is coming in to these programs.”
I can accept that, but I don’t have to like it.
It can’t help but change the last sport I truly love.
Until next week, have a good week.
Mike Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.