Posted by: The Amoeba | December 2, 2007

Of Bowls, Warriors, and the Giving of Gifts

It’s official. In all of “Bowl Championship Series” American collegiate football gridiron in the year 2007 of the Common Era, there is exactly one undefeated team.

The Warriors of the University of Hawai‘i (UH).

For which achievement, the Warriors have been ranked 10th among all of America’s minor league professional college gridiron teams, and will play the University of Georgia in the 74th Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 2008, in front of a nationwide television audience and those less-well-moneyed citizens of New Orleans who are still living in FEMA trailers – if Our Government hasn’t yet tossed them out onto the street.

Needless to say, today there is joy in Mudville Mānoa. Not to mention the rest of Hawai‘i. Everybody’s all excited. Not least about that ranking. “Whaddaya mean 10th, brah? Did anybody beat us? Did anybody else go unbeaten? Why aren’t we playing for the National Championship?”

Well, there are reasons. For one thing. Yes, the Warriors played 12 games and won twelve games. Great. Too bad most of the opponents had names like the University of Las Vegas Grandmothers. Two of those teams took the UH into overtime; two others took leads over the UH into the fourth quarter. The UH played one major-conference opponent, the University of Washington, which was one of those teams that had a lead into the fourth quarter. On the Hawai‘i home field. And the Huskies finished their season with four wins and nine losses.

For another. The National Championship Game pays out between $14 and $17 million, which goes to the athletic programs of each school in the conference to which each of the actual contestants belongs. Not the schools, the athletic programs. Remember that, there’ll be a quiz later. That’s a few dinero. And the people who set up the payout assumed that only those schools whose athletic programs have spent big money will be in a position to get the big money.

The University of Hawai‘i hasn’t paid the ante.

The UH doesn’t belong to one of the “big” conferences that set up the National Championship Game. It doesn’t spend big money on its football gridiron program. Hell, in 1961, the UH cancelled its gridiron program because it couldn’t afford to pay for it. (It was restored in 1962). The UH pays its current gridiron coach only $800,000 per annum. The UH doesn’t …

What? $800,000 looks like big money to you?? Hey. I didn’t know I had any UH history professors reading this blog. Yeah, for academic types, $800K a year is “died and gone to heaven” money. For “big” college gridiron programs, it’s chicken feed. The going rate for head coaches in these schools, I hear, is more on the order of $3.5 million. Which, at the rate the US dollar’s value is shrinking on world markets, will probably be worth about 17 euros in 2009. But still.

And remember. This is just the head coach. There’s all the other coaches. And the scholarships for the players so they can pretend to learn to read while they’re playing a sport they can’t even give the right name to. Plus the costs of recruiting all those players. And the athletic facilities. For gridiron and basketball and hockey and track and field and water polo and …

Oh. Right. That quiz.

Question One. How much money does the typical college / university that runs a major intercollegiate athletic program give to that program?

Answer. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. The school grants permission for the program to use its name and have facilities on its premises. The dinero to pay for them, and their use, the athletic programs have to make themselves.

Question Two. How much money does the typical college / university that runs a major intercollegiate athletic program make from that program for use elsewhere in the university?

Answer. You guessed it. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. What the programs make (assuming they don’t get caught making it illegally), they keep. The treatment you mete out to others is the treatment you will receive.

That $14-17 million the conferences get from sending a team to the major bowls will pay for a whole hell of a lot of recruiting expenses. No wonder they don’t want a freeloader horning in on the goodies. Like the blasted University of Paradise. Don’t they already have sun, surf, coconuts, and mai tais? Let them use that stuff for recruiting.

What was that, Professor? Your roof leaks? You thought the purpose of a University was to pursue knowledge? You can’t understand how come the University can spend all this money on all-weather practice fields for the helmet squads, while you can’t keep a computer in your office because it gets soaked every time it rains? Because your office is on the list of the $120 million worth of urgent repairs to academic buildings that the University doesn’t have the funds for?

I used to wonder that myself. Until I learned about Kansas State University. Which, once upon a time, had one of the worst college gridiron teams in America.

The story goes that, in the late 1980s, when the losing streak was at its worst, the university president gathered his people together to lament the falling fortunes of the school. Enrollments were down, the credentials of those students who were enrolling were falling off, donations to academic and scholarship programs were down, and morale was bad among students, staff, and alumni. “How do we fix this?” the president asked. The considered answer: “Support the football team.”

So they did. They hired a new coach, gave him a mandate to build the program, and supported him with infrastructure and money. In short order, one of the losingest gridiron teams in America became one of the winningest. And the entire school rebounded. Money came in from all over, and to just about every program, not just the athletics. In the early 1990s, Sports Illustrated paraded the “K-State Effect” on its pages.

Which made it official.

The major college athletic programs – gridiron, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, and in some places ice hockey and volleyball – are massive advertising campaigns for their universities.

For whom the [gag] student athletes are paid mercenaries. Poorly paid. For they’re working for room and board. Their scholarships are mostly meaningless, for they’re too busy with sports to actually get the education they’re supposedly getting. Try telling a coach who’s making $3 million a year that you have to miss a practice to go to class. He’ll ream out that player, and then cross the quad and ream out the professor. Probably with the president in tow carrying dismissal papers if that prof doesn’t stop harming the university’s bottom line. And pronto.

I don’t know for sure, Professor, but it sure looks fishy that the UH started assembling that academic building repair backlog a decade ago, when the football team went 5-31 over three years, and 0-12 in 1998. When, I hear, opponents would be sending their second- and third-string players onto the field in the second quarter of games, and were apologizing for running up scores anyway. Clearly, none of those teams were being coached by Bill Belichick.

Anyway. The UH hired the current football coach in 1999. Nine years later, the Warriors are in the Sugar Bowl. And maybe, just maybe, some folks will be impressed enough to practice the giving of gifts to things like the UH building fund, and get your leaky roof fixed. And mine.

Yeah, I know, I know. Some people’s priorities. Remember Johnny Carson? But look on the bright side. At least anyone who tunes in to the Sugar Bowl this New Year’s Day has a chance of learning a little bit about Hawai‘ian culture.

Maybe they’ll start a trend. Just like these guys.

Or these.

================

UPDATE 25 December 2007: The local newspaper published its assessment of the likely costs and benefits associated with sending the football gridiron Warriors to the Sugar Bowl. Two alterations to the original post:

1) It looks like the UH stands to net around $2 million from the Sugar Bowl, a $4.5 million gross less around $2.5 million in expenses.

2) The report suggests that the UH does have the authority to spend Sugar Bowl profits on things other than the athletic programs – though if it entertains, even for a rational second, using any of that money on [gasp] academics, June Jones’s private jet will break glass leaving Hawai‘i for good, and the backlash from that will mean that the Zoology faculty will just have to get used to living in tents. Hell, the Chancellor might have to get used to living in a tent. If she does any damage to the one remaining excuse most people have for putting up with those damned university eggheads.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. Wow! And to think I came here thinking we were going to be talking cereal and Captain Crunch …

    CONGRATS to University of Hawai’i! I hope they WIN that Sugar Bowl! (don’t need it for my Captain Crunch anyway…)

  2. Gee. I’m truly surprised at the salary of the UH coach. Joe Paterno made $490,638 last year. In PA he is considered God. (Not by me – although two of our daughters spent their 4 undergraduate years up at Penn State and loved it and the football.)

    I gasped when I learned just recently how much JoPa was paid. I thought it was way too much.

    The bowl games go to the teams that can draw the TV audience and the paying crowd. Penn State does both. Even when the team is horrid.

    I have no use for the college football system, and the ivy league isn’t much better. Daughter AP3 went to Cornell for undergrad and Harvard for graduate school. I have to say that the “student athletes” at those schools didn’t appear to study much.

  3. Cap’n Crunch wasn’t much of a warrior, melli. But I take your point. My leaky office roof will join you in your support for the UH gridiron side.

    TLP, I read that Penn State fought a five-year lawsuit to keep JoePa’s salary secret (along with those of the university President and his cohorts, who probably had a whole lot more to worry about). I’m reminded of the case of Boston Bruins hockey player Ray Bourke, who made ca. $1.2 million annually and earned the ire of most of his fellow players because he made too little (and, as the league’s premier defenseman, thereby kept everyone else’s salary down as well). Although JoePa publicly proclaimed he didn’t care whether his salary went public or not, I wonder if he didn’t have “depressing the market for his colleagues” in the back of his mind.

    Here’s a list of current football gridiron head coaches salaries. If Paterno really made only $500,000 in 2007 (the cited website pegged his salary at $2 million, theoretically as straight salary), I hope the good people of PA recognize that JoePA is doing their state a major good turn. And know why Penn State will keep Paterno as their head gridiron coach until three years after he’s dead.

    Of course, the good people of PA could also stop going to football games, and start attending conferences on global warming, social justice. And cheer on the students who are working for prizes in things like the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. That will happen when curmudgeonly dogs turn vegan ;).

  4. I’m sorry OC… I couldn’t think of a assaulting cereal! 🙂

  5. […] Or a university professor, for whom the success of his school’s football team is his last hope of ever getting his leaky, burned-out building fixed. […]

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  7. […] And in New Orleans, on New Year’s Day, the shoestring broke. Hell, it got sucked in, chewed to a pulp, spit out, and stomped on. And the Big Boys of college football will remember that wad, and henceforth, if any team not in the Big Boy Club dares to ask, they’re going to get told, “See that? You want to play ball with us, pipsqueaks, you’d better pay up.” […]

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