College football stands at a crossroads

Clemson's Darius Robinson warms up during a spring football practice in Clemson. He recently joined the O'Bannon-NCAA lawsuit, as one of six current college players in it.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Darius Robinson warms up during a spring football practice in Clemson. He recently joined the O'Bannon-NCAA lawsuit, as one of six current college players in it.

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Much has changed since Dabo Swinney graduated from the University of Alabama in the early ‘90s.

The NCAA football scholarship hasn’t.

“They are the exact same as when I was in school,” the Tigers’ head coach said at ACC media days this week. “Gas is higher. Movies are more expensive. Dates are more expensive. Clothes are more expensive. Everything.

“The world has changed, but it hasn’t been reflected in the audience. I think that’s wrong. I’m 100 percent for a stipend or enhancing the scholarship.”

The fires were stoked in the debate in the last week from Clemson senior cornerback Darius Robinson being one of six current players to join Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA. The former UCLA basketball player is arguing for compensation from the NCAA’s profiting off from the likeness of its student athletes, in such avenues as EA Sports’ video games.

At the ACC Football Kickoff, Maryland coach Randy Edsall said he would have joined the lawsuit as well if he was a player.

Swinney isn’t, however, backing that particular movement, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t supporting Robinson in the move.

“Knowing that his career is coming to an end, he wanted to be a part of it because that’s something he believes in,” Swinney said. “That’s the way it ought be…Doesn’t mean I have to believe in that.”

His philosophy goes back to when he started as a walk-on wide receiver for the Crimson Tide and worked his way on scholarship. He even wrote a speech for a class in college on why players shouldn’t be paid.

“I’m against professionalizing college athletics,” Swinney said. “We have that – it’s called the NFL, arena league (or) CFL. To me, playing college athletics is a privilege. It’s a privilege to be a part of it. Anything that diminishes the value of an education I’m against.”

The Terps’ Edsall is pretty sure college football is already on that “professionalizing” track, and the NCAA is letting it run off the rails.

“One head coach, (10 assistants), four graduate assistants and then they’d like 10 more guys that you can hire that you’re getting 25 (coaches),” he said. “Now what we’re doing is basically creating a scouting department for college. There’s so many issues in our sport right now that you got to have people that are sitting down and talking this 24 hours a day and 365 days a year for this sport to continue to do what we want for young people.

“It’s enormous. There are some enormous issues that are there right now.”

The identity crisis in college football now comes on a couple of fronts: its place in college athletics overall and football’s “Big Five” versus the rest.

Edsall says the sport cannot be treated like everybody else.

“You have all the other sports,” said Edsall. “Why does football get (a stipend) and nobody else? Gender equity and all those things…We’re trying to do the things for all the sports and you can’t do it. I’m of the firm opinion that football shouldn’t be in the equation for Title IX.”

For such reasons, Swinney says a breakup of the NCAA and the Big Five conferences of the SEC, ACC, PAC-12, Big Ten and Big 12 is a “very real scenario” now.

“Whether it be a stipend or whatever, well, you get into a lot of schools making the decisions that don’t fit with the ‘Five,’” he said. “The Five can do a lot of things the rest of the schools can’t, but yet they’re making a lot of the decisions.”

An NCAA-like structure just for bigger conferences – in terms of similar rules – appears to be the future.

“I can see that happening somewhere down the road,” Swinney said. “I see the gap widening. Basically (need) just another division.”

Whatever direction the sport goes soon, maintaining the value of an education is as vital as anything to the coach.

“I get very sensitive when talking about professionalizing college athletics,” said Swinney. “That totally devalues the education and the housing and meals and all that you get to do and the experiences and the privilege they have to be a part of college athletics.”

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Comments » 5

SoCalTiger writes:

I haven't always agreed with Dabo but I think he's got it right when it comes to professionalizing college sports. It devalues the education aspect of it. College sports are big business and generate a lot of cash and I can see where the players want a bigger piece of the pie. But how do you determine how much to pay out to players? Would it be tied to their performance or playing time? Or to their grades? Or both? The education and the other perks that Dabo mentioned should be enough for any player. Those that want a bigger pay off should really focus on trying to get into the NFL or the NBA or other professional opportunities. If not, be happy with a free degree.

cuGIZ82 writes:

All the "adults" are being paid in this NCAA situation. If it is really about amateurism then why pay coaches to teach the game? Why not make a rule that requires a coach to be a professor at the university and pay the coach according to a professors salary and require them to coach on a voluntary basis. They can give the coach and his family a meal plan, clothing, and free education for his/her children. With those perks, would the coaches be happy? Most reasonable people would jump at that deal if they were not making the money coaches make now coaching a school in the BIG 5 Conferences. Assistant coaches are making 7 figures for goodness sake. In short break the players off a bigger piece of the pie or allow them to enter the NFL Draft as early as they want to.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

in response to cuGIZ82:

All the "adults" are being paid in this NCAA situation. If it is really about amateurism then why pay coaches to teach the game? Why not make a rule that requires a coach to be a professor at the university and pay the coach according to a professors salary and require them to coach on a voluntary basis. They can give the coach and his family a meal plan, clothing, and free education for his/her children. With those perks, would the coaches be happy? Most reasonable people would jump at that deal if they were not making the money coaches make now coaching a school in the BIG 5 Conferences. Assistant coaches are making 7 figures for goodness sake. In short break the players off a bigger piece of the pie or allow them to enter the NFL Draft as early as they want to.

That is one way to go about addressing the problem, but not so sure it's a very good way. The way you suggest may work, but in the short term it would be a disaster. After 15 or so years and everybody was doing it this way, we all be accustomed to it and the way football was played and looked upon would be alright. But if you started that next year, I don't think anybody would be happy and the way you suggest is probably the way it should be. I think most high school coaches are teachers. I know for a fact they were when I was in high school. I think they got a little extra money for coaching. No head coach or assistance was hired to just coach. It may be different now. You have suggested one solution to the problem that is the fairest solution and one that would help clean up college athletics probably quicker than anything. You have a very interesting idea, but boy, I bet the high priced coaches would have a problem with it.

SoCalTiger writes:

Coaches and their staffs are making those outrageous salaries because the schools are willing to pay them. Should the NCAA impose a salary cap on coaches and assistants?

cuGIZ82 writes:

in response to rsb8931#286014:

That is one way to go about addressing the problem, but not so sure it's a very good way. The way you suggest may work, but in the short term it would be a disaster. After 15 or so years and everybody was doing it this way, we all be accustomed to it and the way football was played and looked upon would be alright. But if you started that next year, I don't think anybody would be happy and the way you suggest is probably the way it should be. I think most high school coaches are teachers. I know for a fact they were when I was in high school. I think they got a little extra money for coaching. No head coach or assistance was hired to just coach. It may be different now. You have suggested one solution to the problem that is the fairest solution and one that would help clean up college athletics probably quicker than anything. You have a very interesting idea, but boy, I bet the high priced coaches would have a problem with it.

I agree. The high paid coaches would have a problem being paid $60K a year to coach. They know they are in a billion dollar business and they want their proper share of the funds. They only "scream" amateurism when the topic of paying players is mentioned. They talk about the scholarships, meal plans, housing, clothes, and other perks the student-athlete receive, so that led me to flip it around on the coaches. We know the coaches would be angered by having to teach at the university and live off the average salary of professors.

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