Thoughts of the day: January 17, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.


The NCAA Convention is under way in San Diego and by the time they emerge from the annual meeting Saturday figure that college athletics as you know them know and have known them all your lives will be a thing of the past. Whether you like it or not, players are going to get paid at least some sort of stipend. Either that happens or the 65 power schools in Division I will probably secede their football programs from the NCAA to set up an organization that plays by its own set of rules. Smart money says the NCAA caves and gives the power schools what they want because college football is flush with commitments of billions of dollars worth of TV money and the NCAA would rather give the big boys what they want rather than cut themselves out of all that cash.


When you read the words of NCAA president Mark Emmert, it would seem that the NCAA hierarchy and the other 285 schools in Division I are resigned to caving to the power schools. Emmert told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, “It seems to be a much less controversial notion today than it was 18 months ago. As we’ve talked about it more and membership has had a chance to digest, it is being seen as less threatening.” Less threatening, perhaps. Less controversial? We’ll have to wait and see about that. Unless the big schools agree to a uniform amount of money that will be the max that can be paid up and down the Division I ranks, we could see a day when a three-star recruit holds out for a scholarship offer to the SEC because the SEC might pay $3,000 a year to its athletes while Conference USA schools can only afford something like $1,200.


When the can that is paying athletes to play is opened, it will probably usher in a full-fledged college football playoff that involves more than four teams. The four-team playoff that we will see this year is likely to be short-lived because a larger playoff would generate so much more money. Right now the NCAA rakes in something like $715 million a year from the basketball tournament. Conservative estimates are that an eight or 16-team football playoff would dwarf that amount, perhaps eclipsing $1 billion a year. That kind of money would allow the NCAA to annually distribute enough money per school in its scholarship divisions to pay players in every sport. You can figure this is going to happen. It’s just a matter of when not if.


A record 96 players have announced that they will be foregoing their final year(s) of college football eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. It should come as no surprise that the conference hit the hardest is the SEC, which is supplying more than 25% of the early entries. In all, the SEC is losing 27 players with LSU (6), Alabama (5), South Carolina (4) and Florida (4) hit the hardest. The SEC is losing one quarterback, three running backs, six wide receivers, three offensive tackles, one offensive guard, three defensive ends, four defensive tackles, two linebackers, three cornerbacks and two safeties. It can be argued that Florida actually produced six early entries since Tennessee State tight end A.C. Leonard and Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling began their careers at UF.


We hear it every year that LSU is the biggest loser because of early entry and the NFL Draft but it seems that Les Miles simply reloads his roster. This year might be different, however, because in wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and running back Jeremy Hill, the Tigers are losing a serious chunk of their offense that Miles will be hard pressed to replace. Landry caught 77 balls for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns while Beckham caught 59 for 1,152 and eight. Hill ran for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns. Add in the fact that quarterback Zach Mettenberger (22 touchdown passes) graduates and it is hard to imagine that LSU will be anywhere as good offensively next year.


Of the four Gators leaving early for the NFL, Dominique Easley, Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson were big contributors to a defense that most NFL types will tell you was easily the best in the nation in 2012. Had Ronald Powell been healthy (missed the year with an ACL) the Gators would have been that much better. From that 2012 defense, the Gators sent safeties Matt Elam (early entry) and Josh Evans to the NFL along with linebackers Jelani Jenkins (early entry), Jon Bostic and Lerentee McCray and tackle Sharrif Floyd (early entry). Take a moment and think about Florida’s 2013 defense if Elam, Jenkins and Floyd had come back for one more year. The 2013 could have been much, much different.


Mary Willingham is about to become this generation’s Jan Kemp. Kemp, if you aren’t old enough to recall, is the University of Georgia professor who blew the whistle on Vince Dooley for allowing nine football players to pass a remedial English course so they could be eligible to play Dan Marino and Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl. She was fired one year later for continuing to expose what was going on in Georgia. Even though she was awarded $2.5 million (reduced to $1.08 million on appeal), Kemp tried to commit suicide twice because she was so ostracized by the people in Athens and throughout the state of Georgia. She was reinstated to her job which caused UGa president Fred Davison to resign. So, how are Jan Kemp and Mary Willingham connected? Willingham is a whistle blower at the University of North Carolina who has exposed 10 years of academic corruption involving the football and basketball teams.


Last week on CNN, Willingham stated that her research of 183 football and basketball players from 2004-12 revealed that 60% read at fourth to eighth grade levels and approximately 10% read below a third grade level. Willingham claims that one basketball player that she worked with could neither read nor write. Former football player Michael McAdoo who was permanently ruled ineligible for academic misconduct during an NCAA probe of academics and athletics at UNC, said that the athletic department’s academic advisors guided him to four “no-show” classes that he called a “scam.” These are very serious allegations and there is no reason to suspect that they aren’t true. It’s chilling because of North Carolina’s long standing reputation as one of the fine academic universities in the country. You have to wonder if it can happen at North Carolina, then where else is something like this going on?


Of all the songs that came out of Motown in the 1960s, I don’t think any of them had the impact of “My Girl” by The Temptations. Released in December of 1964, it was an instant hit and was the #1 song on all the charts worldwide. I heard it the first time on WNOE in New Orleans on my way to school. Within days, everybody I knew had memorized all the words and it became THE singalong song on the radio. I remember seeing The Temptations lip synch the song on “American Bandstand.” It didn’t matter that they weren’t actually singing because I was too busy singing and trying my best – my mind was willing but my feet wouldn’t cooperate – to dance the way they danced. This is still one of my favorite songs of all time and I still love to sing it when I hear it although I gave up trying to dance years ago.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. One big problem with men’s athletes being paid…women’s athletes will be required to receive payment as well. Given that women’s athletic programs are not money-making (as much as men’s FB and BB…nowhere near), that’s where the rub will come in. Law will require equal treatment, but business issues will conflict and perhaps dictate otherwise. btw, I did notice that your discussion only concerned men’s FB, but ALL sports will be affected (particularly since Federal monies fund virtually every type of educational endeavor in this country, one way or the other). The words “equal protection”, “sexual discrimination”, etc. will be flying around if only men’s FB gets the cash while other athletes continue to live the “pauper’s” life…