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College sports have taken a qualitative leap

College sports have taken a qualitative leap

College sports have taken a qualitative leap

Former Texas A&M baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle left for the University of Texas less than 24 hours after losing in the NCAA Men’s College Baseball World Series final. Just days after Schlossnagle’s announcement, 11 A&M players entered the transfer portal.

They joined a whole series of college sports “dropouts” in recent years: Texas and the University of Oklahoma left the Big 12 for the SEC. The University of Southern California and Oregon began a Pac-12 breakout by leaving for the Big 10. Football coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams left OU for USC, where Williams reportedly earned $10 million in name, image and likeness deals in his final two years. Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for Louisiana State University. Kelly Maxwell, the OU pitcher and tournament Outstanding Player in her fourth straight Softball World Series, was the ace for in-state rival Oklahoma State before transferring. Transient players playing for transient coaches at schools in transient conferences. Leaving is such sweet grief, but so easy and profitable.

Schlossnagle coached for 17 years with much success at TCU before being lured to A&M. His new salary at UT has not been disclosed, but most believe it will be considerably higher than his $1.35 million per year salary at A&M. According to He The American Statesman from AustinUT paid $2.7 million to buy out his contract. They also had to buy out the remaining two years of their own coach David Pierce’s contract for a reported $1.68 million.

Schlossnagle cited one of the reasons he took the UT job as the slowing timeline for the promised new baseball stadium, which he linked to the $75 million buyout of football coach Jimbo Fisher and the subsequent turnover in the Aggie athletic director’s office.

Money has always played a big role in college sports, both for the haves and the have-nots. But what has made college basketball’s March Madness great is that, every once in a while, David stands up and slays Goliath. Even professional leagues like the NFL and NBA have salary caps to ensure that the less wealthy have an athletic opportunity. College sports have transformed from amateur competitions with “student athletes” to a professional sports arms race that boils down to “my school’s donors are richer than yours.” The home team is no match for the money team.

In addition to multi-billion dollar deals with media networks, reports of private equity investments and huge naming rights deals in the Big 12 Conference will only increase the dominance of money. As the late U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen is often mistakenly told about government spending: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

If you were part of the television or radio audience for the recent College World Series, you may have noticed the increasing marketing insertion and transience of players. Based on current trends, I can imagine a game that will sound something like this in the next few years:

Vanderbilt by Google coach Jim Yellin, a former Gatorade College coach, is making a pitching change. He will bring in left-hander Mike Heater, a transfer from Budweiser Tech. Heater, the Allstate Big 2 Dozen Conference Pitcher of the Year, replaces Dickey Dunn. He will face left-handed hitting Wesley Whiff, the big first baseman who transferred from Under Amour State before his freshman year at Sports Illustrated Junior College. The fans here at Ram Truck Stadium give Dunn a good hand. This pitching change is brought to you by First Relief, your go-to medicine for heartburn and indigestion on the Louisiana Hot Sauce Baseball Chain.

And you wonder why these games are so long. They should really consider putting the logo of each player’s former school(s) right below the name on the back of their jersey, along with a flowchart documenting their college heritage. You know, like Ancestry.com.

Loyalty and faithfulness no longer mean the same thing as they used to. It seems to be good for the players, as they can move up from the minor leagues (the minor conferences of the Group of Five) to the major leagues (the Power Five). Salaries for coaches and players, via NIL, continue to skyrocket.

Since this is working so well, I recommend we dive right in. Why wait until the end of the season to enter the transfer portal or sign a coach? That’s too long. How about we do a draft after every game? Or better yet, let players and coaches leave at halftime. By the way, if you’re having a great game, why not take advantage of the opportunity? Monetize your success. Just hop on a plane with your new team to your new home, wherever that may be.

As far as game plans, signals and cues go, each player has to be allowed to do his thing. After all, there is no “we” on a team, and in today’s sports there is little to no team.

I think that’s it. Problems solved. Players taken care of. Universities getting huge revenue boosts from TV and brand-building exposure. Transnational conference realignment that seems designed by airlines to boost revenue while college executives, coaches and players rack up frequent-flyer miles. Coaches making more than their college presidents and state governors combined. Everyone happy.

Well, except for one inconsequential group: the fans. The ones who attend the games or watch them on TV. The ones who actually attended the colleges and aren’t looking for a transfer portal so they can leave their alma mater.

It’s an old-fashioned way of thinking, but in the past these “customers” were seen as the goose that laid the golden eggs. While everyone else is playing musical chairs (or Russian roulette), these people who spent four or five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars at a university will remain loyal alumni for the rest of their lives. At some point, they may just get tired.

Like so many other institutions — our churches, schools, politics — it seems the relational bonds that college sports provided are disintegrating. Local communities, local businesses, and sports-based relationships anchored in the local team and friendly competition are fading away, at a time when we need them more than ever.

A few weeks ago I was at a dinner and a prominent and well-connected supporter of nonprofit causes said, “If I were a little younger, I would organize a strike of donors, fans and college sports alumni until they come to their senses.”

This arms race called college sports is not sustainable.

Robert Hall is an author and speaker. His latest book is “This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Endangers Home, Work, Politics, and Faith.” He played college baseball at Oklahoma State University.

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