Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Arms Race Continues...

A few short years ago, I wrote a column on about the increasing arms race in college athletics. Then it was the football facility building boom that is still going on today. Now it has leapfrogged into other sports including men's basketball, women's basketball and some "olympic" sports. Olympic, meaning they bring in no money. It has fueled the hirings and firings of mercenary coaches all across this land. The latest hiring of Tom Crean at Indiana, the firing of Sean Sutton at Oklahoma State and the tumultous coaching changes this off season in football, has me wondering if we have reached the tipping point.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Indiana for all it's glory has not been the same since one Myles Brand was the president of the school. He's the guy that fired Bobby Knight. He got rewarded for such a move, by than being named the president of the NCAA. Only in America, can you screw up that bad and get rewarded for it. The Hoosiers have never been the same since. Mike Davis was ran out of town, well, because he wasn't Bobby Knight. Calvin Sampson was hired and fired because he just couldn't put down the phone. My wife has the same problem.

Indiana now has turned to Marquette's Tom Crean to lead the Hoosiers back to the promised land. Let me get this out of the way. I think it was a great hire by Indiana. My problem is with this mercenary way that big time college coaches view their jobs. You see, Marquette had rewarded Coach Crean with a new, very large contract just last July. It made him one of the highest paid coaches in all of college basketball at around $ 1.65 Million per year. I understand looking around for a better job, if you're unhappy. Don't sign a contract that you will bail on, only eight months later. These schools make significant investments into the programs. The largest expense is no longer the up keep of facilities, it is quite often the coach's salary, especially at a place like Marquette. There is no more loyalty. I wish Tom and his wife Joani (the sister of one, Jim Harbaugh) all the luck in the world. I just would never trust to send my kid to a guy looking for a bigger and better opportunity. Somewhere up there Coach Al is shaking his head in disbelief.

Yesterday, as well, Sean Sutton was fired...cough, cough, uh..I mean resigned from Oklahoma State. To understand this, you have to meet a man named T. Boone Pickens. Well, he is a very wealthy man who loves his alma mater very much. So much so, that he gave them the single largest donation to any university's athletic program to the tune of something like $ 265 Million. Now that, my friends is a lot of dough. They are building some of the finest facilities in the nation. Yet again the arms race continues.

Unlike most, I too think it was a good move to rid themselves of Sutton, even if it was a little early. I knew it was over for him when he said that he would begin to talk to other coaches about how they run their programs. Maybe you should have done that from the start, Coach. My problem with this, is that it was not done by the AD or the school's president, even if a press release says it was their call. Make no mistake about it, T. Boone made the call. He wants nothing but the best for his school, and will make a run at a big named coach, most notably OSU alumnus and current Kansas Head Coach, Bill Self.

Nothing good happens when the boosters take complete control of an athletic department. It is like we are forgetting the past. I guess nobody learned from what happened at Auburn in the early nineties, Alabama just a few years back, and practically the whole South West Conference in the late seventies and eighties. It is happening because of this arms race, because of the money being thrown around. To keep up with the Jones' the big time schools are letting the boosters have more and more say on how the sports programs are ran. It is not just Oklahoma State, it is everywhere in Division one and most notably, the BCS schools. We have reached a point that there needs to be some reigning in. The problem is nothing will happen, because there is too much money involved. The good thing, it gives me something to rant about on this blog.


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