The 94 foot lie

Pay the kids.


As fans? We have no idea how this must feel.


After all folks, this is a show entirely of their making. None of this is possible without these "volunteers". If we can but afford $20 tacked on to an existing (I hope?) weekly stipend- we should do it. It signifies that "you matter to this University". "You put in hours on behalf of this University beyond what other, non-student athletes are tasked with".

A stipend boost or other type of cash or cash-like allowances could, in the mind of this idealist, easily turn into $200, $500 or $1,000 per week if the program is taking in tournament cash ($1M per round) on a regular basis.

And a reminder that there is a little old thing called "shared revenue" that could be increased for all NCAA member schools not in the Top 25 in order to create a more competitive, level and humane playing field for all.

Why should regulars of the nighttime local news not be eligible for the same pay as a fast-food employee (or their own coaches for that matter)? Why are student athletes not even allowed to have part-time jobs outside of their sport in most cases?

The entire "amateurism" schtick is a laughable farce. I never understood it and never saw it in all its naked exploitative madness until reading the book, "The Hundred Yard Lie" by former SI College Football columnist and former Northwestern defensive back, Rick Teelander, on the advice of a good friend.


This should probably be mandatory reading for any revenue sport "student-athlete"


It chronicles some of the most tumultuous times in NCAA football during the mid to late 1980s and points out the (at times obscene) lengths that coaches, athletic departments, sports agents and boosters go to in order to secure the unpaid labor of blue-chip recruits.

No-show jobs, cash for performance, personal (student) minders, no-show classes and benefits like these slowly but surely created a very un-college-like atmosphere for some schools and a very unlevel playing field for all schools. As a result, a lot of hypocritical/buckshot enforcement was done that didn't really do much other than perpetually put successful programs on the NCAA regulatory hot seat. After which there is an investigation, the school is punished, the coach leaves for another paycheck and the exact same cycle repeats over, and over, and over. And over.


So often the very same people who decry something in one context...

The book also calls attention to the contradictory messages being taught to the unpaid players (ie. "stay calm" yet "be aggressive", "stay focused" but "forget everything except..!", "be a gentleman" but "be an animal out there!"). It questions whether we are setting young men up for failure after graduation by putting them in a protective, yet constantly monitored pressure cooker of an environment instead of letting them live a normal college life. In essence the book is a lamentable tale that simply asks the question, "can we just be honest with ourselves and our sport?" 😐

The most shocking aspect about "The Hundred Yard Lie" (1989) is that hardly anything has changed in 30+ intervening years. NIL, as much of a wild-west unpredictable mess as it is, is at least a step in the right direction.

"Acknowledgement".


The sheer hypocrisy is mind-numbing when you look at all the ongoing evidence


The whole system is rotten to the core. Everyone who is a part of it, knows it. Yet nobody does much to change it while everyone tries to find every possible way to use and abuse the value that these great college athletes provide at little to no cost to the University. What is 1 more scholarship really at places like UWM? Economies of scale allow the university to accommodate a few more students at little to no cost. Like Mitchell Hall won't be big enough an auditorium for a single or a dozen more souls? Or the Sandberg Cafeteria will run out of instant mashed potatoes? C'mon now...

By the by we've lost -7,700 students since our enrollment peak in 2012... and we are still able to pay the light bill.



Certainly, makes you re-evaluate some things..


Where does that leave us? I for one, firmly believe you have to pay the kids. And the longer they don't get paid- particularly in the face of not only free national exposure but also cold. hard. cash. rolling into the competitive schools- the harder it is going to be for me to root with the same naive belief that this is all just great, clean "sport" for the love of sport.

Who would have known that underneath it all festers some of the most abusive relationships many of these players will ever experience? Because the schools want that gravy train. And the stars want that 1 NBA shot. I cannot begin to imagine the pressure that is on some of these players to: 

  • Play through injuries
  • Endure a higher degree of insecurity than any other type of scholarship student
  • Sacrifice the education they aspired to and be talked into "easier" classes/majors
  • Lose some of the best experiences one can have as a college student

All for the "love" of the game that may become a paid profession for the players but is already a paid event for the all the adults involved. I like that Coach Lundy said he wants to cultivate and deliver "pros" from this Milwaukee program. These kids need a coach that has those kinds of connections and is in their corner when to it comes to the world outside of or after college basketball.


"Together"


Education is equally if not more important. A former Panther might play 10 seasons in Europe like Tony Meier or Anthony Hill but most of us in this world are going to have to work a 9-5 job until we're 65 and a degree pays huge dividends towards that effort. Coach Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern emphasizes commitment to NU as "a 40-year decision". And he is not wrong. (Coach Fitzgerald was also notably against Kane Coulter's attempt to unionize NU Football in 2015).

The hypocrisy is going to have to go away or it's only going to get worse and less entertaining.

I now know that, despite the spectacular verbal acrobatics, blind allegiance to and unearned faith in "staid traditions", the college athlete- in our case, the Milwaukee Panther college basketball player- is not an amateur in any of the myriad vague definitions of the word.


Time for the players to be rewarded, too.


They are minor leaguers. Semi-pros. We should treat them as such.

Perhaps the NBA G-League will eclipse the NCAA but I doubt it'll happen anytime soon. (Wisconsin Herd in Oshkosh? Or Marquette vs. Wisconsin at the Fiserv?). In the meantime- pay the kids. Take care of them and make sure the responsibility and education part of college stays with them.

Surely it will need to- for 40 years and maybe more.


go panthers
press on.


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