Money, the root of all evil, or so the Bible says, but you don’t need the Good Book to understand that today the US is a global sports country. Everywhere you look it’s confusing and often negative, showing the cancer of big money in American politics.
Something is wrong with the rapidly changing image.
The loss of big money is most evident in professional and collegiate sports and is getting worse in high school as college recruits open their wallets to choose high school athletes.
Let’s start with the university level. Unrestricted TV funding is destroying morale and integrity in school sports, enriching incumbent coaches at the expense of tax dollars, reducing decades-old conflicts in schools, and fueling locker room strife.
The honorable report of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Sept. 6 shows the current situation. The results are very touching. One key finding was this: The salaries at the nine major universities for the 11 “number one” football coaches at each school now exceed “the total athletic salary and the total college athletic salary for all sports at the school.” This number will reach 25 in 10 years, according to the study, which continues to call for action today to end this disparity.
Currently, university presidents are paid much less than coaches at major football schools. One example: The salary of the president of the University of Georgia Morehead is less than at least seven of UGA’s coaches or assistant coaches.
Name, image and appearance (NIL) money is also disrupting college sports, where star athletes change schools randomly in search of bigger money and build their brand, and one Division 1 team is flashing a watch worth $75,000. At the moment, the player assistants are working in the dark. Athletic directors have shifted their focus from “recruiting” to “acquiring and retaining” athletes, whose training is disrupted. For its part, the NCAA is now lobbying Congress to grant the NCAA antitrust immunity to destroy the prospect of co-ed athletes becoming legally “professional.”
And there is golf, a wonderful sport that was destroyed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) operation through LIV led by Greg Norman to buy the services of 48 leading professionals to help the Saudi government gain political respect in the West while “washing up” its game. a brutal history of human rights. To make matters worse, the subsequent “joint” agreement between the PGA and the Saudi PIV-LIV is fraught with PGA self-dealing and insider tactics to benefit a minority. It is no surprise that the US Congress is looking at what is happening and what it means for the future.
But the most hidden financial development of all is the negative and widespread growth and acceptance of legal gambling within sports, as leading players and celebrities advertise the gambling industry through countless television commercials. This is one of the saddest, if not the most tolerable, aspects of American sports spending in the 21st century; appears to ultimately affect performance and outcomes. Sadly, NFL Commissioner Goodell publicly admitted that, because the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gambling, “we have to be in that position.”
While some may be financially successful, others may not. But, on the whole, we are all losers in the end if competitive credibility is compromised. It’s no surprise that at least 10 NFL players have already been suspended to varying degrees for their links to gambling and the number of athletes offending on college campuses is growing. In golf, some fans will disrupt play to distract players from their efforts to win wagers.
For others, this damage does not affect. Teams are playing, fans are cheering, and sports are fun. But for those who play sports for the love of the game and appreciate the challenges of legitimate competition, it’s scary and frustrating.
Sports leaders at the professional and quasi-professional (collegiate) level, promoters in major organizations, and the Saudi PIF need to rethink how they are leading our sport. Perhaps they – if necessary, encouraged or ordered by Congress – will change their financial resources to lower tickets and prices and perhaps, for universities, lower the cost of education for all students. In fact, many people’s actions may anger the people who are coming to the extremes written by the Knight Commission.
Sadly, it would take a serious betting problem – or the humiliation – of the poor pitching of the Chicago “Black Sox” in the 1919 World Series, for the leaders of American sports to realize what their greed is showing to destroy the sports culture of the country.
We hope that today’s young fan will not say, as a youngster did a century ago when he allegedly challenged the White Sox’s “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
Mike Mozur is a retired U.S. State Department Senior Foreign Service officer and environmentalist who now lives in the Pensacola area.