Dooley: Delany makes sense

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s point, one that was echoed by Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley this week, is that athletes don’t have to come to college if they want to monetize themselves. (The Associated Press)

Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 9:35 p.m.

It has been crazy over the last week or so and this might be a story you missed. It’s big.

Bigger than Lane Kiffin getting fired.

Bigger than the government shutting down.

Bigger than the Miley Cyrus pregnancy rumor.

Here’s what you missed — Jim Delany said something I totally agree with.

The Big Ten-ish commissioner and I rarely see eye-to-eye on anything (like naming your divisions Legends and Leaders), but on this we are in total agreement.

What Delany said may have shocked some people, but he was making his point in a demonstrative manner, which is his style. Here is some of what he said:

"Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say, 'We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.' Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us what we've been doing.

"If an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves. We've been training kids for professional sports.”

It’s a bold statement because we all know that high school football players are not going to go directly to the NFL and high school basketball players aren’t allowed to by the NBA. Delany’s comments were not meant to change the landscape, but to change public opinion.

The general public (and that includes ill-informed TV and radio hosts) believe college athletes in football and basketball are being exploited for their talents. Many believe a college football player should be able to sign his name and be paid for it because it’s his name. (Like Johnny Manziel’s signature would be worth anything if he hadn’t played at Texas A&M).

They believe the billions brought in by football and basketball should be redistributed to the players on the fields and courts across America.

You hear rumblings about pay-for-play, about turning college football’s two biggest sports into the Olympic model.

To hear some people talk about it, the athletic departments around this country are reaping all the benefits and the student-athletes are doing all the work.

But Delany’s point, one that was echoed by Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley when I spoke to him this week, is that these athletes don’t have to come to college. If they do, these schools will give them an unbelievable opportunity to get an education at a minimum. They will also train you, coach you, house you, feed you, take care of you when you are sick, pay for any operation or rehab you may need and tutor you.

“Everyone believes we should do more in terms of cost of attendance,” Foley said. “But if people don’t want to come to college, they don’t have to. If you want to play in the NFL or NBA, you can go train somewhere.

“We get a lot from our student-athletes. That’s why we’re here. But it’s not a one-way street. That’s what Jim was saying. It’s a very good relationship where everyone is getting benefits. People lose that perspective. The institutions provide more than a scholarship for the athletes.”

The Revolution is far from over and we are on the verge of major changes in college football. I don’t think there is any question that the Power Five Conferences are going to pull away from the other schools if for no other reason than to provide the stipend that everyone has been talking about. As it stands now, the Floridas and Alabamas and Michigans are going to be voted down on stipends by schools that cannot afford it.

“Change like that is in the wind,” Foley said. “That’s coming down the road.”

But we’re not talking about the professionalization of college sports. We’re just talking about providing a little extra to allow the families of athletes to see their kids play on the road or in bowl games.

If you want to make the big money, well, the NFL and NBA are waiting for you. I’ve talked to many coaches and there is only one player who I’ve ever heard was ready for the NFL coming out of high school — Adrian Peterson.

The rest of them have needed weight training and nutrition and fundamentals and film study, all provided free of charge by football programs around the country.

It’s different in the NBA, where players are more pro-ready at a younger age. The one-and-done rule is the NBA’s and unlikely to change. It’s a bad rule for the college game. Maybe the NCAA should declare freshmen hoopsters ineligible again. Or at least threaten to do it.

That’s a problem that may never be solved, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is the two-way street between athletes and athletic programs. It may not be lined with gold and has plenty of potholes. But there is opportunity at every corner.

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