Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted July 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Trial balloons were floated in 2011. Last month an NCAA conference commissioner issued a new set of buzz words for college sports fans to wrap their minds and tongues around. The town crier was sent to the gate ringing his bell to declare “Hear ye!, hear ye all!”

Transformational change.

Transformational … what?

A five syllable synonym for money. Also a fool’s temptation to open the proverbial Pandora’s Box.

More money for five Power Conference members, table crumbs for everyone else. Football’s proposed penthouse: SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12.

For the rest of more than 300 NCAA affiliates transformational change means: “Times, they are a changing, boys. Best a luck to ya. Fend for yourselves!”

Now that you’re acquainted with transformational change be ready when television talking heads pull out another. Full Cost of Attendance and stipend.

Means pay athletes beyond value of a college athletic scholarship.

Two years ago the NCAA floated the figure $2,000-a-season for scholarship football players. If adopted, fans are certain to hear a howl go up from basketball coaches. And, the ACLU will clamor for Title IX equal pay for female athletes.

In recent years the media herd sitting for free on press row has bellowed righteously how universities rake in millions and exploit athletes who get nothing for their services. Sniff.

So, what exactly does Thousand Yards Bert and JumpShot Ernie and their pals get from college these days?

A USA Today analysis found that “a typical player receives at least $120,000 annually in goods, services and future earnings” for his work on the field or in the arena.

The median grant-in-aid is $27,923, athletic scholarship, received by men’s basketball players at 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). At University of Kentucky the median is $32,703 a season.

Let’s see if we have this straight. A scholarship student-athlete receives a $120,000-a-year education and NCAA conference commissioners want to add a Full Cost of Attendance stipend starting at $2,000? Feels like the old commish is trying to pull a fast one, pick your pocket, doesn’t it?

Pandora’s Box, uh, Transformational Change …

What the Power Conference commissioner(s) are not telling those who buy the products, fatten the (teevee) ratings and buy season tickets, is about on-the-ground realities.

√ Ticket prices won’t be going down anytime soon, will they? History tells us athletic department officials at power conference schools will croon about ‘their product’ then squeeze Joe Fan to pay more for everything from right-to-buy tickets, to parking, souvenirs to end zone bleacher seats.

√ Stipends will begin when ball coach knocks on a hot prospect’s front door. How will NCAA enforcement monitor the process? Stop laughing.

Examples of football programs left off the money train: Western Kentucky, Youngstown State, Florida A&M et cetera. All can forget competing for blue chip prospects.

Coaches? Ask yourself: If the Big Five becomes college football’s penthouse, what chance does say, WKU have of hiring a Bob Petrino?

√ And, soon enough after stipend starts a hotshot tailback will tell a reporter: “Hey, I’ve rushed for a thousand yards for this school. I should be paid more than the guy behind me on the depth chart.”

√ Basketball. Fan who believes his favorite ball coach won’t offer Johnny JumpShot ‘extra’ to come to his school probably believes John Calipari is Santa Claus, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all rolled into one.

Finally, featuring noble intent and 2013 reality, this scenario.

Last year NCAA president Mark Emmert crowed long and loud that, on his watch, “there’ll be no straying from college athletics’ most time-honored tenet: It’s grossly unacceptable and inappropriate to pay players … converting them from students to employees.”

When the applause subsided and Louisville finished off Michigan to wrap up a tournament that generates more than $771 million a year in television rights alone, Emmert was apparently ready for a little transformational change.

“It’s time for a serious discussion about whether and how to spread a little more of the largess to those doing the playing and sweating,” he said.

Thus, that creaking noise you just heard was the lid being raised and ghostly words rising out of the darkness:

Transformational change … and Full Cost of Attendance.

Pandora’s Box.


• Coach Ray Harper’s Western Kentucky Hilltopper schedule was released last week. Highlights: A school record 17 games in Diddle Arena. Home dates with Murray State, Southern Miss and Ole Miss. Road dates with Louisville, Wichita State and Southern Illinois. No game with Middle Tennessee, and, I still think it too bad, no Eastern-Western game.

• Internet web site Bleacher Report had a feature recently projecting which freshmen are most likely to be one-and-done. Among the top 28 projected to stay or leave after one season: Marcus Lee, James Young, Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle. Staying: Dakari Johnson

• Two weeks ago Las Vegas betting line had Kentucky favored over Western Kentucky by three. Last week the spread was 1.5. With practice still weeks away why the change? Maybe it was a Women’s Clinic by Mark Stoops at UK. Standing room only. Like politicians, the coach (and we) know women run the world, or should.

And so it goes.