Mick Cronin on the NCAA’s “pay for play” debate, and a way he thinks it could be solved

(Patrick) #1

Solid thoughts from Cronin:

Exactly. The tail is wagging the dog. If there were any common sense and everyone sat down to figure it out – let’s not travel for no reason.

Think of the interest level in soccer here with FC Cincinnati. Well, what if all 13 DI schools in Ohio were in the same conference for men’s and women’s soccer? Can you imagine all the parents who would get to see all the games, versus now? How many games can you afford to go see if you’re a soccer parent of a UC athlete? How are you going to get there? Even in our league. The model is broken, and it’s just become a constant cycle of how to survive, to keep the model going.

So what’s happened? Schools leave conferences; all these schools need money. The proof that there is no money is Maryland leaving the ACC, Syracuse leaving the Big East. That’s proof they all need money to run their athletic departments. Common sense tells you that Syracuse didn’t want to leave the Big East. Maryland didn’t want to leave the ACC. Life-long rivalries. But people don’t understand that. They don’t live it like I do with meetings and my whole adult life.

In a perfect world, I think it’d be great if the players could get more than they’re getting. But I will say this: the most important thing is making sure they get their degree. Because giving a guy some food isn’t near as important as teaching a guy how to feed himself. My point being, it’d be a great if all of my guys, when they’re done playing, had $100,000 annuity waiting on them. But they’re not going to be able to retire off of that. It’s not the be-all, end-all.

It’s just like Jacob Evans. I told him, you’re not going to be able to retire off your rookie contract. He’s getting two years guaranteed at $1.5 million. Well, the government is taking half. So he’s going to take home $1.5 million, but he’s living in California with 13 percent state tax, so he’s not even taking that home. His cost of living out there is through the roof. People think, Ah, he’s rich. No. Now, if he gets through his second contract, then he can hit the lottery.

The problem is, in my world, (paying the players) is thrown out there like it’s the answer to solving their life. It’s not. They still need an education, they still need to learn how to become a responsible adult and a functioning employee, whether of a professional basketball team or Wyler Automotive. They need to learn how to become an employee and an adult. It’s not the be-all, end-all. So we still bear the ultimate burden that we have to educate them, not just to get their degree, but on how to function. That’s what I look at my job as – try to train these guys on what’s out there for them in the real world.

It showed with the lack of expansion in the Big 12, when the facts of the case were that television told the Big 12 not to expand. That was a directive from television, that they would pay them more money not to expand. Every conference realignment, expansion, whatever you want to call it, has been for financial reasons. Which brings me back to my point of schools figuring out what they can do to pay their athletic bill. If they can get their hands on more money by leaving a conference, and the university doesn’t have to subsidize an athletic department, or the burden will be lessened, that board and that president are going to vote to switch conferences. Everybody is going to do what they have to do to get more money. That’s how the world works. That’s just how it is. You would be immediately disbanded as a board and fired as a president if it ever came out that you turned down going to a conference that was going to get your school millions of dollars more, not one time, but every year. That’s more money for athletics that the school doesn’t have to come up with. If it wasn’t for school subsidies, athletic departments would be bankrupt, they wouldn’t be able to function.

People think there’s all this money. There are a few schools that are self-sufficient because of TV dollars, but it’s one percent or less. Who are they going to play against? Themselves? So where do I see it going? I don’t know. I say this all the time – something is going to change at some point, because some presidents will get together and say, This doesn’t make any sense. What I think is, well, two things. Number one: football is a non-comparable sport. If football wasn’t counted against Title IX, that would relieve a lot of pressure on athletic departments.

Because of the number of scholarships required for that sport.

MC: Right, and there’s no comparable sport on the other side. So as long as football is counted, the financial burden to counterbalance football for Title IX is immense. As long as football is counted, it’s an issue, and people are going to be running deficits.

And two: why do we all have to be in the same conference at UC? Why can’t football be in a certain conference, and everything else in another? Or football and basketball in Conference X, and everyone else in Conference Y? Let’s say football and basketball are supposed revenue sports, so they’re in Conference X. They can afford to travel, it makes sense because of TV, you need to have it because of pageantry or whatever. Why does everybody have to be in Conference X if it would be better to be in Conference Y? And it doesn’t mean Conference Y is a lesser conference. It may be a better conference for that sport.

Take baseball – the American Athletic Conference is brutal in baseball. It’s a southern conference. It’s harder in baseball than it is in anything. ECU, South Florida – it’s an outdoor sport, they’re in the south. So I’m not saying these have to be lesser conferences. And people will say, That’s how it’s always been. Well, that’s the number one reason companies fail. Something has to be done outside the box of the way it’s always been. People view Cincinnati as a Top 20 basketball program. Well, we don’t have the money that the Power 5 Conferences have.

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(Charles) #2

I’ve felt for some time that non-revenue sports (including baseball) should be in regional conferences. Let football and basketball keep their conference affiliations (if they want) but make the others regional. Less travel costs, less disrupting academic schedules and athletes, and better fan identification. I think that’s what he’s saying.