Steve Alford, the Lobos coach, last week signed a 10-year extension with UNM. This week, he signed a contract to coach at UCLA. See, this is why I have such disdain for college sports: It’s all a game of numbers. There are a lot of numbers floating around as dollars these days. Too many. Way too many. Second only to pro sports.
The big difference, though, is that pro athletes get paid for playing..
College athletes, supposedly being “amateur,” don’t see a dime. This makes them sort of akin to gladiators, performing for the masses in giant coliseums. The big difference is, of course, that today’s college athletes aren’t slaves. They do have the option to go pro, and why not?
I used to think that was a bad thing, but now the “amateur” designation for college sports is just a thin veneer. Everyone else is getting rich off the sweat of some talented athletes. Which is still an abomination, of course. Alford signed for something like $2 million; he was getting $1 million-something at UNM. The athletes he coached might get a shot at the big money on pro sports.
UNM paying more than a million for a coach. It just doesn’t compute.
I doubt many professors at UNM are getting more than a million. After all, they’re just teaching academics. You know, literature, math, science, engineering, philosophy, drama, psychology, medicine, business — things of the rest of the world.
But, you say, successful athletic programs bring in money for the whole university. Do they? I kind of think they go to athletic department salaries, sports facilities, that kind of thing. Here’s what should happen: The federal government should pro-rate whatever federal money these schools get based on the amount of money they receive through sports. Say a college pulls in $30 million in a year for all sports. Well, any grant, contract, scholarship or research money will be cut back at X percent, the holes to be filled with the sports-revenue money. Taxpayers, then, get a little slack and some of that sports windfall does go to help the ostensible reason universities exist.
Oh, and drop all pretense about “amateur” athletics.
(OK, so I did feel a little frisson when U of Kansas blew a 14-point lead and lost. It means UNM doesn’t have a lock on blowing expectations.)
… except when the University of New Mexico Lobos lose to Harvard.
Losing in the first rounds is not unusual for the Lobos. Indeed, it’s like the sun coming up every day. They have a good season, they get into NCAA tournament, then one and done, sometimes two and done, but done quickly nevertheless.
This time was slightly different in that they had a really good season and they were given a good seed. There was hope. There was optimism that for once, they’d be part of the Elite Eight.
Except Harvard — Harvard! — put an end to that. In the first round.
Arizona, of course, quickly took care of Harvard. Arizona and New Mexico used to play each other a lot, but Arizona got too big for the WAC (both schools were in that conference at that time). I saw the 2013 bracket and thought it’d be great if UA and UNM played each other again. Never thinking the Lobos would lose to … Harvard.
I care slightly about this because UNM is my alma mater. I usually don’t follow the teams (football is abysmal) except when they make a little noise. And they did this year; an ESPN site even suggested a First Seed for UNM was possible (not in a million years). Third Seed, pretty high for those Lobos, though. Maybe this time, maybe, oh, please …
And then along came Harvard.
(Not that I have anything against Harvard, certainly not academically. Lots of smart people come out of there [too many lawyers, though]. And I suppose it’s a cliche to think of Ivy League teams as easy walk-overs. Harvard had a good team this year, they exploited it and got as far as the second round in the tournament.
By defeating the Lobos.
(Unless, of course, Harvard is jonesing so hard for some of that sports money that the college is doing what other “top” schools have done in de-emphasizing academics. Say it ain’t so, Harvard.)
Well, there’s always next year.
Ha! And you think things will be different?.