Friday, March 6, 2009

It’s all about money


The legendary Deep Throat told the Woodward-Bernstein Watergate bloodhounds to “follow the money” and they brought down the Dick Nixon presidency. Incredible, isn’t it, how tracing the treasure can explain so many things?

About this time every college basketball season I start re-regretting the loss of a onetime area holiday treat. Add the fact that hard-working youngsters are playing their tails off to win conference championships — knowing that a lucrative postseason tournament will knock a lot of luster off the notable feats they’ve been accomplishing for at least four months.

Let’s focus on the Big Eight-12 Conference about which we’re a little familiar. We currently have one of the most intriguing, entertaining league seasons you could imagine, with Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri surefire NCAA tournament choices and everyone else fighting to get at least two more Big 12 clubs into the field of 65. Why should the top teams have to shadow-box through a postseason waltz, and why can’t final standings, tiebreakers, computers and such determine the fates of others?

Answer: The postseason tourneys produce buckets of bucks. The authorities contend that extra games are opportunity-makers for also-rans. Seems silly that Kansas and Oklahoma powerhouses which have done so well have to go out and try to prove again how good they are. Why the hell do they even play those 16 games just to open the door for exhaustion and prospects for injury with a national tournament lurking?

I love the attitude of Matt Kleinmann, the fifth-year Kansas senior whose goal is to be a part of five straight league title teams. Nobody has done that and he’s delighted. The incomparable Phog Allen always said he’d prefer league titles to a national crown because you live with the league people and gain notable stature from that.

First time I realized the impact of money in postseason tourneys was in 1953-54. The Atlantic Coast Conference set up its moneybags go-around; even a regular-season champion couldn’t go to the Big Dance unless it won the postseason tournament. North Carolina had to win three tourney games, an NCAA playoff with Yale and then two regional games to get to Kansas City to complete its 32-0 season in 1957, with Kansas the 54-53 triple-overtime victim.

The monetary writing was on the wall and before long other leagues started postseason cash-collectors. The old Big Seven-Eight Conference annually provided us with a Christmas holiday delight, a preseason tourney that people gobbled up with glee. Anyone who missed those Kansas City sessions, I feel awfully sorry for. Nothing now comes even close.

The local league tried to cut it both ways, preseason and postseason, in 1976-77, ’77-78 and ’78-79; after that it was all postseason. No matter how well any team plays in the regular season, it can be trashed by this extended caper. Why risk injuries?

Did I mention money? Just something else for which to resent the ACC and North Carolina.

The first NCAA meet (’39) sent finalist teams home with $100 each; Kansas and Indiana gained $750 apiece in 1940. Now every single NCAA game produces nearly $300,000 for each participant.

Add the loot the leagues lap up beforehand with those damned money-grubbing postseason tournaments. Is this really fair to the underpaid kids who generate all those greenbacks?


Dirk Medema 10 years, 10 months ago

"why can’t final standings, tiebreakers, computers and such determine the fates of others?"

What a novel idea. Let's just have a compilation of voters and computers figure out who the 2 "best" teams are, and then they can play for the national championship. It would be so much more efficient.

Why couldn't another sport, say football, come up with such a ingenious idea.

It's also a dam shame that those poor underpaid kids (FB & BB players) only get a college education, room & board, books, tutors, trainers, workout facilities... On the bright side of things, at least they aren't baseball players, swimmers, gymnasts, wrestlers, runners, ..., or some pathetic worthless lot like that. Even worse, they could be students doing research in a lab for slightly more than minimum wage as a cog in the million dollar machine.

mojayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

I have only one comment and that is in regard to the last question posed: "Is this really fair to the underpaid kids who generate all those greenbacks?" The answer is YES! For one thing, these kids are not "paid on commission" employees. They are students. Secondly, even if they were employees in this business, they have no more right to a portion of the proceeds than I have as a salaried employee of a large company! These kids are payed extremely fairly. Consider this: A free education at one of the finest Universities in the land, an opportunity to excel in their chosen field, more opportunity for notariety during their short stay at KU than most of them will have for the rest of their lives, and finally for the few extra special talents, a time to develop their skills under the best coach in the country and to showcase their skills night after night in front of a host of NBA scouts.

Enough said about underpaid kids. They have their reward, and most are glad to get it!

nobodylikesmizzou 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm trying to decide whether or not that comment is worth responding to. We have been over this a million times on these boards. Where do you think the money comes from that goes to the baseball players, swimmers, gymnasts, and wrestlers? Do you think the new boathouse for the crew team just pops out of nowhere? Or do you think adidas would gladly outfit our other sports' teams if not for the exposure they get through the BB and FB players?

I would say a lot more to that but unfortunately I have to write a paper...Hopefully somebody else will do it for me

Think with your head dagger

nobodylikesmizzou 10 years, 10 months ago

that was all in response to dagger, not mojayhawk

odc213 10 years, 10 months ago

bill mayer got this one right. thanks mayer. you can trace back the numbers and the years and see how this post season conference tourneys came up. it is long overdue that players get a stipend.

quigley 10 years, 10 months ago

Did I just read the words "Deep Throat" in an article by Bill Mayer? Oh god.....I'm going to puke.....

cklarock 10 years, 10 months ago

I love the NCAA tournament, and wouldn't change it for the world. For me, it's the best event in American sports.

That said, I do feel that it is disproportionately used as a measuring stick for success. A poor bad league season (say 3rd or 4th place) that resulted in a Final Four would be considered a great success, whereas a league and conference tournament championship that resulted in a 1st round elimination is considered a failure.

I think that is a bit backwards. Now, I didn't run into the streets singing and yelling Wed. night when Kansas clinched a share of its 5th straight league championship, and nothing will top the emotions of an NCAA tourney win. But FIVE straight championships in a powerhouse league is the real measuring stick for Bill Self and his program. That is jaw-droppingly good.

Luckily for Bill he now has his NCAA championship to validate what people who care about the conference have known for years.

true_fan 10 years, 10 months ago

nobodylikesmizzou - I think dagger108 was just pointing out in different fashion what mojayhawk said.

Like most things, there are positives and negatives about the system. But to imply that the student athletes are somehow "abused" becuase they aren't paid is a bit naive. I wish my kids had half the educational advantages at KU that athletes have. How is getting a paid education "unfair"? Just because perhaps a majority of high-profile athletes who don't progress to the next level squander their time on campus and don't graduate? Where does that responsibility lie? With the institution or the individual? If there were less "victim" mentality and a bit more willingness to accept personal responsibility perhaps more of the less athletically gifted individuals would succeed off the field of competition and ON the field of life.

How about a degree before eligibility for a pro career? Perhaps that would "force" some respect for, and attention to, the "real purpose" of them being on campus - to get an education.

Rock Chalk Jay Hawk - KU!

Tim Orel 10 years, 10 months ago

True_fan - while I would like the students to finish their degrees, you're proposing a restriction on the players that no other student has. Every other student can go out and pursue work in their chosen field at any time, and nobody (other than perhaps their parents or significant others) would say anything. Also, not every student really is cut out for the education - sure they'll get tutors and other help, but if they don't really want to be there, why should the students who do want to be in class have to share space with those who don't? No special restrictions should be in force.

Steve Gantz 10 years, 10 months ago

How many people remember any conference tournaments? ESPN classic recently showed a few Duke-NC games (no surprise there) and I couldn't tell you anything about those games. I hardly remember KU conference tourney games. KU hasn't done very well in these tourneys anyway (except for the last few years).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Cincinatti lose Kenyon Martin in a conference tourney game to a broken leg? I think they were the top ranked team in the country. What a waste (not that I have any love for a team coached by a man who would take the K-State job).

As far as paying players, there'd still be abuses, tickets would have to go up, you'd probably end up with kids holding out, because they pay more at one place, or choosing one school over another because the pay is better. Plus, as has been pointed out, they're already receiving 5 years of a college education.

Hawkin8r 10 years, 10 months ago

I liked Calhoun's comment and I would probably say the same thing if I were in his shoes. For a bit more context for anyone that didn't see it, an "activist" posed as a reporter and implied that Calhoun didn't deserve his salary because he was the highest paid state employee and the state was out of money.

It's not arrogant to point out the facts, and running a program that brings in $12M is totally relevant. There very few people who can coach successfully in college, and they get paid well when they succeed. Period. Welcome to America! Or what America used to be...

Michael Auchard 10 years, 10 months ago

"I love the attitude of Matt Kleinmann, the fifth-year Kansas senior whose goal is to be a part of five straight league title teams."

-- Shouldn't this be written in the past-tense? With the Oklahoma loss he's already achieved this goal.

Steve Brown 10 years, 10 months ago

the issue of conf. title vs. conf. tourney champ getting automatic NCAA bid was more critical when each conf. got but one entry or in smaller

also some time ago we struggled with league champ.terminology when during a time the winner of the league tourney said they were league champs...we have that misnomer repaired...the regular conf. league champion is just that...the add on tourney is for fans, fun and the big bucks...and finally today, both get in the big dance..

some of you may not recall before the post conf. tourney started we had the holiday Big 8 tournament in december & in KC each year.....while it meant for nothing it was great fun and kick off to the season....

billrogg 10 years, 10 months ago

I noticed dagger mentioned Wrestling. Unfortunately the University of Kansas does not have wrestling even though our state produces some of the best high school wrestlers in the nation. Where do they go instead? Unfortunately Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State have all had kansas kids on their rosters in recent years. An argument can be made for the Big 12 having the best wrestling in the country as all of the above schools are contenders for either team or individual national championships every year. I went to Fort Hays State vs Stanford they wrestled at Shawnee Hts in Topeka as one of the Stanford wrestlers was from Topeka. The gym was full. If wrestling fans will fill a gym in Topeka, I know we would get great support for a KU team. If its about money it would generate at least enough income to sustain itself. Lets give our Kansas wrestlers an opportunity in Kansas preferably at KU

KUFan90 10 years, 10 months ago

Apparently I'm in the minority here, but I love the Big 12 post season tourney. And I remember many many of KU's Big 12 tourney games. Texas last year? Phenomenal. A rematch with MU this year to break the tie? A rematch with OU full strength with Griffin? I'd have to lose the chance to watch those games next weekend if they happen.

Yes Cincy lost Martin. That was how many years, decades ago? That's your driving example for cancelling all post season tourneys? Not playing games because someone on some team might get hurt every 10 years is the lamest argument I've heard.

Lance Hobson 10 years, 10 months ago

Deep Throat was a coward. Just a guy who was afraid to come out publicly and say what he had to say.

Kind of like everyone on this blog.

100 10 years, 10 months ago

The more these kids play, the better they get, the more exposure they get. Let's face it, as fans we like the extra games.

The kids do their part to make $ for the colleges.

Big deal.

What's wrong with that? It's an honor to play for a college team and get a scholarship.

Enjoy it.

Jack Wilson 10 years, 10 months ago

Mayer: This is a voluntary system, is it not? The offer from the schools is this: "If you would like to play basketball for our school, we will pay for your tuition, books, tutors, food, and many other necessities. We have the right to use your image in marketing, though we won't put your name on the back of jerseys we sell. If you would like to accept this offer, great. If not, then you may apply for scholarships and take out loans like everyone else, or go straight into your chosen profession. We understand the NBA makes you wait until you are 19, so you can certainly make money in Turkey, Italy, or another league until then."

A young man can either accept or reject the offer. It is that simple.

Secondly, you demonize money. You demonize the motivation of money. The pursuit of money is not pure, it is not always pretty, but it is large part what has created the greatest nation on earth, together with the motivation to be the best (see below). With that in mind, I am wondering if you would kindly do what you do for free? It is very clear you resent folks that actually make money. Not just some money, but real money. Perhaps you are jealous, or resentful, that your life and talents don't translate to real money. Or perhaps you don't understand that the real achievers in life find ways to make money off the efforts of others .. brains vs. brawn. That may not be what you would prefer, but it is how it is.

Finally, and this is obviously something you do not understand or comprehend. Most every college athlete is motivated by a single driving force: To be the best. It is not sufficient to compete. The athletes aren't motivated by the money I referenced above. College basketball a beautiful thing. When Chalmers hit the shot to tie last year, no one was concerned with whether he was getting paid more than what he bargained for in coming to Kansas to play basketball (see first point above). Not even Chalmers.

Steve Gantz 10 years, 10 months ago

KUFan90. Did I say cancel the tournament? Just making some arguments against them. I don't get that excited about them. In '88 we lost in the quarterfinals. Obviously that had no bearing on the post season. I'll watch next weekend too. I do remember the spectacular game Chalmers had against Texas a couple years ago. I want to see how we'll handle OU with Griffin. Let's just call it for what it is, a moneymaker and nothing more.

crmsnblu 10 years, 10 months ago

is this a joke mr. mayer?

thank you highelitemajor for pointing out what makes the college basketball AMBIENCE

jaybate 10 years, 10 months ago

Dear Bill,

What was your first clue that it was all about money?

This is a remarkable discovery to be making so late in life. :-)

Tom Gillaspie 10 years, 10 months ago

I think jaybate said it best. IMHO I think that Bill Mayer has run out if anything worthwhile to report. So, he is left with ridiculous ( and obvious) sensationalism.
The past is gone, let's focus on the future and how to be the best college sports program we can be given the current climate.

yates33333 10 years, 10 months ago

Jaybate you're too funny. You mean this has been about money for a long time, and that it will be so in the future? Egads!!!

Joseph Kuebel 10 years, 10 months ago

This article is absolutely ridiculous. Are you joking me to tell me that conference tournaments and winning your conference x times in a row will be/is remembered by anyone else but your bitter rival and in-state rival? This is article might be the most slap in the nuts bullSH|T article I've read in 4.5 years...(to an article written by Jamelle Hill of a ESPN saying that Kobe Bryant was/is better than Michael Jordan). Congratulations Bill Mayer, your article is up there with an article putting Kobe over Jordan...terrible.

Bill my one comment to you is this: It is not the 1950's any longer, and conference tournaments don't take place at the beginning of the season anymore and Never will ever again! Get with the times old man, they've obviously past you up.

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