The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, November 24, 1997, Page 5, Image 5

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    JIM VANCE is a senior
physical and health educa
tion major and a Daily
Nebraskan columnist.
You’re a star.
You have something that makes
everyone look up to you.
You have abilities many dream to
have, athletic abilities that make
grown men weep, and children stare
in awe.
One catch.
You’re broke, no one cares, and
those who want you to perform the
most don’t bother to help you.
You’re everything and nothing all
at once.
You are a student-athlete.
You commit yourself by training
hours daily, mixing weight training
with class work, lifting urtth labs.
When you go home, you scrounge
for money to buy food, clothes, and
pay the bills before your electricity
gets cut off and you freeze to death.
And in your spare time, you’re
helping to generate millions .
How much exactly is millions you
The NCAA will make an estimat
ed $270 million this year alone.
The NCAA has also signed a deal
worth $ 1.7 billion - that’s no typo -
with CBS. Nebraska made an easy $2
million off licensing alone last year.
Meanwhile, the student-athlete
struggles under the very system that
was created to protect diem.
A recent investigation by the
Kansas City Star has revealed many
things about the NCAA that may
make you wonder where exactly all
this money is going, and whether it
should even be going there.
The NCAA, through its officials
who enforce the rules, is exploiting
its own backbone, the athletes.
If the fans of Nebraska think it
would be great to be a Husker, they
will be surprised to find many players
are so broke they can’t buy a cheese
burger or pay the phone bill to call
home to their families.
The scholarships which some
receive - many are walk-ons - only
provide enough to cover tuition, room
and board at their university.
The reason is very simple: The
NCAA rules outline the attitude that
an athlete does not have any unique
needs. Despite all they do and endure,
the NCAA bans “extra benefits” to
student-athletes. Athletes can’t get
anything a normal student can’t.
Since these athletes are involved
in “amateur athletics,” the NCAA is
considered a not-for-profit organiza
tion, meaning major tax breaks on
A friendship with Grant Wistrom,
the All-American senior rush end, has
paid off for my little brother who has
collected many autographs. Being the
gentleman he is, Wistrom obliges to
the autographs, even though he will
never see a penny of the money I paid
just for his picture.
“I feel prostituted. I have no say in
what is done,” Wistrom said recently.
“I realize I should be grateful for a
scholarship, but the risk is minimal
for the NCAA.”
Wistrom is a lucky gentleman,
though. Unlike many student athletes,
he will be able to make money off his
athletic ability in the near future. ^
Another athlete who will be mak
ing money off her athletic ability in
the future is Nebraska shot putter
Tressa Thompson, who finished 12th
in the finals of the World
Championships this summer in
Athens, Greece.
Thompson, like Wistrom, sees
many shortcomings in the NCAA and
the treatment of its athletes.
“People think athletes have it
made. We don’t get the respect we
deserve. Even some of my teachers
are difficult with me, just because I
NCAA makes millions for everyone except amateurs
am an athlete,” Thompson said.
A typical day for Wistrom and
Thompson can start at 8 a.m. for
classes, practice, and studies, and end
at 10 p.m.
With a near 14-hour workday, it is
impossible to even consider getting a
job, which the NCAA doesn’t allow
for scholarship athletes. Even if they
could work, it is very likely that class
room and athletic performance would
Coaches can’t let that happen, or
they lose, too.
The coaches
Some coaches make out like ban
dits while their athletes wonder how
they will pay for Christmas gifts for
their family members.
Steve Fisher, the former
University of Michigan basketball
coach, was receiving $250,000 a year
from Nike, as well as $73,000 a year
in basketball camp revenue and
$84,000 for TV and radio shows. This
does not include what the University
of Michigan was paying him.
John Thompson, the Georgetown
University basketball coach, owns or
has options for an estimated $4.2 mil
lion in Nike stock - some 80,000
shares - and will make $368,000 this
year alone from Nike, plus what
Georgetown pays him.
Even Lute Olson, head coach of
last year’s national champion,
Arizona Wildcats said, “There is no
question we are overpaid.”
Kit Morris, who is a member of
The Knight Commission, which is
trying to reform the NCAA, said,
“coaches are selling something which
does not belong to them, the universi
iy a uaiiit cuiu uiia^c.
Over the next five
years, Nike will give
the University of
Kentucky more
than $8 million,
plus $3 million in
apparel and
equipment, and
three coaches
will get $6 mil
lion of it.
There is no
doubt this
money will
help a uni
but why is it so
much goes to the coach
In defense of many coaches, not
every college coach makes millions,
especially those at smaller schools or
those in die smaller sports. Most
coaches at Nebraska - who are not
among the nation’s best paid - are
compensated with a new vehicle
leased for them from a local dealer
and are only required to pay an
income tax on it.
So does this mean coaches
shouldn’t be paid well if they are win
ning and are continually
putting out -
good citi
No, but
why is there
such a
the rules on the coaches and those we
enforce on athletes?
In actuality, the coaches are just a
very small part of
the pie.
pie running the NCAA, who do not
even take part in an athlete’s life, as
the coaches do?
The executives
The NCAA does not allow ath
letes special benefits, but the execu
tives surely have had no problems
enjoying great benefits themselves.
The manual for cities hosting a
Final Four requires that a series of
gifts be delivered every night to the
hotel rooms of NCAA officials.
These items cost the city of
Indianapolis an estimated $25,000.
The employees of the NCAA also
enjoy paid memberships at golf clubs,
fly first class when traveling - that is
when they are not using the NCAA
LearJet - company cars, and even
special loan rates on homes for them.
All of the above contrasts starkly
with the amateur lifestyles they wish
to impose on all their athletes. In fact,
it has not been uncommon for heads
of the NCAA to take their private
LearJet and fly from the headquarters
building in Kansas City, to the
Augusta National Golf Club, the
home of the Masters Tournament, in
Georgia, for 18 holes.
Boys and girl$ can you say,
A need for change
The NCAA continually finds
ways to spend money on itself, and
prevent money from going to the ath
If the NCAA is going to claim
that they can’t afford to give more
money, then they need to look into
trimming some of the fat.
Namely themselves.
They claim it will cost them $32
million to run their headquarters
building in Kansas City. That is
ridiculous. The NCAA is so guilty of
exploiting its athletes they should
consider themselves very lucky the
American Civil Liberties Union is not
after them.
It’s time for the NCAA to start
helping out its student athletes.
First, give more money with the
scholarships, like a monthly stipend
or wage, to help alleviate the costs of
day-to-day living for the student-ath
letes.Room, board and tuition are not
the only costs of college.
Second, quit breeding mediocrity
and start adding more scholarships
for student-athletes. There is constant
talk of cutting scholarships, and
tougher rules preventing a school
from helping its athletes. They are -r >
cutting costs while revenues are sky
Here at Nebraska, there is a train
ing table in West Stadium. The
Athletic Department could well
afford to make the cost to eat there
very cheap for all 700 of its athletes,
but the NCAA will not let them - it’s
against the rules, a perk for student
“It is a very, very sad time in the
history of the NCAA. It’s going in the
opposite direction it should be,” said
Dave Ellis, the coordinator of perfor
mance nutrition for Nebraska. “I’m
appalled at the direction of NCAA
cost containment legislation and the
negative impact it has had on
t services for stu
Many have seen
he success of the
Nebraska athletic
programs and see
the support they
offer their ath
letes in strength
and condition
ing, nutrition,
sports medicine
and academics.
Hoping to have
the same suc
cess, other
schools attempt
to emulate
When they
find the costs it
would take,
they decide to
rather than
- them.
After all, who
is going to be sym
pathetic to a pro
gram that is win
ning all the time?
All this does is breed mediocrity
among the NCAA. I believe the
NCAA has an unwritten philosophy:
Don’t cure cancer, just infect every
one else with it, so it’s fair.
The NCAA may not care, but
Ellis does. His utopia would be to
have food and money donated to feed
athletes from 6:30 am. to 10:30 p.m.
But the rules just won’t let him do
what he believes is right.
A third area in need of change is
where the punishment falls for those
who break the rules. Who is ultimate
ly responsible for what goes on in a
program, the athletes or the coaches?
If it’s not the athletes, why do we
continually punish them? How about
seeing a school sue a coach or booster
for costing them not only money, and
scholarships for some prospective
students, but for their reputation as an
academic university?
l have never heard or a coach
being held liable, all I hear is where
they are going to go coach next.
Fourth: The NCAA needs to have
a standard ratio for all schools to fol
low, on number of athletes versus
number of trainers provided.
The NCAA was-OfigifBrtly-created
athletes. A play iii football called
“The Flying Wedge” killed 18 players
and injured 149 others. President
Teddy Roosevelt had a son who was
injured and he asked for colleges to
band together and make sports safer.
The result: the NCAA.
Health is not something they
seem too concerned with anymore.
Just last year, a young man named
Seth Dunscomb died during swim
practice at the University of Kansas.
In 1992, a young soccer player named
Terrie Cate died at University of
California at Irvine. In both
instances, proper medical supervision
over the athletes could have saved
Nebraska does well with six full
time trainers, six graduate assistants
and 20 student trainers. Athletes may
sometimes not realize how much bet
ter it is here than other places, but
Nebraska is a minority.
What about those other places?
How many more kids have to die? It
even states in the NCAA’s own con
stitution that colleges must “protect
and enhance” the physical well-being
of athletes. What is keeping them
from getting more trainers?
The answer is simple: greed. The
NCAA is a modern-day Teamsters Union.
Athletes are governed by rules
that allow them to be exploited by
their schools, coaches, athletic
departments, corporations, and even
by the group that is designed to help
and protect them, the NCAA.
Of course no school will admit to
exploiting its athletes. They will say they
are sympathetic; but the feet remains the
schools are just following die rules.
Now it is time for these schools to
stand up for their athletes and put a stop to
the trend of cuttii^ support for athletes.
Student-athlete advisory boards,
which represents the athletes, to make
a commitment to change the NCAA.
They must pressure the NCAA at its
conventions, in public forums, even
make house calls to complain.
If they ask for the fans’ support
and push for their cause, who knows
how much better things would get
“It is a very, very sad time in the history of the NCAA. It’s going
in the opposite direction it should be.”
Dave Ellis
NU coordinator of performance nutrition