We all know why those two young men were “interested” in Maryland. The marketing folks at Under Armour were “sponsoring” their AAU team. I know, I know, what a coinicidence, huh? But that’s what happened. They had a pre-existing relationship that was purely ethical, all parties say, but anyone with a brain knows the truth. The twins chose Nike on Thursday and the University of Kentucky just happened to be stuffed in the same stocking. This was Phil Knight pumping his company and their ability to make the boys lots of post-college dough. It was Phil Knight telling those two, “Under Armour exists BECAUSE of Nike. They all want to be like me. Who would you rather hang around? The guy who has done it or the guy that is trying to do it?”
And the kids did, too. They are now officially “set for life” as long as they keep playing good basketball and stay out of jail and off the police blotter for about 21 months. That’s all that separates the Harrison’s from having more money than they could possibly ever spend. Just don’t do anything stupid for 21 months…the equivalent of their senior year in high school and the 9 months or so they’ll spend at Kentucky before entering the NBA draft in June of 2014.
I talked about this subject on Thursday morning’s show during our “Cheap Shots from The Bleacher” segment. You can hear it right here in our Buy A Toyota.com audio vault. As you can tell by listening, I’m not writing this tonight because Maryland lost out on those two basketball players. I’d be writing this right now had Maryland won their services. Either way, it’s a horrible message to send, basically notifying everyone that you’re giving up the good life for a chance to join the mob.
One of our regular college sports callers, Kevin in Bel Air, chimed in after my cheap shot and took exception to my position. Kevin is a very astute college sports follower. He really does know his stuff. He was in the business for some period of time back in the 1990’s I believe. Anyway, Kevin said, in so many words, “What these kids and their parents are doing is basically taking advantage of free enterprise.” Kevin also inserted the long-standing argument about college athletes making money for the schools and not getting their due worth in return.
I nearly laughed out loud at the words “free enterprise”, but they’re very close to being accurate. What the kids want is, in fact, the ability to produce “free enterprise”. However, that’s not what college sports should be.
Free enterprise is just another term for “get what you can, for as long as you can, and by whatever means you can…” It’s also code word for “don’t report your income to the government”, which turns out to be one of the major issues with these colleges and their boosters who throw untaxed money and goods around like they’re Pez dispensers at the kindergarten open house.
Some would consider robbing banks or jewelry stores as “free enterprise”. If you can get away with a stick-up, it’s probably a pretty good line of work to get into during a down economy.
Here’s what you COULD do to level the playing field in college sports. Make every single of them entrepreneurs. Give ‘em all a post-card size area on their uniform that they “own” and let them go out and get what they can get for it. If they can get $50,000 to have the UPS logo on their football jersey, good for them. Hell, you can even throw in a P.A. announcement or two during the games…”Now batting for Maryland, the 2nd baseman, brought to you by Nick’s Pizzeria on Calhoun Street, #4 Billy Phillips.”
Allowing the players to peddle their own wares — and that means ALL athletes in every sport — you’d immediately provide an opportunity for the “better” ones to get more for their efforts, which is what today’s college cheating formula comes down to, right? If you’re just a roster-filler kind of guy or girl, you better be happy with scholarship money. But if you’re a blue-chipper, you get whatever you can. So…the roster-filler might be able to get passes to the local movie theater for his “uniform logo” while the star quarterback gets $100,000 for allowing Pepsi to advertise on his jersey.
You ask…”what’s the difference between that scenario and what’s going on now?” Answer: Everything. It’s not seedy. It’s not “under the table”. It’s not “illegal”. It’s – ahem – FREE ENTERPRISE.
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