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SI FOR KIDS
by Rick Reilly
Posted: Tue April 28, 1998
You won't believe who just set the NCAA back 25 years. The NCAA! Last week it did the single dumbest thing to college sports since Chris Webber took math. It's going to allow athletes to take jobs during the school year that are set up by team boosters. Boosters!
Whoo-eeee, this is going to be rich.
Seven-foot-six student-athlete: "Uh, I'm here about the job?"
Insanely rich booster: "Well, that's fine, son. Your job is to shovel my walk and driveway twice a week."
Seven-foot-six student-athlete: "Uh, well, ain't we in Gainesville?"
Insanely rich booster: "Well, hell, son, that's why it don't pay but $72.50 an hour!"
Welcome to the era of the $10,000 Domino's tip. The NCAA spent a thousand years trying to keep boosters from players, and now, with the go-ahead last week from the Division I board of directors15 apparently brain-dead college presidentsthe boosters are permitted to pay players!
HELP WANTED: Doorstop operator. No experience necessary. No references necessary. No work necessary. 4.3 speed in the 40 necessary.
"This thing is so chockful of problems, it'll never work," says Colorado football coach Rick Neuheisel. "We just lost the Southwest Conference to boosters, and now we're bringing boosters right back in."
The new rule is known as Proposition 62, the coaches detest it, and it starts on Aug. 1. Athletes can earn as much as $2,000 during a school year by working in jobs arranged through the athletic department, coaches or "athletic interests." Your basic athletic interest is a fat guy who wears Georgia underwear, has a doorbell that plays the Georgia fight song and owns the Dawg-Gone Good Lincoln-Buick-Isuzu dealership in Athens.
Son, get this car washed and have it back by next summer.
"I can see it coming," says Texas A&M football coach R.C. Slocum. "Some of these recruits, first thing they're going to ask: 'How good a job you going to get me? How much does it pay? And how little work do I got to do?'"
Guaran-damn-tee you, not much. One summer Washington football players made $400 a week working for a booster's real-estate company, and the hardest part was driving to the office to pick up their checks. Another summer a Florida State tackle got $100 to wash a booster's Jeep.
What did these presidents have their watches set to1952? Did they think Coach Wilkinson would get the boys paper routes? Did they think, in this day and age, Peyton Manning was going to stand there in a blue smock going, "Hi, and welcome to Wal-Mart!"?
Where do the presidents think athletes are going to find time to work during the season? Have you ever seen a college hoops star's schedule? Classes until 2, watch some game video, practice at 3, finish at 5:30, shower, eat dinner, watch more game tape until 7, maybe a team meeting until 8, then study table until 10. What's he going to do after that? Sweep up at the general store? Uh, Mr. Drucker, I need Friday off. I'm on Letterman.
So what some athletes will do is take bogus work with some plaid-stricken booster, a job that requires being on 24-hour call in case of attack by Guam.
Work during the season? These guys do work during the season. They're making their colleges millions and getting bupkus in return. Even the off-season is a joke. In 1952 the players might not have had mandatory weight room, mandatory conditioning and mandatory study table in the off-season, but they do now. Summer school, too.
Athletes deserve money, but getting it from boosters is dumber than a cement bikini. This thing invites every cheat, influence peddler and game fixer right in the front door. Hey, Stretch, you know that little bonus I got you? Well, I might not tell them ol' boys at the N-C-Double-A if you'd see clear to miss a couple free throws tonight.
There's a way to pay the players without sending them over to Sneaky Stan's House of Stolen Appliances. Give every scholarship athlete $200 a month to see a movie, buy a pair of jeans and call home once in a while. The money would come from the bijillions the NCAA could make from January Madness, an exciting and lucrative four-week football playoff that would finally make crowning a national champion fair and save us forever from the Poulan/Weed Eater Carquest Bowl presented by Nissan.
Write them. Fax them. E-mail them. Tell the presidents to 86 62.
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photograph by Robert Beck
Issue date: May 4, 1998
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