"What time did you get to bed last night, Scribe? I said physically. I didn't say a coach couldn't write a letter, or make a phone call, or vice versa. Or get some film shipped in. If a kid in San Diego wants to go to Notre Dame, let Dan Devine write him a letter. Dan likes to write letters. A 13-cent stamp beats a thousand-dollar air fare. And it wouldn't hurt to have the final offer in writing and notarized, too."
"What about the service academies?"
"Waive the rule. They've got enough problems, as it is."
I offered a match to rekindle his cigar, and he went on more calmly.
"Now for the nuts and bolts. Parity isn't just a police action. A school that wants to be up there has to ask itself if it wants to pay the price. What are its vested interests? How important is it to compete with the best, to vie for bowl games, a TV spot? Even the national championship? Does it want those things, or does it want to be in the Ivy League? And does it have a stadium that seats 35,000, 40,000?"
"What does the stadium have to do with it?"
"Everything. A school with a 15,000-seat stadium will never be compatible with a school that has a 70,000-seat stadium. It can't hack the compensation ratio. It can only make real money on the road, playing big-draw schools, because most big-draw schools won't waste their time playing in a small stadium. Figure it up: if take-home pay were $7 a ticket, teams participating in a 70,000-seat sellout would share $490,000. In a 15,000-seat stadium, they would share $105,000.
"Of course, stadia size won't matter, either, if the rich continue to make power plays on the poor and forget they're all in this together. Alabama put it on one school last year because the school was in a slump and wasn't drawing at home, though it had a big stadium. Alabama said either come to our place or we cancel. Not very nice, and very shortsighted. The teams that are down need some big home games to pull themselves back up. Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State tried to pressure Indiana this year, tried to make Indiana switch those three games out of Bloomington. Indiana said no. Good for them. It may be absurd for a school with a small stadium to crave a home game with a team as powerful as Michigan, but it wouldn't wreck Michigan's budget—those people are crawling in dough—to play before 35,000 fans at another institution once in a while. The superpowers have to exercise some sufferance. Noblesse oblige, damn it!"
He was up again, waving Milton around.
"Television has done this—it's made moneygrubbers of the big teams," he said. "Like a friend of mine in Kansas City says, the pot gets bigger and bigger and the wheel keeps going faster and faster, like a centrifuge, throwing off those who can't hang on. Television rights have tripled in the last 10 years—to a record $18 million. ABC has good reason to be generous, of course. The Nielsen ratings were up 12%. So this year, teams in a nationally televised game will share half a million bucks, and in regional games, $380,000. That kind of money can float an entire athletic program.