It’s What Happens Next

October 17, 2017

It is when I read opinions such as this one from Norman Chad last month for the Charleston (SC) Gazette-Mail, that I know the cause is right to keep frustrating the arms race in high school sports.

“College football is so wrong for so many reasons and that’s before we even get to the latest academic fraud at Florida State. It is money ill-spent and time ill-spent, an alarming hidden-in-broad-daylight repudiation of our institutions of higher learnings’ supposed core mission.

“Let’s round up the usual suspects:

“Alabama’s outside linebackers coach makes more money than its university president. University President Stuart Bell’s salary is $755,000.

“This likely reflects the fact that outside linebackers impact the Tuscaloosa campus more than, say, National Merit Scholars. It also brings to mind 1930, when Babe Ruth’s $80,000 salary eclipsed President Hoover’s $75,000 salary; called on it, the Bambino said, ‘I had a better year.’

“Still and don’t get me wrong, I realize that Alabama’s outside linebackers are the Lamborghini of outside linebackers. It’s hard to fathom that Lupoi makes nearly a million dollars annually just to deal with outside linebackers. Somehow he doesn’t have enough time in the day to give even a sideways glance to an inside linebacker.

“Of course, this all starts at the top, with Alabama Coach Nick Saban, at $11.125 million this year, the nation’s highest paid public employee. Some argue he is undercompensated; the entire state economy apparently is tied to Saban’s ability to go 12-1 every season.

“Just below Saban are defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, earning $1.3 million, and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, earning $1.2 million. Saban, clearly and correctly, favors good defense over good offense to the tune of 100k a year.

“Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide’s strength and conditioning coach, Scott Cochran, makes $535,000. I also have no problem here; strength and conditioning are the backbones of America, though tragically omitted from our founding fathers’ Declaration of Independence.

“But where I draw the line on athletic excess is this: Cochran lords over a 36,000-square-foot weight room; as a rule, Coach Slouch sees no reason any weight room ever need to exceed 30,000 square feet.

“Texas has remodeled and renovated its football locker room and weight room. Man, evidently you cannot run a first-rate FBS program without state-of-the-art dumbbells.

“But let’s bypass the weight room here and focus on the locker room.

“Extravagant locker rooms are all the rage. Texas A&M’s new facility includes a barbershop, UAB’s facility has a nutrition center and Clemson’s sports two bowling lanes.

“Which brings us to Austin, where each player’s locker at Texas cost $8,700.

“Uh, $8,700 FOR A LOCKER?

“I mean, this is where you keep your cleats, your jockstrap, your deodorant and, back in the day, a copy of Playboy. But these are no ordinary lockers; above each of the 126 lockers, where a nameplate might normally be, is a 43-inch video monitor.

“That’s right, a locker room with 126 flat-screen TVs.

“It’s essentially Buffalo Wild Wings, without the liquor license.

“Maryland unveils an almost-paid-for new indoor football practice field. My spiritually bankrupt and financially bereft alma mater continues to push that in-the-red athletic rock up the hill, trying to keep up with the Joneses and Harbaughs in the Big Ten.

“To that end, they have renovated Cole Field House, with a center for sports medicine, an academy for entrepreneurship and the school’s first indoor football home.

“It’s a shiny new penny! Go Terps!!!

“I hope it doesn’t cost too many nickels and dimes.

“Actually, it cost only $155 million, mostly privately financed, with fiscally challenged university president Wallace Loh saying the project has raised two-thirds of its $90 million fundraising goal.

“So they have built something rather expensive that they have not paid for yet. Reminds me of the first rule of money management: Live within your means.

“I hope there’s at least a nice weight room in there.”

Detachment of athletics from academics is 90 percent complete in NCAA Division I football and basketball. We should hold up that track record as the example of what will happen when, step by step, we expand the scope of school sports. Intersectional and national events for high school sports teams are not merely expensive frills; they are dangerous.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.