College Sports ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-Nots’

Here is a good comment turned into an article. Enjoy…

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the days of equal playing fields have long departed. There are the “have’s” and the “have not’s.” Pitt unfortunately seems to fall somewhere in the middle but leaning towards the Have Not’s.

Times have changed remarkably since the heydays of Majors-Sherrill with roster limitations; coaching salaries; and national population migrations. Pitt no longer has the rich territory that produced so many All-Americans and Hall of Fame players. The population density has diminished greatly while school budgets are stressed leaving little for best coaching and development of kids. Western PA and Pitt have experienced the decline in available recruits. We only can look to improving our reach into former ACC Southern-SEC-and neighboring Ohio and New Jersey. All of this is without the reality of what the competition is doing.

Yes, PSU, OSU, ND, Michigan, Clemson, and the entire SEC play a very different game with much larger alumni support, greater number of alumni, and healthy athletic budgets. Pitt does not have those advantages nor do they have a local populace desperate for football except for professional sports. Tough spot to be in for Pitt.

Kids are sometimes misused and sometimes suffer life long injuries from their athletic participation. Kids need money for whatever such as hamburgers, romance, and fun activities. Fortunately the NCAA is beginning to recognize that the nearly year round training for collegiate athletics deprives kids a chance to earn summer money etc. But, we’re a long way from adequately compensating kids half of whom are in sports for the future opportunities rather than their academic potential. We need to stop kidding ourselves that sports is so terrific other than for bragging rights and possibly to make the school brand more attractive to lure in higher paying better students.

Yet, did anyone notice that Pitt is trying to keep up with comparative pay. But, that money is not coming from heavy alumni donations. Counting on increased payout on conference contracts is sort of like betting on coal mining coming back. Cable and broadcast are still making money but the current trend is streaming content. At the same time the participation in football have been struggling at many communities as parents worry about safety unlike prior generations. So, recognize the reality of what is happening except in certain parts of the country and their local culture (high school and college football is next to God and Country in the SEC areas). Pitt surely is looking at these changes in their long term planning and budgeting.

Also the simple reality as I see it is that college sports are being restructured by the biggest conferences to creating a minor league of professional athletic programs. But, no real support from the NBA or NFL, just live with it until you can’t and then drop out.

I love Pitt football and basketball but reality says to me that perhaps Pitt is much better taking Carnegie Tech’s (yeah, yeah I know Carnegie Mellon) approach and focus on truly outstanding academics and research for the university’s reputation and growth. I remember being pushed to go to Princeton for pre-law and foreign affairs or Carnegie Tech for architecture, but my love of Pitt won out. It wasn’t a bad choice at all and I did make it to Harvard in graduate school after law school. Eventually you realize that all the sports in the world doesn’t do a damn thing for supporting yourself and your family or ambitions unless you are a genuine pro prospect.

I would miss football and basketball but would appreciate an even higher perception of the University of Pittsburgh academically.