Money driving force behind college decisions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2003

Gene Jones was a very wise man.

I remember a lot of things about the former Ironton High School assistant principal who also served as an assistant coach.

But the one thing that really sticks out was his comment on the athletics and those involved. "When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money," were Jones' profound words.

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It is money that has cause such disinterest among the American fan toward professional sports and its overpaid athletes.

The interest in the college game in many sports -- not just football and basketball -- has grown because of the perception that the game is much more pure than the professional game.

That is true only to a point.

Most athletes in school are hoping to get a chance to play and earn a degree along the way. Unlike the pros who get their big salary even if they have a miserable season, a college player is bench if his or her play goes in the tank.

Still, there are those few who are more concerned about jumping ship early and going to the pro ranks in order to make the big money void of

performance clause.

Coaches are looking for lucrative long-term deals, but can be fired if they don't win often enough or big enough. And athletic directors are hoping to secure as many home games as possible for additional revenue, especially via the television variety, no matter who the patsy opponent.

The recent raid on the Big East by the ACC that landed both Miami and Virginia Tech was motivated by money by all parties. Miami needed more money because, despite its on-the-field success, the fan base was only so-so for such a formidable program.

Virginia Tech jumped at a chance to make more money, and the ACC secured a bigger payday with more possible bowl representatives and the opportunity to run the season-ending conference championship game scam.

But there is a flicker of integrity remaining. Last week at the Big Ten Kickoff news conference, coaches and administrators showed their disdain for a conference playoff, noting it would diminish season-ending rivalries like Ohio State and Michigan.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the conference felt no urgent need to expand (there is a renewed interest in Notre Dame after the Big East raid) or institute a championship game.

Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said not only do Big Ten coaches oppose such a game, but coaches in leagues with a championship game aren't happy.

''As I've visited with some of the other coaches in the leagues who have playoffs, I don't think any of them are very excited about (it),'' Alvarez said. ''I think it diminishes some of the season and I think it's a letdown for the team that's had a great season, and then puts their season on the line for a playoff game.

''The reason, and the only reason, is for a paycheck.''

Alvarez must have been listening to Gene Jones.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.