‘Costas Tonight’ dives into the dysfunction of college athletics

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As we mentioned in a primer a couple of days ago, “Costas Tonight: Live from 30 Rock” held a town hall/round table style special on the pressing issues of college athletics.

To reiterate the words of Bob Costas, not every angle was covered and not every voice was heard, but a few issues were brought up. Here were the highlights:

Pay for play
By now, you probably know the story. The NCAA originally passed legislation last fall to allow schools and conferences to add up to an additional $2,000 to the value of an athletic scholarship to their athletes. That proposal was met with enough opposition by Division 1 members to suspend it until what is now being reported to be an August revisit.

The issue itself is worthy of an extended deadline. Do schools allow college athletes to be paid their free market value, as ex-agent Josh Luchs suggested in a Sports Illustrated column?* Should there be a compromise and recognition that participating in college athletics is a full-time job that has a zero dollar cap? Or, is the value of an education, books, food, housing, etc enough?

(*that’s never going to happen; I’m just laying out ideas)

Joe Nocera of the New York Times related college athletics to “unpaid labor” and outlined a plan to where programs allowed a multi-million salary cap for teams where a minimum salary of $25,000 was given and select players could get more.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said “athletes deserve more than what they’re getting. What they get is not equal to what they’re giving up.”

CFT’s take: Let’s be honest about paying players. What does it mean and are we okay with the consequences? The truth of the matter is that universities provide ample resources for their athletes, from the educational, to the financial for, say, an emergency trip home. The life of a college athlete isn’t exactly that of the starving student it’s sometimes made out to be.

With that said, playing sports is a full-time job for these athletes. Not a part-time job, a full-time job. And it’s one that offers limited, although not nonexistent, opportunities for compensation elsewhere during the academic year. The question we need to ask is what’s the dollar amount associated with the time that is being put toward the sport vs. what the athletes need. Minimum wage? Skilled labor? That’s what athletes should be compensated.

It’s about finding a middle ground.

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The BCS vs. playoff debate
BCS executive director Bill Hancock said during tonight’s broadcast, as he has said time and time again, that major college football’s regular season is the playoff.

It isn’t, and Hancock knows it. Costas promptly called Hancock on his bogus spin, pointing to teams like Boise State and TCU, which had undefeated seasons in years past and yet no shot at a BCS title. Hancock was speechless. As in, he had no response.

How can I describe it? In the movie “The Royal Tenembaums”, Ben Stiller‘s character accused Gene Hackman of stealing savings bonds out of an account. All Hackman’s character could do was chuckle helplessly and awkwardly in response.

It was like that.

But BCS leaders, to their credit, have listened to enough backlash to understand something needed to be done. So they met. And met again. And will continue to meet until July. And today, we found out that postseason ideas have basically been grouped into four categories, one of which reeks so profoundly of BCS slime that I’m not convinced Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wasn’t just screwing with our heads out of boredom.

CFT’s take: There’s not much that hasn’t already been said. Anything — well, except for the now-infamous Rose Bowl idea — would be almost an immediate improvement over the current system, no matter how small or displaced. To me, there are four individuals who are running away with the oversight in college football. You can probably guess who they are, but just in case, here’s a hint: they run the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. If/when they decide outsourcing their postseason to third parties is tiring, they’ll adapt. And so will the rest of college football.

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Conference realignment
This has been downright frustrating. Driving the scenarios where San Diego State plays in the Big East, Missouri is in the same division as Florida and two conferences fold into one to form a 24-team hodgepodge has been the pursuit of the ever-lucrative TV dollar.

After two years of shifting, moving and near-superconferences, South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard was asked tonight if the realignment craze had gone too far.

The answer, of course, is an emphatic yes, but you can click the video below to see a longer answer. If nothing else, it’s interesting to get the perspective of an AD whose own conference was nearly annihilated by realignment… and then nearly annihilated another conference in the process.

CFT’s take: Realignment is a bittersweet game for us. On one hand, we’re never opposed to the benefit it brings our site, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t make the 2011 season a lot less enjoyable on the field. The worst part is the feeling of helplessness that comes with it. Tradition? Whatever, big deal. Contractual agreements? Nothing more than the paper used to light celebratory cigars following the addition of a new school to a new conference. How can you or I — the common folk — argue with the almighty dollar, no matter how weak it is compared to the Euro?

The short answer is we can’t.

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Other items from the docket tonight that didn’t necessarily involve football:

— ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, new South Carolina coach Frank Martin and former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie shared their thoughts about the one-and-done rule in college basketball. Bilas, as you might imagine, had zero issue with it, Martin wanted it taken out entirely and Flutie did his best to support staying in school. Martin suggested going back to the rule where freshman must sit out a year before playing varsity sports.

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— Former Mizzou receiver Sean Coffey was part of a panel discussing academics. Coffey said he felt sports operate essentially as a full-time job for athletes, and agreed with Costas’ assertion that academic advisers work to help athletes stay eligible, not enhance the educational experience. I think it’s fair, though, to point out that college will always be what the athlete — or you, your son or daughter  — makes of it.

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— NCAA president Mark Emmert sat down with Costas for a one-on-one interview. In between a handful of “I agrees” and “you’re rights”, Emmert acknowledged it was time to cut down on “trivial” violations and increase severity of sanctions for major infractions. That’s been the goal for the past year, but nothing definitive has been done yet because, well, it’s not as simple as ripping out the pages of the NCAA’s rulebook.

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Miami fires offensive coordinator Josh Gattis after 1 season

josh gattis fired
Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami fired offensive coordinator Josh Gattis on Friday, ending the former Broyles Award winner’s time with the Hurricanes after only one season.

The school announced the move in a one-sentence press release, with no other detail: “Josh Gattis has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator, Miami head football coach Mario Cristobal announced Friday,” read the release, sent from a university spokesman.

The Hurricanes went 5-7 in Gattis’ lone season. He was brought in by Miami only a few weeks after winning the 2021 Broyles Award – given to the nation’s top assistant coach – while serving as Michigan’s offensive coordinator and helping the Wolverines reach the College Football Playoff.

But Miami’s offense, for a number of reasons, failed to meet expectations in 2022. Part of that was injuries; starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke battled a shoulder injury, and the Hurricanes turned to Jake Garcia – who has since transferred – and Jacurri Brown for much of the season.

Miami scored 100 points in its first two games last fall, overpowering Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss. The Hurricanes averaged only 18.3 points the rest of the way, and finished the year 5-0 in games where the defense allowed no more than 14 points – but 0-7 when opponents scored more than 14.

Miami was 86th nationally in total offense last season, averaging 367.1 yards per game, and 97th in scoring offense.

Gattis played at Wake Forest and worked at North Carolina, Western Michigan, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Alabama and Michigan before coming to Miami.

Audit: LSU discovered $1M overpayment to Kelly in 2022

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU accidentally overpaid Tigers football coach Brian Kelly by $1 million during the first year of a 10-year, $100 million contract, but discovered the error and has moved to correct it, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office said Wednesday.

Kelly was overpaid $1,001,368 in supplemental payments in 2022 because duplicate payments made both to Kelly’s LLC and to the coach directly.

The double payments began in May and continued until LSU officials detected the errors in November.

“LSU management and the head football coach have enacted an adjusted payment schedule so the amount of overpayment will be recouped by the conclusion of fiscal year 2023,” the Legislative Auditor’s report stated.

Kelly, who previously coached at Notre Dame for 12 seasons, was hired by LSU after the 2021 season, when the Tigers went 6-7 for its first losing season since 1999.

LSU exceeded expectations in Kelly’s first season in Baton Rouge, winning the SEC West Division and finishing 10-4 after a 63-7 victory over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl.