ENGSTER: Athletes should get college shoe contract revenues

The 30 largest schools in the country annually generate more than $100 million from their respective athletic programs. This windfall has resulted in stratospheric salaries for coaches and comfortable compensation for many administrators. Those who produce the treasure are left out on pay day. After all, they are amateurs, not professionals.

Well-conditioned athletes, who provide a viable product to reward many obese handlers at campus sports factories, invest much of their time concentrating on having the body necessary to compete and the skill required to succeed. Their benefits are dramatically lower than entry-level workers at sports information outlets due to the pretense of the scholar-athlete. Meanwhile, the nation’s top six conferences reap around $7 billion in revenues each year. Gladiators are expected to perform at high levels and low costs to make their head coaches multi-millionaires.

Louisville Basketball Coach Rick Pitino lost his job when he was accused of participating in a $100,000 payment from Adidas to the family of a top recruit. Louisville is receiving $160 million over ten years from the shoemaker, so the accusations, if true, involve a percentage of .00625 of the total amount in shoe money paid to the university.

The time is right for athletes to enjoy the fruits of their harvest, and an appropriate way to accomplish this goal is to allow them to negotiate shoe contracts individually and cut the middle man out. In an ideal world, recruits would receive payment from shoe companies based on their potential while universities would haul in substantial money from media contracts, ticket sales and sponsorships for the privilege of having the nation’s best players wear their colors.

It is disgusting to see some lard-assed coaches across the land getting millions from shoe contracts while athletes are wearing the sneakers to make their coaches fat and happy. Those most worthy are getting no legal income from lucrative transactions that require their sweat and blood and talent and none from sedentary strategists.

An NCAA change that would shift shoe proceeds from paunchy guys in suits to the warriors on the court is long overdue. This move would provide some equity for players while coaches would no longer be obliged to dole out secret dollars to recruits.

 How about an offseason Tiger Trade?

Dr. David Baker is a devoted public official who has supplied expert care for LSU’s mascot for 23 years. When Baker arrived in TigerTown in 1996, LSU’s Bengal in residence was dutifully attending home football games and intimidating visitors to Death Valley. This policy has since been eradicated with an edict from the university that Mike VII not be carted to a location anywhere close to Nick Saban or other invaders to the hallowed turf on the west side of campus.

Mike VII is a spectacular looking big cat. At around 500 pounds, he looks fierce, but is not much bigger than the average offensive lineman on the LSU team. If a 370-pound offensive tackle can huff and puff for four quarters, it is not too much to ask Mike to show up seven times a year to help his school to win all of its home games. LSU has not enjoyed an unbeaten home season since 2013 when a previous Mike was terrorizing foes with gusto.

Dr. Baker recently spoke at a forum on animals in society at the LSU Veterinary School and delivered an eloquent history of Mike the Tiger, part of the lore of the Ole War School since 1936. The medical veteran advocated continuation of a Tiger mascot, noting the love that LSU alumni, students and fans have for Mike. Dr. Baker at the same time spoke strongly against any encore of trotting Mike across the street to hear the roar of 100,000 blood-thirsty patrons.

The current Mike has been trained to be a pacifist, so it would be cruel to force him to leave his $3.2 million dollar estate and experience an arena full of sounds and sights outside his comfort zone. The only Tiger with more lavish digs than the LSU Bengal is named Woods, and he logs time on golf courses, not at football palaces.

The recommendation from this corner is that LSU execute an off-season trade and acquire a London Tiger, who is a known killer, and ship Mike across the ocean to enjoy a luxurious retirement in the United Kingdom.

A few weeks ago at London Zoo, a high-risk matchmaking endeavor ended tragically when a new male resident mauled a female tiger as soon as they were officially introduced. Seven-year-old Asim was shipped in from Denmark to get to know ten-year-old Melati, a longtime fixture at the Regent’s Park location billed as the world’s oldest scientific zoo with more than one million visitors each year.

The New York Times produced two highly read stories about this horrible example of speed dating. The animals got to know each other about as long as New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was acquainted with his masseuse before allegedly paying her $100 for an eleven minute encounter at a Florida mall.

The aggressive Asim is so reviled that he was not pictured in either of the accounts by the NY Times while the victim Melati is pictured in her majestic beauty before the attack. “Asim was chauffeured to the zoo in a custom-designed travel crate filled with top-notch tiger essentials — warm straw, climate control, snacks and drinks,” said a statement from the London Zoo.

With Asim regarded as a dreadful villain throughout Europe, his migration to LSU would be welcome. He would be so pleased to get away from haters that the ferocious fellow would gladly report for duty at Tiger Stadium a few Saturdays each fall.

Think of the fear of the Alabama team when it is learned that a deadly cat with the record to prove it is positioned to greet them at the locker room door. Asim is the perfect cat to restore the LSU reputation as the most intimidating stadium in North America.

Fifty-six universities use the tiger as a nickname. LSU is one of the few remaining schools with a live mascot. This is a golden opportunity for the university to give Asim a good home with thousands of people encouraging his natural behavior. The first Mike was originally named Sheik, so Asim can become Mike VIII as he seeks solace in Louisiana.

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Jim Engster | President, Tiger Rag

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