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College football is idiot-proof and will thrive despite having to pay players | Commentary

Will you please halt all of the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing?

Cease and desist with all of the castigation and consternation.

And, for the sake of the late and great Beano Cook, stop with these ridiculous doomsday scenarios that college football is circling the drain now that the NCAA and the power conferences have agreed to allow schools to directly pay players for the first time in the 155-year history of the sport.

Believe me, college football will not only continue to survive, it will thrive just as it always has for one very simple reason:

It’s idiot-proof.

Completely and totally idiot-proof.

The leaders, er, non-leaders of college athletics have been trying to screw up the game for generations, but somehow some way it just keeps getting bigger and better.

In fact, I believe this week’s groundbreaking settlement of a federal antitrust lawsuit — a decision that has compelled the NCAA and its member schools to pay more than $2.7 billion in reparations over 10 years to past athletes and forced  them into a revenue-sharing plan in which each school will spend up to roughly $20 million per year to pay its athletes — might actually help. That’s right; it might actually convince college football leaders to — gasp! — practice fiscal restraint and stop spending money like Aunt Phyllis on Black Friday.

Granted, I’ve been told by a handful of college athletic leaders, including UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir and Florida AD Scott Stricklin, that there currently isn’t the $20-25 million in most schools’ athletic budgets to pay players. And, yes, there is certainly a huge fear that many of the non-revenue Olympic sports like tennis, track, swimming and golf could get cut if schools are responsible for paying all of their athletes.

It’s not so far-fetched to envision a day when all of these football-funded athletic departments will field a football team, a men’s basketball team and a baseball team with a corresponding number of women’s sports such as basketball, softball and soccer. The rest of the Olympic endeavors would then become club sports made up of students who are already on campus. This could be devastating to the United States Olympic movement, which has greatly benefitted from a collegiate feeder system whereby Division I schools spend an estimated $5 billion annually on Olympic sports.

Of course, it doesn’t have to come to that; there are plenty of places where colleges can cut costs and come up with enough money to pay athletes.

Let’s start with this: Stop giving college football coaches these foolish fully-guaranteed $10-year, $100 million contracts and then having to pay Jimbo Fisher $77 million over the next eight years after you fire him. If Texas A&M took the $77 million in buyout money it’s giving Jimbo, it could pay all 85 of its scholarship football players about $113,000 a year over that same eight-year span.

Also, let’s stop hiring an army of football staff members you don’t really need. Does Florida coach Billy Napier, who reportedly has the biggest support staff in the SEC, really need 75 support staff members with titles like Gamechanger Coordinator and Director of Football Logistics? It’s become the norm for schools to spend mega-millions every year on football support staff that includes dozens of analysts, quality control coaches, video assistants, trainers, tutors, sports psychologists and nutritionists. Hell, the grad assistants even have grad assistants.

My running joke over the last couple of years has been: Do college football programs really need a Coffee-Making Coordinator and a Director of Cream and Sugar Dispersal?

As iconic former UF coach Steve Spurrier told the Florida Times-Union recently: “Just because you hire the most people doesn’t mean you’re going to win. All these extra people, I question how much that really helps.”

Cracked Spurrier once when I asked him how many nutritionists he had on his staff when he was dominating the SEC: “We had one, and it was me. I used to go around during meals and tell the players to stop eating just meat and potatoes and go put something green on their plates. That’s how we handled nutrition back then.”

Finally, let’s stop building swanky facilities and stadiums just for the sake of building them. These plush palaces are equipped with fancy Italian tile, barber shops, swimming pools, mini golf courses, laser-tag rooms, lazy rivers, virtual reality studios and zero-gravity chairs.

Former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath told me once about the years when he lived in Austin and became friends with the soccer coaches at the University of Texas. One day, one of the coaches informed Heath that the Longhorns were breaking ground on a new soccer stadium.

Heath was startled.

“Why are you building a new stadium?” Heath asked in his British brogue. “The one you have now is quite nice.”

Said the coach: “Our athletic department has all of this money, so we need to spend it on something.”

Now they can spend it on paying players, which is probably where they should have been spending it decades ago. If college presidents, ADs and conference commissioners had had just a modicum of foresight, they could have avoided the mass chaos happening today involving the transfer portal, NIL and now pay-for-play.

Then again, college football has lacked foresight and innovation throughout its history. These incompetent leaders have done their best to ruin the game with their selfish, greedy motives. They’ve allowed conferences to cannibalize each other in the name of the almighty TV dollar and disregarded traditional rivalries and geographical logic.

They’ve made the NCAA irrelevant by negotiating their own separate TV contracts and by cutting their own governing body out of the College Football Playoff process.

Only begrudgingly — at the order of the federal government — did they allow college players to earn money through NIL and then absurdly put rules in place saying that fans and boosters were in charge of raising the cash and doling it out to the players. All so they could preserve the illusion of amateurism.

Through it all, college football has and will survive because it is more than just a game; it is a social and cultural phenomenon that unites communities and galvanizes fan bases. Throughout the generations, the lifeblood of the sport flows not from the boardrooms but from the tailgates and living rooms across America.

The game endures and grows and is somehow immune to the turmoil and anarchy surrounding it.

College football, more than any other business in the history of the world, is utterly and completely idiot-proof.

Email me at moc.lenitnesodnalro@ihcnaibm. Hit me up on X (formerly Twitter) @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and 969TheGame.com/listen

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