For the last few months, the sanctity of the NCAA has really come under fire. Is it time to start paying the players? How come the punishments for schools can vary so wildly? If you include the constant complaining, and rightfully so, that the FBS doesn't crown a true champion, then the NCAA has got a lot of explaining to do even though it likely never will.
But the recent lockout by the NBA and the NFL reminds me of why I love college sports beyond all else. Both professional lockouts have been over how to distribute billions of dollars. I'd tend to side with the players a little more in the NFL's case, especially those guys who are the 53rd guy on a 53-man roster and aren't guaranteed their salary from week to week But in the NBA, the 12th guy on a 12 man roster can still earn upwards of three to six million dollars a year.
The NCAA can't lock out. The athletes can refuse to go out there and play and frequently the ones that feel that way will just quit. Even though there is a lot wrong with the NCAA system, at the end of the day these players aren't being paid directly. They're truly playing for the name on the front of their jersey. Sure, they play a little for themselves, but any college athlete with professional aspirations is going to do that and I can't say that I blame them. After all, the school is making so much money of them, I'd be shocked if no college athlete was at least a little selfish.
Every time the Cougars charge onto the field at Martin Stadium, they are playing for you and because they love the game of football. Granted, many of those charges came right before losing efforts in the last few years but nonetheless, these men aren't playing for money. They're playing for pride and for the alumni and students. As far as the football players go, I know the losses and struggles have really affected them personally, especially this year's seniors. If you think for a second any athlete likes or is merely complacent with losing, you're dead wrong. I know these guys want to win and every loss just kills them a little more inside.
Starting Wazzu junior quarterback Jeff Tuel isn't attending meetings in New York to determine how much of a piece of the pie the players will get. Starting USC quarterback Matt Barkley isn't complaining about not being able to see a play book. Wazzu athletic director Bill Moos isn't calling the players demands unreasonable and trying to stonewall any of their desires in a new bargaining agreement. University of Washington athletic director Scott Woodward isn't giving some bureaucratic answer to a terrible question from an ESPN reporter. Nope, these guys are going about business as they have every day for as long as I can remember: trying to improve to win.
Think about the pride you felt when the Wazzu men's basketball team was playing in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Not just playing, but waxing the floor with Winthrop in the first round and then doing the same with purported powerhouse Notre Dame. Even in their Sweet 16 loss to legitimate powerhouse North Carolina (in Charlotte, might I add) I felt proud to be a Cougar. I knew Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver, Robbie Cowgill, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and everyone else had put everything they had on the line for a university that could only offer them a free college education. While that's an incredibly valuable thing to have, it's doesn't exactly have a definitive monetary value.
I don't sit nervously with my head in my hands in front of the television during a Seahawks game. I don't gnaw on my nails watching a Mariners game. I haven't drunk myself into a stupor, wander down California Street, yell at frat guys who whistled at my girlfriend (now fiancé), pound through the special cocktail at Mike's and then stumble out at 1:45 to grab a hot dog and ride the bus home to cry myself to sleep when the Sounders lose.
Think carefully about it because I bet you don't either. You don't agonize over any professional team like you do the Cougars. Professional sports is a business after all, and while you could say the same thing about college sports, it isn't to nearly the same extent of professional leagues.
There are a lot of things wrong with the NCAA; the fact that they have a former Husky running the operation is the least among those issues. But, at the end of the day, college sports still remain the purest form of sports we have outside of your son's Little League game. It may not be perfect, but it's still better than the NFL or NBA.
Who Cares Pick of the Week: Well, it is a Mariners game, and if you can look me in the eye and tell me you still have a modicum of hope for this season, I'll laugh at you.
Friday's Game: Red Sox 3, Mariners 0
Dunderhead of the Week: My work. Not because I don't enjoy it but because it requires me to be 90 minutes away from my fiancé and we have to spend almost a week apart without seeing each other and then we only see one another for a few hours a day when we visit because the other works. This stinks. I say we just move the cities closer together!
And, of course, John Buccigross.
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
The 2011-12 athletic season is nearly here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Baseball, track and field and rowing, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.