We’re all over the map today, from U.S. soccer to the red-hot Royals, Big Ten football to Michael Jordan. But let’s start in Bobby Stoops’ backyard, where the facilities arms race in college football has moved into …. dorms?
Oklahoma is opening $75 million Headington Hall, complete with a movie theater. It’s a “game-changer” for the Sooners, Stoops says:
On the first floor, there is a large dining facility named after 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who donated $500,000 for the building, plus a theater, game room, several computer labs and study rooms.
Despite all the impressive amenities, though, (wide receiver Sterling) Shepard was quick to pronounce the individual restrooms as his favorite component of Headington Hall. He’ll room with fellow OU receiver Durron Neal, who was also his roommate last year in Bud Wilkinson Hall.
“That’s definitely the best thing,” Shepard said with a laugh. “You get your own space. You don’t have to wait on one guy to take a shower.”
Look, I’m all for modern plumbing technology — and I don’t miss the community showers of Harper Hall (don’t forget your sandals!). But after all the iPads in the lockers and 30-foot hot tubs and video arcades and MMA cages — where does it stop?
There’s so much talk about pay-for-play right now. I certainly understand those who say paying players could do more harm than good. But isn’t it ridiculous that people like Stoops who warn against paying 20-year-olds are often the same ones building football facility mansions for those same 20-year-olds?
We refuse to give you money to invest in the stock market. But if you’d like to stop by the stadium, we’ll be happy to shine your cleats.
It’s like a husband who refuses to let his wife shop for groceries, then buys her diamond earrings every Friday. And it’s only getting more absurd.
Athletic departments like Oklahoma, Alabama and Nebraska are swimming in cash and, thus, becoming like NASA — spending $10,000 for a screwdriver. Can’t we put some of this money into a trust fund for athletes to tap after they graduate? Can’t we use 1 percent to make sure every mom and dad who wants to fly to a game can? Or even crazier, what if we reduced ticket prices by a single dollar?*
* (Ha. Good one.)
At the end of this video showing off Alabama’s palatial new facility, Nick Saban says this:
“Now our players have one-stop shopping. They can do everything in one place. They don’t need to go outside.”
Oh, the horror of going outside! In bitterly cold Tuscaloosa, Ala.! You know, Saban really ought to persuade professors to teach all classes in the football complex. Sociology 101, of course. Put it on the budget for 2014!
Saban goes on.
“We have a state-of-the-art weight room, a great locker room, really good team meeting room as well as a fantastic players lounge, which will give our players a lot of privacy and really help in the team dynamics and the team chemistry.”
When there’s a big screen for all 85 scholarship players, you don’t have to worry about arguments over the remote.
Saban sums it up like this: “Overall, the reason for this is to help player development, so that we have a better opportunity of getting our players to reach their full potential.”
And this is what cracks me up most.
Nick Saban is an old-school football coach from the Rust Belt. I absolutely guarantee he, like 95 percent of his peers, has lamented how today’s kids are entitled. How today’s kids don’t want it as badly as they used to. How today’s kids spend too much time in front of video games and not enough time in the sandlot. How football was better when kids were walking to school uphill both ways.
And yet he has the gall to declare that the arcade games and the Olympic-sized hot tubs and the plasma TVs and the NFL jerseys on the wall will help players “reach their full potential.”
Someday we’re going to hear a football coach blame the electronic distractions of his own football facility on a bad game. It’ll be hilarious.
The real reason behind all the bells and whistles, of course, is recruiting. In today’s college football, schools have so much money, they don’t know what to do with it. So they spend and spend and spend to make sure every 17-year-old who walks in the door is blown away by an experience that resembles a vacation to Cabo.
It puts fans like me in an awkward position of thinking college football players are exploited and spoiled rotten. (My emotions on the issue are as murky as SEC booster clubs).
I guess it all boils down to this: The current amateurism model wouldn’t bother me so much if coaches like Saban weren’t spending merchandise money on damn waterfalls.
Whatever it takes to stay at high tide.
>> In today’s World-Herald, I wrote about Chris Borland and Kain Colter, two Big Ten players who eloquently stated their belief that college football players should receive additional compensation.
Well, David Shaw occupies the other end of the spectrum. Here the Stanford coach is talking about teaching kids to fish. And here’s Mike Bianchi dedicating a column to defend the status quo. College football players, he says, get plenty.
>> I have no problem with all these major conference commissioners blasting the NCAA. But stop beating around the bush and present an actual alternative with specifics. Why has nobody done that? Maybe because the BCS chiefs don’t agree themselves, Dennis Dodd writes. Meanwhile, John Feinstein weighs in, taking a crack at his own proposal.
>> I hope you spent some time with our Sights and Sounds package from Big Ten media days. My favorite: the nugget on first coaching jobs.
>> I was on vacation when this story ran, but it’s worth posting if you missed it. Mitch Sherman, former World-Herald standout, explores the lives of four national recruits over a calendar year. Rarely do you find this kind of depth in recruiting coverage.
>> It’s becoming more clear all the time: If Nebraska is going to keep up with Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten, it better establish an edge in player development and scheme. The Wolverines had another big weekend.
>> Adam Rittenberg’s perception-making games in the Big Ten.
>> Grant Wahl looks ahead to the next “benchmark” for U.S. soccer. Gold Cup competition isn’t the World Cup — and Panama isn’t Spain — but the Americans deserve to revel in their progress. With Landon Donovan back this fall, expect the U.S. to sustain momentum into 2014. Brian Straus breaks down the win over Panama.
>> Hunter Mahan withdrew from the Canadian Open Saturday to fly back to Dallas, where his wife had gone into labor. The baby came Sunday morning.
>> Cool story from the Charlotte Observer about a nurse who saved a player’s life after he collapsed in a summer-league game.
>> Today’s ESPNU podcast features Doug McDermott. Good stuff.
>> Jackie MacMullan talks to (a humble) Michael Jordan about Reggie Lewis, who died 20 years ago.
>> I love the second wild card in MLB (mostly because of the sudden-death playoff game). Another positive byproduct is the trade deadline. There are several teams who can’t decide whether to buy or sell. The most interesting, of course, is Kansas City.
Yes, it’s fun to be at .500 so late into the season. Yes, it’s fun to dream of a playoff push. But get real. You’re not catching Detroit and Cleveland for the division (or Baltimore and Tampa Bay) for the wild cards. You have Ervin Santana, one of the hottest pitchers in the league. Sell him.
Instead, it appears Dayton Moore will be seduced into thinking 82-80 is better than 80-82 — it’s not. And as a result, the Royals will start next season without Santana (a free agent) and without the prospects/players he could’ve attracted via trade. Want a more detailed form of that opinion? Read Rany.
>> Speaking of trades, Joe Posnanski revisits the Myers-for-Shields deal that looks even worse now than it did last winter. Many, many Royals fans supported “going for it” in 2013 with Shields as the ace. Well, now that Myers is raking for the Rays, was it really worth it for a .500 season?