There are many exciting sports topics to choose from this week. The NCAA Basketball Tournament has been super as usual. The Final Four teams are determined.
Typically surprise teams surface, and this year is no exception. UConn, Wisconsin and the whiz kids from Kentucky were not predictable, but Florida has been No. 1 for several weeks and they came in with the top overall seed.
Another exciting topic would be the Central Missouri State University Mules who won a national championship at the NCAA Division II level. That means the MIAA conference now holds the national championship in both football and men’s basketball and won them with local talent.
Opening Day for Major League Baseball has arrived and the Kansas City Royals fans are praying this will be the year the long playoff drought finally ends. I sure hope so, because I am running out of runway and hope to see it one more time.
All of these would provide plenty of food for thought. However, the ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern football players can form a labor union is probably the most newsworthy topic. It has the potential to have a huge impact on college sports. Currently 53 percent of the country is against the idea while 47 percent believes the time has come. It is too early to jump to a conclusion – all of the facts need to be on the table.
The shame is in that the NCAA has failed to address this issue earlier. NCAA football and basketball add up to a billion-dollar business. Coaches and athletic administrators are personally making millions of dollars off the talents of 19-to 22-year-olds. The universities themselves are making even more due to the resulting big television deals. Think how much March Madness itself makes for the universities. It is one big GRAVY TRAIN.
The excuse is that student-athletes are given scholarships to compete in athletics and that should be fair payment for their services. A guru on television recently pointed out that only about 50 percent of big-time college football and basketball players actually go on to receive a degree. The Division I athletes at the highest level use the NCAA and college sports as a stepping stone to the high paying professional level.
The NCAA has blown smoke about “student”-athletes. Most NCAA athletes do realize and accept the current system, but the reality is that very few go on to professional sports and most have very little to show for the effort.
A union could lobby for improved safety conditions and a piece of the financial pie. Some of that money could be used for programs for those players who are injured in the process of pursuing the dream of a professional career or who end up without a college degree.
Unions may not be the answer in this situation, but the players certainly do appear to have the same conditions as an employee. These players work countless hours in practice and travel.
The NCAA kept their heads in the sand in hopes that the problem would go away. They should have realized that their golden goose was in jeopardy 15 years ago. The argument is that a union situation could kill college sports.
In 1970 when Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball over the reserve clause in baseball everyone thought it would kill baseball. That was the beginning of the free agency movement currently prevalent in all professional sports. Perhaps it can also be that college student-athletes benefit from the financial windfall.
No doubt a ton of money will be spent by both sides of the issue and no doubt it will end up in the Supreme Court. It could have been avoided if the powers that be had not been so greedy. Young athletes are very bright and are not easily pushed around by a group of people with no athletic ability whatsoever.
The door is now open and the cats and dogs will be running out that door. Greed has been the downfall of empires, kings, dictators and banking systems. Why shouldn’t greed bring down college sports? It will be interesting.
• Congratulations to Blue Springs High School graduate Jeff Mittie, who was hired as head coach in women’s basketball at Kansas State University. Jeff has been very successful at every one of his coaching spots. It is good to see a local guy reach his dreams.
• Kim Anderson should have been chosen as head coach at the University of Missouri after the university forced out Tiger legend Norm Stewart. It is good to see a classy guy reach the mountain top with Central Missouri, and he did it with area kids.
• It will be a make-or-break year for Mike Moustakas with the Royals. All the main discussions about the Royals seem to center around the success of Moose this year. The guy will either come out of this year as a stallion or a bust. I like Moose. I hope he shuts us all up.
• NCAA champion … anyone but Kentucky!
• My quote of the week comes from James A. Garfield, the 20th president of the United States: “The men who succeed best in public life are those who take the risk of standing by their own convictions.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org