One of the industries hardest hit by the economy is college athletics. With administrators coming to the conclusion (between 30-35 years later, depending on the institution) that when Title IX was passed in 1972, it meant it was a law, something that, if you didn’t follow, you would wind up paying dearly.
No budget-slashing idea has caught on at the University of Tennessee where they make certain they’re in compliance, yet still manage to find upwards of $3.3 million – for salaries for their assistant football coaches. That means if the Vols went 13-0 (a respectable year, from the fans’ viewpoint), their football staff, not including head coach Lane Kiffin (whose annual package is in the seven figure category, similar to the way it was when I got there in 1980 – except all seven figures are to the left of the decimal point, not just five of them like it was in those days), would cost the school over a quarter of a million dollars per game – and you’d be hard pressed to find a single soul in Knoxville who wouldn’t think every cent was justified. Possibly because if they went 0-13, the cost would be even more – the $3.3 mil, plus moving expenses, a nationwide search and even more for the next coaching staff. Orange might be the favorite color in TN, but green follows closely behind.
On the professional front (for some reason, UT is still considered amateur), Eli Manning recently signed a contract which will pay him an average of $15.3 million annually, exceeding his brother, Peyton’s, contract of $14.17 mil per year. But don’t feel too sorry for his older bro; he’s more than making up the difference in endorsement dough (a talent he seems to have that might not equal his QB skills, but only because his QB skills are the best in the game – which, by the way, is why his next contract will be even more than Eli’s).
And there will be a few other signal callers who will sign mega-deals, thanks to Eli – and David Tyree, the receiver who trapped the ball against his helmet, keeping what turned out to be the game winning drive alive – in the Super Bowl! In the process, it cost me $240 in our annual pool, which is based on scores of each of the participating teams at the end of each quarter (as if watching the Super Bowl isn’t entertaining enough). One of my “boxes” (I sprung for $20 for two of them) had the AFC team’s final score ending in 4 and the NFC’s participant ending in 0, so a 14-10 Patriots’ victory would have suited me just fine. Not because I wanted them to win – a Giants’ 20-14 would have been just as nice.
So, with all
my that money riding on the game, Tyree’s miraculous catch – under that kind of pressure - was nothing short of remarkable. I guess that’s what separates the great ones from the guys who sit on the edge of their chair, waiting for the game to end, knowing if the Patriots can just shut down the Giants – and close out a 14-10 victory, I get what amounts to someone else making (one of) my February car payments.
This past basketball season, many teams in the NBA “tightened their purse strings” during the free agency signing period, waiting to open up the pocketbooks and “let the green flow” when next year’s uber-crop of free agents hit the market. The names of those who won’t have to worry about filling out the short form for quite a while are: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.
This year’s belt tightening meant Hedo Turkoglu who, at 6’10” can run the NBA’s offense-du-
jour-decade (the pick & roll/pop), left Orlando, where he played more than a bit part in leading the Magic to the NBA Finals, to chase the money – all the way across the border, to Toronto, for the sum of $53 million over five years. Chicago’s Ben Gordon, this century’s version of Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson, i.e. a guy who can churn out points in huge numbers in a hurry (at both ends of the floor, but fans only know how many are at the offensive end – because those are the ones that are printed in the paper), turned down a $56 million/5 year offer from the Bulls before the season, then was offered only $51M/5yr following their playoff defeat to the Celtics in an epic seven-game battle. He showed Chicago – by turning down that puny offer to sign a deal for an additional $4,000,000 from the Detroit Pistons (coincidentally, the Micro’s old squad). What this means is he actually lost a million from the original offer he turned down. You’re thinking, “So, he lost a million. He’s still making an average of $11 mil/year for the next half decade.” Go ahead, pooh-pooh it. Just remember, a million here, a million there, it starts to add up.
The “making lemonade out of lemons” award goes to the Lakers who were snubbed by their young, talented forward, Trevor Ariza, a critical piece of their run to the title. Ariza bolted LA for Houston and its five-year, $33 million offer. How would the World Champs deal with the depletion of such a critical rotation player? Simple. Make the identical offer to Houston’s Ron Artest, essentially trading youth for experience – and, arguably, improving the champs’ roster. And all it took was $53 million over five years. Not sure I’d have made that deal but, then again, not having that Super Bowl money Tyree’s catch cost me is probably clouding my thinking.
But for sheer, unadulterated spendthrifting (if that’s a word – and if it’s not, he could buy its way into Webster‘s), Jerry Jones is right where he wants to be – at the top. The size of scoreboard alone of his newest toy, the football stadium for his Dallas Cowboys, is 160′ x 72′ and weighs 1.2 million pounds – yet isn’t high enough to avoid a booming punt. Jerry paid $1.15 billion (yeah, the amount Dr. Evil finally came up with) – and, I believe I read somewhere that with transactions such as these, all sales are final. Somehow, I don’t think Jerry’s going to tire of his hobby anytime soon. Anything over a cool bil kinda locks you in forever.
The sporting world seems to have fallen in line with Oscar Wilde’s feeling toward “doing it huge:”
“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”