Hickey: Delany, NCAA bring back robber barons

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

The robber barons were the men who

helped grow the American economy into the world’s giant. Many of our

finest universities

bear some of their names — Duke, Stanford, Vanderbilt.

They just

happened to build it on the backs of underpaid immigrants and the

occasional child laborer, which was all fine and

dandy until those people started demanding rights. They got them,

eventually, and into history went the era of the robber

baron.

However, there is one important thing these men taught us

which is still relevant: exploitation is a terrific business model.

It’s just so darn hard to practice these days.

Fortunately, the commissioners of the

NCAA’s major conferences and their compliant university presidents — men

like Big Ten

Commissioner Jim Delany — have found a way to bring robber

baronhood back into vogue. It’s called making millions off unpaid

student-athletes.

The Rockefeller of the new robber

barons is Delany, who saw dollar signs to be made from plowing over the

old traditions of

college sports and building something new.

For years the Big Ten

talked about moving up from its 11-team structure so it could have its

very own league championship

game. Once the Southeastern Conference became the dominant force

in college football with its title game becoming a de facto

national semifinal, the time came to push talk into

action.

Nebraska, tired of Texas’ shadow in the Big 12, made the jump.

Sensing blood in the water, fellow robber baron and

protector-of-the-Rose

Bowl tradition (while killing all others) Pac-10 Commissioner

Larry Scott came up with a bold plan to further decimate the

Big 12 and become a 16-team operation.

Texas AD DeLoss Dodds saved

the day by declaring his school’s intention to stay put and keep the

league intact after the creation

of a sweet new TV network created by ESPN to show nothing but

Longhorn sports. Well, that’s not entirely true. It was also

originally going to show high school games (later prohibited by

the NCAA), which caused rival Texas A&M to throw a major fit.Mike

Slive’s SEC was more than willing to take in the Aggies and their access

to the Houston and Dallas TV markets, and threw

in Missouri as a nice door prize.

From there it became a domino

chain of madness that gives us something called the Big East despite

Boise State and San Diego

State joining the league. For football only, of course. San Diego

State will be in the Big West for its other sports. And

don’t even get me started on Tulane.

The chain of madness filtered all the

way down to Southland, with Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and

Texas-Arlington making

the jump up to the WAC as that league hoped to stay viable before

the money-go-round stopped spinning. Like many a now-anonymous

small businessmen swallowed during the Gilded Age, it didn’t.

That’s what happens to the smallest

fish in a sea of sharks.As counterintuitive as the whole process was, at

least we thought it was over heading into this year. We thought

incorrectly.

The past week demonstrated just how out of control things have gotten in the “not-for-profit” world of major college athletics.

Delany further decimated the regional tradition that helped make college sports so popular in the first place by adding Maryland

and Rutgers to the Big Ten, starting yet another domino effect as each ensuing league desperately tries to patch its holes

with duct tape. Or, Tulane.

On a competitive level, neither Maryland nor Rutgers adds anything to the Big Ten as a football league. Culturally, they add

even less.

The Big Ten is the Midwest, plain and

simple. It was not meant to have schools from states with a shoreline,

unless that shore

is along a Great Lake. Crab cakes and pork tenderloin do not mix.

Neither does anyone who looks like Snooki and anyone from

Iowa.

Indiana will end up playing Rutgers (736 miles away) more often than Illinois (149 miles away) in the new divisional setup.

None of that matters to Delany.All he

sees is the $200 million that would be added to the conference coffers

by having the Big Ten Network added to cable

providers in the Washington, D.C. and New York City metropolitan

areas.

That’s chump change compared to what ESPN is throwing around. The network recently signed a $5.64 billion deal to televise

the BCS bowls and new four-team playoff from 2014-2026.

College football can even pay you big money for doing nothing at all. Fired Auburn coach Gene Chizik will make $208,334 per

month for the next 36 months as a reward for getting clowned in eight consecutive SEC games this season.

Heck, I’d be willing to do just as lousy of a job for a quarter of the cost.

I suppose I shouldn’t have an issue

with all this splurging. We live in a free-market society, right? Gotta

seize it if it’s

there.

Only there’s one small problem. The ones creating all this

profit, the athletes, aren’t getting a dime out of it. Sure, most

are on scholarship. And in the old model of college sports, being

on full scholarship was a just reward. It still is at schools

in the lesser leagues getting left behind by the largesse at the

top.

However, Delany and his cronies are throwing out the old model of

college sports. What’s happening now is exploitation. It’s

not about tradition or regional rivalries; it’s about profit.

What

sense does it make to send kids from Maryland to Nebraska for a midweek,

regular-season volleyball match? How is that

fair to student-athletes, or to parents who probably assumed most

of their games would be somewhere within driving distance?

Dollar signs have a funny way of trumping logic and legitimate concerns. And the beauty for Delany and his brethren is they

won’t have to share any of the growing pie with the kids they are sending all over the country.

Make no mistake, the robber barons have returned. Only now instead of having colleges named after them, they’re the ones running

them.

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Alex Hickey covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at ahickey@americanpress.com