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Gazzolo Column: Sports held in different light in budget cuts

Last Modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:07 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

As Gov. Bobby Jindal takes a weed wacker to the state budget, cash continues to flow in and out of Tiger Stadium.

LSU head football coach Les Miles got a nice raise after rumors of his possible exit to Arkansas surfaced.

Never really figured on Miles leaving, but the raise was likely deserved.

Then, in order to fix a problem with the offense, Miles went looking for help. He had more money in hand and found Cam Cameron to lead the Tiger attack.

Cameron got more than a few pretty pennies for the new job.

Apparently the only good money maker in the state is football. Not sure what that says about Louisiana other than it loves its football.

But at what expense does winning come?

The same can be said for other states where much the same thing goes on. There are even fights within schools themselves as to just how big a piece of the financial pie should be gobbled up by football.

It just sounds different when a state school pays a coach so much out of one pocket, then complains about being broke in the other.

I know, two different budgets. Yes, it is comparing apples to oranges. But a starving man would eat whichever piece of fruit he came across.

We are led to believe, if you listen to the Jindal group, that money doesn’t grow on trees. Yet when you look at the football budget of the state’s largest university, the pickings are pretty good.

I get it, football is king in these parts. Actually, it is like that all over but folks in the Southeastern Conference just want to believe they stand alone in this subject.

The issue is not whether Miles deserved a raise, or whether Cameron is a good fit for the program. The easy answer remains yes.

Miles and his Tigers put butts in the seats of that big stadium every home game. Doesn’t matter if it is Alabama or Texas State, the stands of Tiger Stadium are filled. The bars around town also packed.

Money is flowing just as fast as the beer in the parking lot.

That’s what big-time college football is — a money maker.

Forget the talk about building young minds or molding men for the future. Most days, even the final score matters less than the ticket take to the bean counters who crunch the numbers.

Football means money.

What is sad about this is, as we seem to give to the big programs we take away from those that really need the cash.

I’m talking about the young students who seem to be getting pinched by the penny-pinchers.

Every time we hear about budget cuts somehow you get the feeling students are getting the short end of the sticks.

It could be cuts in programs, cuts in the number of teachers or even cuts in smaller, less-watched sports.

All in the name of saving the state some money.

I understand budgets must be met and that college football has become a machine fueled by dollars that seem to just go up in smoke.

It just looks strange that both are considered to be part of the world of education.

Truth is, they are not.

We can buy new helmets for the football team or new uniforms for the basketball team without really blinking an eye. However, getting the funds for new textbooks seems to be like pulling teeth.

And keeping a strong music program at some schools is next to impossible.

We ask our children to participate in as many activities as they can, to become part of the school and not solely a student. But in the end we don’t put our money where our mouths are.

Football is the rich, and the rich always get richer.

It’s a part of the process. It would be nice if we could find a way to make the process less painful.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com.

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