Five crazy ideas for saving college athletics and academics

News item: the two highest paid public employees in Oregon are the head football coaches at Oregon State and University of Oregon.

Ahem. This disturbing piece of information inspired me to dust off a column I wrote a few years ago and had set aside because it just seemed crazy.

But I think the absurd salaries paid to Messrs. Mark Helfrich at UO and Mike Riley at OSU — no offense, I know they are nice guys — calls for me to put this out there and see who throws paint filled water balloons at me:

What follows are my none-too-modest ideas for restoring at least a measure of sanity to America’s obsession with sports and entertainment. I know that some of these ideas clash either with hardened conventional wisdom, federal laws, or things like free speech and “free enterprise”, but throwing pebbles at a mountain doesn’t mean it won’t start to move someday.

For me it comes down to two goals: less abuse of power and position — and lower ticket prices.

  1. Announce that all multi-million (billion) dollar contracts for entertainers, athletes, and pro and college coaches are null and void in three years (midnight on Jan. 1, 2016), to be pared back to one-fifth of their current salaries; ticket prices would be reduced accordingly.

  2. Pass a federal law mandating that all funding for academics be equal or above that of intercollegiate athletics, and limit booster funding and corporate support of athletics.

(The Hood River Valley Booster Club is an example of how this should work: the organization provides grants for clubs and activity groups, not just sports teams.) Also, pass a federal law stating that no coach’s salary will exceed that of any professor or academician with equivalent tenure. (This could have the added benefit of encouraging gadabout coaches to stay put for awhile; “You wanna make 500 grand for carrying a clipboard and wearing a visor? Put in 10 years at the school.”)

  1. No athletic facility will be built with private or public money without a 50 percent accompanying construction/capital investment for non-athletic purposes.

  2. All collegiate athletes entering school in 2016 will then be required to pledge to complete two years of undergraduate education. Take dedicated booster funds to create “Buy my Mom a House” (BMMAH) revolving incentive loans for student athletes to remain in school while providing monetarily for families. The interest rate drops the more years the student spends in school.

BMMAH loans will be repaid when the athlete signs a pro contract – this is built in, with the agreement of all team owners. Interest from BMMAH will be used to build/maintain campus student housing.

  1. Any college sports spectator heard using obscene language or making statements critical of an opponent’s racial background, family heritage, etc., WILL BE REMOVED from the event. Booster or corporate funds will be dedicated to pay security guards for just that purpose. Place giant signs around stadiums reminding people, “Keep cursing, get Tasered.”


Radical? Of course. Will it ever happen, of course not, but we could start with at least part of number four, because outside of the most hardened Timbers Army members, who can argue with somehow ridding the stands of foul-mouthed louts?

One day I just want to see grad students cheered on their way to their doctoral dissertations by body-painted students waving foam fingers.

Crazy, huh?


Kirby Neumann-Rea loves sports, really he does.

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