SMITH COLUMN: Super Dawg

Published 3:09 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

There will be a Georgia player in the forthcoming Super Bowl for the 23rd consecutive season on February 11th in Las Vegas. This is a record which is likely to continue, given the latent draft success of Bulldog players.

Alabama has the most players on NFL rosters of any school with 57. Next is Ohio State with 47, followed by Georgia with 46. Rounding out the top five, LSU has 43 players in the NFL and Michigan has 38.

Most sports fans are aware of the big paydays professional athletes experience but also realize that many of them wind up broke as they make far more bad decisions with their money than they do on the playing fields.

The best way to handle easy money is to not spend it, but there are those sad tales that reflect mind boggling abuse of cash. Like the player with the New Orleans Saints who owned eight cars at one time. “That makes sense,” quarterback Archie Manning cracked. “That way he gets fleet coverage with his auto insurance.”

A player shows up for “work,” and he is pampered throughout the day. No cost for food and drink. There is smorgasbord dining in the locker room from the time a player shows up and is available until he leaves at the end of the day.

The payout for the players on the winning Super Bowl team this year will be $157,000. Nice pay for a day’s work, especially when you consider that only 15.5 per cent of Americans annually make between $100,000 – $149,999.  

When kids are on campus, they must work to keep up their grades for eligibility requirements and time spent on the practice field is demanding and challenging.

But think about what they have beyond the headlines. Most of all, they get a free education if they want it. Unfortunately, too many don’t give that opportunity priority. There has never been a greater tradeoff in U. S. history than for a kid to play a sport and get a free education in return. Let’s not lose sight of that wonderful circumstance.

Then there is free medical and free dental for athletes on scholarship. They get a clothing allowance and a travel allowance. Cost of attendance consideration means that they make at least $10,000 a year for playing their sport.

Then there are the Pell grants which for kids who come from tough economic backgrounds, are given compensation to make sure they never have to worry about the basics from Sunday night supper to toothpaste.

Then there is the latent name, image and likeness development which brings about more financial opportunity. Who has it better on a college campus today than a football player? It is the same for basketball players and athletes in other sports.

There are players out there who are advocating for free agency for college athletes. There are some who want to turn college programs into a franchise type function.

While I am not sure where we are going, I know that I will never accept such a concept. We need to make sure that the classroom remains part of the process.

We should never lose sight of the fact that while times have changed and we have had to make serious adjustments, it still resonates with many of us that photos of our Saturday heroes decked out in their letter jackets and walking the campus with books in hand and a pretty coed keeping them company is a scene that should always be a constant.

Maybe we should remind ourselves of what the Ivy League did years ago. They did away with athletic scholarships, but they still have football. Harvard versus Yale is still a big deal. I have taken the T from downtown Boston out to Cambridge for the big game.

The players were eager to perform for alma mater. The band had as much gusto and enthusiasm as bands on any campus across the country. The cheerleaders were delightfully fresh-faced and the cheering was as lusty as it is in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Ann Arbor, Eugene, Lubbock, Austin and Norman.

I certainly am advocating that, but I would much prefer that over free agency and collegiate franchises. It is time for sanity to rear its most valuable head.