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SportOpinion: How college football has us fooled

19:00  18 august  2019
19:00  18 august  2019 Source:

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Every Saturday afternoon this fall, millions of Americans will show up for or tune into a spectacle built upon fundamental inequity, and they will love every minute of it.

Opinion: How college football has us fooled© Godofredo A. Vasquez/Staff Photographer

Texas A&M Aggies football players enter Kyle Field for the NCAA game against the Northwestern State Demons Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in College Station, Texas.

They will realize, innately, that the Texas States never can dream of wielding the resources of the Notre Dames, that about three-quarters of the participating institutions never can hope to win a championship, and that the billions of dollars generated by the enterprise are lining the pockets of people other than the ones doing the most work.

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These are not the bugs of the system. These are its features.

And as another season is set to begin, a man named Billy Napier has reminded us again, intentionally or not, about the brilliance of his sport.

College football is not a smashing success despite its inherent unfairness. It is successful because it makes people grateful to be a part of it.

That might not have been the lesson Napier was trying to pass along this week. But sometimes students can learn even more when the teacher misses the point.

It's been a rough few days for Napier, the head coach at seldom-noticed Louisiana-Lafayette. Earlier this week, per the hometown Daily Advertiser, Napier announced at a news conference that he was asking all of his scholarship players to donate $50 per year to the Ragin' Cajuns Athletics Foundation, an organization that happens to pay $500,000 of Napier's $800,000 annual salary.

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“If we say we want to compete on the field with those teams,” Herman added, “ we have to do business the way business is done.” But as that word “business” hints, the trend highlights how college football ’s best programs, which are nearly synonymous with its richest ones

The athletic department later clarified that the donations were only encouraged, and not mandatory. And Napier, who's been pilloried nationwide for being everything from hypocritical to out of touch, has said he merely was trying to teach his players "gratitude" for their opportunities as college athletes.

And to be clear, there is nothing wrong with gratitude. Scholarships are valuable. A college education is valuable. Not everyone gets them.

But what is forgotten far too often is that those scholarships are neither gifts nor charity. They have been earned by players who add value to their programs and who often are coveted by dozens and dozens of schools, and who would be compensated even more if only the rigged rules that those schools wrote would allow it.

That's nothing new. Neither is the idea that the players who were explicitly prohibited from profiting on their own names and likenesses still have an obligation to the institutions that they helped enrich.

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But seldom has that concept been encapsulated more perfectly than it was by Napier, the bizarro Robin Hood that he is, who not only made it his quest to take from the poor and give to the wealthy, but also to make the poor feel good about it.

That's the key to this whole endeavor, right? It isn't enough to profit from unfairness. What really makes it work is to convince the people being shortchanged that they are the lucky ones.

So no schools other than the few dozen that play in the Power Five conferences have any shot at making the College Football Playoff? Humph. All of those little guys should be thankful they get to be beat up by Alabama and USC in nonconference games.

So players can't capitalize on their own popularity with endorsements and shoe contracts that companies would be eager to give them? Humph. They should be thankful they don't have to pay for their own books, like my kid does.

And as Napier proved, this twisted logic works! It should be noted that while he was being lambasted for tone deafness in national publications this week, his own players — the ones asked to make donations to the foundation that pays the coach's salary — were sticking up for him.

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"He had to take out a Stafford loan for ,500. They paid the rest, but you do still have to pay a For instance, an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team is allowed 85 scholarships per year for There are no restrictions on how many athletes can be on scholarship, and the allotted number of

Tweeted running back T.J. Wisham: "I'm more than excited to donate the money I would have spent on books this semester, if not for being awarded a scholarship, to (the foundation). In order to continue a great experience for present and future athletes here at UL!"

Again, this obviously is a positive attitude and a noble sentiment. It's also a testament to how powerful the allure of a fundamentally inequitable sport can be.

Every Saturday afternoon this fall, millions of Americans will want to be a part of this again. Many of them will not only buy tickets and souvenirs, but make financial donations to obscenely rich programs, and they will be ecstatic to do it, because that is the most impressive magic trick of college football.

It convinced people they are in its debt.

And not the other way around.

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Opinion: How college football has us fooled

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