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Volume 24 No. 158


The allegations surrounding Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel prior to the start of the college football season "teed up a debate that has been simmering for decades but is now more intense than ever," according to a cover story by Sean Gregory of TIME. Gregory asks, "Why shouldn't a player worth so much to his school, to his town and to the college-football brand be able to sign his name for money?" How much longer "can everyone else make money from college athletes like Manziel while the athletes themselves see their cash compensation capped -- at $0?" The players "with the talent remain out of the money simply because a group of college presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners set their wages at zero." The "historic justification for not paying players is that they are amateur student-athletes and the value of their scholarships -- often worth in excess of $100,000 over four years -- is payment enough." But a growing number of economists and sports experts "are beginning to argue for giving athletes a fair share of the take." The numbers "are too large to ignore." Players are "essentially working full-time football jobs while going to school; they deserve to be paid more than a scholarship." Because even "full-ride athletic scholarships don't cover the full cost of attending school, athletes are often short a few thousand bucks for ancillary expenses on top of tuition, room and board, books and fees." The time "is right to give schools the option to share their rising sports income with college athletes." Not every school "would -- or could -- participate."

PAY EVERYONE? Only the "60 or so schools in the power conferences, which have the football and basketball revenues to support such payments, would likely even consider such an option." Universities also should "give athletes at least the right to secure sponsorships, star in a commercial or, yes, offer their signatures for money." The schools "could demand their cut too." Boston College Carroll School of Management Assistant Dean Warren Zola said, "Lifting the restriction on athlete commercial opportunities is a great step toward compensating them for the value they generate. And it doesn't cost the schools anything." Gregory notes schools would "in effect be adopting the Olympic model." If a Gold medalist like Apolo Ohno "wins mainstream appeal, he's free to cash in on his name." But reforming college sports "won't be simple." Paying "only men, for example, could face a challenge under Title IX." Salary caps "require collective bargaining, which means athletes would likely have to unionize; some states offer limited bargaining rights for public employees." However, these challenges "aren't an excuse to keep a broken system" (TIME, 9/16 issue).

COVER ME: ESPN's Tony Reali wondered if the discussion about playing college players will "gain momentum because Time has now done a cover story." ESPN's Pablo Torre acknowledged there likely is more momentum because Time reflects a "certain saturation level that's been reached in the culture at-large and at the point of which it's on the cover of Time magazine, above and ahead of Syria and Vladimir Putin." Torre: "That tells something to American consumers." The magazine is "less relevant than it used to be," but it is still a "pretty big deal." ESPN's Bomani Jones noted Time is "speaking to non-sports fans," and as the discussion "happens more and more and for a general audience, a more academic audience, for judges and lawyers and the type, that's more likely to sway what happens with the NCAA than putting some stuff in Sports Illustrated." L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke noted while the magazine "does reach the general population ... not one university president comes out in this story and says, 'This is a good idea.'" Plaschke: "This is for the general population. Academia is a whole other world. They're so afraid of getting into an employer/employee relationship with their students" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/5). CBSSN's Doug Gottlieb said, "I love the fact that we're going to go to war with Syria and it's like a little note in the corner." Manziel is on the cover because football "rules the world." CBSSN's Allie LaForce called the cover choice "ridiculous" and said it is a "testament to how football and fans in this country make it a priority over anything else" ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 9/5).

With Penn State facing "financial woes brought on by the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and NCAA sanctions that could deepen in the ensuing years, attendance will matter at Beaver Stadium this season," according to Mark Dent of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The "capacity crowds of the past could be hard to replicate, particularly if last year's numbers and the ticket packages being peddled by the athletic department this season are any indication." PSU last year averaged 96,730 fans, the "fifth-highest total" of any FBS school. As "promising as that number may be, it masks a problem." Whereas the average FBS school "experienced an attendance decline" of 1.2% in '12, PSU's average declined 4.6%. Comparing last year's attendance '07, PSU was down 11.2%. The average FBS program was down 2.9%. Another "telling statistic was its percentage of fullness." With a capacity of 106,572, Beaver Stadium was 90.8% full last year on average. PSU AD David Joyner said that the department "was coming up with ideas to improve fan experience." These measures "include enhanced stadium WiFi, 'new and improved' rentable seat cushions and a Beaver Stadium app that was introduced last season." A new Jumbotron "also will be completed" in '14. The athletic department this summer reported that 90% of season-ticket holders from last year "had committed" to this year. PSU also "has introduced new ticket options, using tactics previously never utilized by the school" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/5).

REBEL ALLIANCE: In Las Vegas, Taylor Bern noted UNLV is offering football tickets "through a seat-filling site," which is new territory for a program "desperate to do anything and everything it can to get people in the stadium." Interim AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy said, “This is something they brought to us and we all agreed at the last minute, 'Let’s give it a try.' I don’t think it’s something we’re planning on doing every game.” Part of the NCAA’s requirement to maintain FBS status "is an attendance minimum of 15,000 either paid or actual attendance over a two-year rolling period." Last year, UNLV’s average attendance was 15,208. Games later in the year "tend to bring that down, too, making good attendance early in the year a high priority." Kunzer-Murphy also is "trying to add a more 'collegiate' feel to the games." On Saturday, there will be "food trucks out in the tailgating area and for the kids bounce houses and some other interactive games." UNLV marketing department employees and student government reps "have been walking around campus handing out student tickets, which are included in their student fees." Senior administrators also "will be at the entrances waiting to welcome fans into the game when the doors open" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 9/5).

HOKIE POKIE: In Richmond, Mike Barber reported Virginia Tech’s string of 93 sellouts at Lane Stadium "is in jeopardy heading into Saturday’s home opener against Western Carolina." VT AD Jim Weaver on Wednesday said that he "doesn’t expect to sell out the game." Weaver: "It’s always disappointing when you’re not able to keep something going, such as this. But when you look across the country and read in the literature that the Alabamas have had some trouble, and Florida had problems, it’s something that we’re all dealing with.” VT had "about 3,900 unsold tickets remaining as of lunchtime Wednesday." Part of the low number has to do with FCS-level WCU "returning 3,400 tickets it was unable to sell" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 9/5).

U-TURN: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wrote Saturday's Florida-Miami game at Sun Life Stadium "is the hottest regular-season ticket in years." Data from shows demand has "driven the average ticket price on the secondary market to $186.89," the highest by far for a UM home game recorded the web site. SeatGeek Communications Dir Will Flaherty said that this price is 29% above the average for the Miami-FSU game in '10 ($144.58). UM as of Wednesday morning "had fewer than 500 season-ticket packages remaining." UM Associate AD/Communications & Marketing Chris Freet "expects season-ticket sales to reach 30,000 when selling ends next week, up from 23,000 last year" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/5).