Doug Robinson: Don't pay players 'till college football is off welfare

Published: Friday, Sept. 20 2013 10:35 a.m. MDT

But don’t single out the Utes. They are caught up in football’s version of the arms race. New football facilities — locker rooms, training rooms, player lounges, coaches offices, weight room, stadiums, indoor and outdoor practice fields, Jumbotrons — are de rigueur to compete for recruits and win games.

For instance, since 2009, Indiana has made annual improvements in football facilities at a cost of $50 million. "It's a little bit like [the amusement park] Kings Island," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass told ESPN. "Every year, you've got to have a new ride to show people you're serious."

According to USA Today, Cincinnati froze tuition this year but will pay more than $80 million — much of it borrowed — to expand its football stadium. Miami has cut hundreds of jobs in recent years and cut $50 million from its budget, but the athletic director wants to raise $80 million from donors for athletic scholarships and build new facilities.

Nebraska recently spent $63 million to expand its stadium; Wisconsin has been spending $86 million on a three-phase project to improve football facilities; Iowa is spending $57 million to improve football facilities. USC spent $70 million last year on football facilities. At Oklahoma State, they boasted that one of the school's private donors, Boone Pickens, felt the school needed a special shower head for the new locker room, at a cost of $700 each. They ordered 60 of them. Oh, and the locker room includes flat-screen TVs, a pool table, a kitchenette, plush recliners, marble staircases, wood floors and ionized air. It was money donated by a rich booster, but it’s money that could have been used elsewhere.

Universities have lost their way in pursuit of football glory and riches, most of them at the expense of the average student. Before they talk about paying players, college football programs should live within their means and get off welfare. Either that or universities should return to their real purpose: The business of education.

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. EMAIL: drob@deseretnews.com

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