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Athletics Are Out Of Control


January 21, 2008
Mickey Furfari
MORGANTOWN — I’m 100 percent for progress, especially if it’s considered positive.

But there are times when I find myself thinking of the good, old days when a heap of things seemed so much better than they appear to be today.

Take athletics, for example. They’re out of control, no less, at the college level. It can get downright ugly in some cases, such as the charges and countercharges over Rich Rodriguez’s abrupt departure as head coach of West Virginia University for the job at Michigan.

The almost daily exchange isn’t helping either side. There’s litigation against Rodriguez involving his $4 million buyout, and his lawyers have responded with some motions of their own. Only Lord knows when the legal mess might be settled.

For numerous other reasons, it’s certainly a sad commentary on the state of college athletics today. No one knows whom he or she can trust.

With that said, a guy who’s in his 61st year on the WVU sports beat knows that it wasn’t always that way. He happened to know coaches who not only got along well with people but were known to be good for their word.

The late Arthur H. Clyde, athletic director and coach at Morgantown High School, told me in the early 1940s that coaches in the Big 10 Conference at that time didn’t even sign contracts.

That’s right! They would meet once in the spring and again in the late fall for schedule-making and other matters. They truly were men of good will.

Besides Morgantown, that conference included Grafton, both Fairmont high schools, Clarksburg Victory and Washington Irving, Buckhannon-Upshur, Elkins, Shinnston and Weston.

“For example,” Clyde said, “I would tell Frank Wimer at Elkins that we’d play football up there on Sept. 1 and basketball on Feb. 1 and he’d come down here the following year on Sept. 2 and Feb. 2.

“Then we’d shake hands and that was it. We just made notes on our calendars as reminders.”

Clyde hastened to add, however, that while this was the normal procedure then for nine of the Big 10 coaches, they did sign contracts with the other coach “because we don’t trust him.”

The reason: That coach talked the SSAC out of an extra year of eligibility for one of his players.

Keep in mind, too, that there were no computers in those days, no television, no Internet or talk shows. And there wasn’t a single coach with an agent at any level of competition.

It is my firm belief that the advent of agents in today’s athletic world was the second worst thing ever perpetuated upon these United States. The first? Automated telephone service!

In case you’re interested, I also believe football and basketball coaches at most NCAA Division I schools are grossly overpaid. And, for that, I blame the Steinbrenners among presidents at traditional-power schools for allowing it to get out of hand.

The way I look at it, neither a coach nor a professional athlete is worth more than $1 million a year. But that’s now well-entrenched as a fact of life.

It is the reason the cost of tickets to football and college games has ballooned out of sight. Fans must pay more — a lot more — because of those skyrocketing salaries.



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