Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
December 16, 2005
If I were 40 years younger and a different sex I would be tempted to apply for the job of football coach at Colorado University. The job
pays very well and if you goof up it allows a year of vacation. Gary Barnett has left CU with a year to go on his contract and a $3 million golden parachute.
Two years too late Gary Barnett finally got fired. It was expensive firing. It included $185,500 for his 2006 salary, $1.6 million for his pro-rated retention bonus and a $1.2 million negotiated settlement.
This is in a year of tight state financing for CU, when tuition is to be raised, financial aid for gifted students may be cut, with promised funds going to build roads. This is the year when a coach who has failed to fulfill his duties is leaving with $3 million dollars. Who is going to pay it?
But Gary Burnett is only part of the story.
Pro football has become a major, very profitable business. It has taken over weekends for great numbers of Americans every autumn. Big time football is big business and it feeds off the colleges which train its players.
College football is also up there in the big money. It is no longer a game for college kids to play for fun. In Boulder he alleged rape and liquor scandals of the past two years, the financial irregularities in the athletic department, to say nothing of firing a coach, should make even the most rabid fan question the situation
I know, guys. I'm just a little old lady that went to school with Whizzer White and watched him play football when it was fun. What do I know about football? Not much, but I know that I still love the university, and it has been deeply injured by the football program.
Barnett, of course, is only one person, although a very expensive one, in the overall picture. Even so, if he had followed Harry Truman's advice and stood up and said, "The buck stops here," and taken the responsibility, it would stopped a big part of the damage to the University. The question is how to solve the problem.
Diane Carman, writing in the Denver Post, dreams about what she would like to see. "CU was not founded 129 years ago to generate profits for the sportswear, liquor, and entertainment industries. Our mission, purely, simply and proudly, is to create and disseminate knowledge . We no longer will hold the taxpayers of this state hostage to outrageous coaching contracts that make a mockery of accountability. We no longer will exploit young people who can't succeed in our classrooms by indenturing them to years in a football or basketball program. "We remain committed to high-quality amateur athletics for our students."
Some solutions lie in changes in tax deductions, cutting the number of athletic scholarships, insisting that athletes maintain a passing grade average, and finding something else for the alumnae to do on Saturday afternoons. Many changes were made by President Betsy Hoffman, but there is a long way to go.
I'll let Diane Carman close it for me. "Forget the myth that football pumps millions into university budgets every year. Even if it were true, it wouldn't matter. As the tattered reputation of CU demonstrates, football - and our obsession with it - has cost us dearly."