Five crazy ideas for saving college athletics and academics

News item: the two highest paid public employees in Oregon are the head football coaches at Oregon State and University of Oregon.

Ahem. This disturbing piece of information inspired me to dust off a column I wrote a few years ago and had set aside because it just seemed crazy.

But I think the absurd salaries paid to Messrs. Mark Helfrich at UO and Mike Riley at OSU — no offense, I know they are nice guys — calls for me to put this out there and see who throws paint filled water balloons at me:

What follows are my none-too-modest ideas for restoring at least a measure of sanity to America’s obsession with sports and entertainment. I know that some of these ideas clash either with hardened conventional wisdom, federal laws, or things like free speech and “free enterprise”, but throwing pebbles at a mountain doesn’t mean it won’t start to move someday.

For me it comes down to two goals: less abuse of power and position — and lower ticket prices.

  1. Announce that all multi-million (billion) dollar contracts for entertainers, athletes, and pro and college coaches are null and void in three years (midnight on Jan. 1, 2016), to be pared back to one-fifth of their current salaries; ticket prices would be reduced accordingly.

  2. Pass a federal law mandating that all funding for academics be equal or above that of intercollegiate athletics, and limit booster funding and corporate support of athletics.

(The Hood River Valley Booster Club is an example of how this should work: the organization provides grants for clubs and activity groups, not just sports teams.) Also, pass a federal law stating that no coach’s salary will exceed that of any professor or academician with equivalent tenure. (This could have the added benefit of encouraging gadabout coaches to stay put for awhile; “You wanna make 500 grand for carrying a clipboard and wearing a visor? Put in 10 years at the school.”)

  1. No athletic facility will be built with private or public money without a 50 percent accompanying construction/capital investment for non-athletic purposes.

  2. All collegiate athletes entering school in 2016 will then be required to pledge to complete two years of undergraduate education. Take dedicated booster funds to create “Buy my Mom a House” (BMMAH) revolving incentive loans for student athletes to remain in school while providing monetarily for families. The interest rate drops the more years the student spends in school.

BMMAH loans will be repaid when the athlete signs a pro contract – this is built in, with the agreement of all team owners. Interest from BMMAH will be used to build/maintain campus student housing.

  1. Any college sports spectator heard using obscene language or making statements critical of an opponent’s racial background, family heritage, etc., WILL BE REMOVED from the event. Booster or corporate funds will be dedicated to pay security guards for just that purpose. Place giant signs around stadiums reminding people, “Keep cursing, get Tasered.”


Radical? Of course. Will it ever happen, of course not, but we could start with at least part of number four, because outside of the most hardened Timbers Army members, who can argue with somehow ridding the stands of foul-mouthed louts?

One day I just want to see grad students cheered on their way to their doctoral dissertations by body-painted students waving foam fingers.

Crazy, huh?


Kirby Neumann-Rea loves sports, really he does.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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