Another Challenge For College Sports

I am beginning to feel like Br’er Rabbit right after he began punching the tar baby. [Hat Tip to Joel Chandler Harris and “The Uncle Remus Tales.”]  I cannot seem to extricate myself from the tectonic shifts that are happening in college sports these days and one of the stories getting a lot of attention today puts another perspective on this stark fact:

  • College sports are not dead; college sports as I knew them growing up and as an adult sports fan are indeed dead.

And it is not just the players getting direct payments – – in addition to their NIL deals – – nor the de facto universal free agency of players via the Transfer Portal that have undergone change.  The rumor du jour is that the LA Lakers are going to make an offer to Danny Hurley to leave UConn and take the reins for the Lakers.  When I read that story yesterday afternoon, my first reaction was:

  • Why would he want to leave UConn where he has won two straight NCAA Championships to take on the daily drama that envelops the LA Lakers?

Obviously, there’s the money.  Reports say that Hurley’s deal with UConn is a 6-year deal worth up to $32.1M; other reports say that the Lakers are preparing an offer that would be worth more than $100M.  That is a lot of cheese, and that sort of offer would deserve consideration by just about anyone on this side of Warren Buffet.

But maybe there is more to the decision that Danny Hurley would face if he did indeed get such an offer.

  • Is it possible that the changes in college sports have changed the job of a college coach – – basketball or football – – to the point that experienced and successful coaches see the future in a negative light?

In fairly short order, the collegiate revenue sports have seen championship-caliber coaches abandoning their stature in their profession.  Here is a short list that comes to mind with no research effort at all:

  • Jim Boeheim – – National champion; retires abruptly
  • Jim Harbaugh – – National champion last year; leaves Michigan for the NFL
  • Mike Krzyzewski – – Multiple national championships; retires
  • Urban Meyer – – Multiple national championships; left for the NFL
  • Nick Saban – – Multiple national championships; retires abruptly
  • Jay Wright – – Multiple national championships; retires abruptly

The college basketball or football coach now and in the foreseeable future is not a teacher/mentor/coach; he is the GM and the coach of a for-profit enterprise.  Yes, college coaches have needed to do recruiting during their supposed off-season in the past; now, coaches need to re-recruit their own players in addition to seeking out others in the Transfer Portal and high schoolers who may or may not be ready for college life or college athletics.  [Aside:  By the way, the State of Florida has now cleared the way for high school athletes to receive NIL payments.  Raise your hand if you saw that coming; raise you other hand if you think that is a net positive for our society.]

About 20 years ago, Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a book, The Miracle of Saint Anthony; A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty.  If you have not read this book, let me recommend it without reservation to any sports fan.  Bob Hurley is Danny Hurley’s father; Bob Hurley is in the Naismith Hall of Fame for his high school coaching achievements; Danny Hurley – – and his brother Bobby Hurley – – played for their father at Saint Anthony in Jersey City.  Bob Hurley was a no-nonsense coach who stressed fundamentals and strict adherence to team rules; that is the coaching DNA that must have at least some representation in Danny Hurley.

None of Bob Hurley’s players had agents; their version of a Transfer Portal was to move to another city and enroll in another high school.  All that Bob Hurley did was to coach basketball and to guide inner city kids to adopt a way of life that could serve them well into adulthood.  So, if Danny Hurley has even a partial interest in emulating his father as a basketball coach and a molder of constructive citizens, does he really need to put up with all the rest of the ”distractions” facing college coaches.

And therein lies a Catch-22.  If the distractions of college level coaching are burdensome and interfere with the job of coaching/mentoring, what sort of opportunity for that sort of endeavor might present itself as the coach of a team led by a 40-year-old LeBron James – – the self-proclaimed “Chosen One”.  And viewed from that perspective, why not take the humongous pay raise – – fully guaranteed of course – – and reinvent your coaching behaviors and beliefs?

Assuming that the reports are accurate regarding the Lakers’ intent to make a nine-figure offer to Danny Hurley, he will face an important life decision.  One can paint that scenario in the most dramatic of terms, attaching almost cosmic importance to the implications of such a decision.  Here is the good news for Danny Hurley:

  • At the worst he will be coaching basketball for the next 5 years or so and pulling in something on the order of $30M for doing so.
  • I believe that is called a “safety net”.

Finally, let me close today with these words from Danny Hurley’s father, Bob Hurley:

“Your mark is what you do on a day when you don’t want to do it. How good are you on a day when you just don’t have it? Can you push yourself that day? That’s a mark of your character.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



One thought on “Another Challenge For College Sports”

  1. …make a nine-figure offer….
    I am old enough to remember when a six-figure offer was record-breaking (Willie Mays received $105,000 in 1964).

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