Football will $urvive at Happy Valley

The Penn State football team gathers on the field at Beaver Stadium before the 2010 game against Temple. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Penn State football team gathers on the field at Beaver Stadium before the 2010 game against Temple. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: July 27, 2012

FOR THOSE WHO believe the NCAA's slap on the hand of Penn State has solved the college-football overreach problem, well, really, it is but a minuscule shaving of the glaze on the tip of the iceberg.

Lamentations and rending of garments went up when the NCAA took away scholarships from the folks at Happy Valley. Wow, they are now down to 65 football scholarships — all worth as much as $42,000, which is out-of-state tuition, room and board. How many people play on a football team? So they are down to three deep on both sides of the ball, just for scholarship players.

So let's just say your kid has boffo College Boards and is a 4.0 student — a blue-chip recruit in what is supposed to be what Penn State is about, academics. What do you think he or she could get in merit money?

"Approximately one in five Penn State undergraduate students receives University scholarships," the school website reveals. "While scholarship award amounts vary and are limited by donor guidelines, the average annual award amount is $2,500."

Hmm, a perfect 2,400 on the SAT is worth $2,500, while a pretty good 4.4 in the 40-yard dash may get $42,000.

Now what do you suppose new president Rodney Erickson makes? He took a big pay cut from Graham Spanier's $1,068,763 — which was the third-highest presidential salary for public universities — down to $500,000 a year. The average Penn State full professor in liberal arts made $135,985 in 2009-10, but that salary was frozen because of general Penn State cutbacks last year. Football coach Bill O'Brien's estimated 2012 earnings? Two million, three hundred thousand dollars, with a guaranteed 5 percent increase a year through 2017.

This is not an unusual situation. Based on recent statistics, there is no state-school bowl-eligible Division I university where the president makes more than the football coach. Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee tops the Chronicle of Higher Education fiscal 2011 list at $1,992,221. That is the proverbial chicken feed to what Ohio State will be paying new coach Urban Meyer, according to the New York Times — a minimum of $26.65 million over six years, in addition to an annual automobile stipend, a golf-club membership, 50 hours of private-jet use and 12 tickets to each home game.

Ohio State, because of a scandal in 2010 in which players sold memorabilia for tattoos, got an NCAA rebuke of lost scholarships and a one-year postseason ban. It sure learned its lesson — former coach Jim Tressel had to resign, and it was able to bring in Meyer for only the price of about 38 full Penn State liberal-arts profs, not counting that private-jet thing.

Coincidentally, the NCAA has decided to rein in ancillary football staff members beginning this season. Now there can be only 10 assistant coaches, four graduate assistants and five strength and conditioning coaches. Several of those assistant coaches now make $1 million a year themselves. But even that isn't enough to safeguard the shoulder-padded hordes. Another Times story noted that in the Southeastern Conference, "At a typical workout for one of the league's football teams, there might be 25 people who are either equipment managers or members of the sports medicine staff."

And the myth that football "saves" other sports?

When Rutgers re-emphasized football in 2007, it cut seven other sports because of budgets. Even though the Rutgers men's crew alumni offered to finance the sport, the administration said no, and now it is a mere club. At the same time, Rutgers suffered cutbacks of more than 800 academic courses and, almost humorously, the computer science department lost its main phone and all staff had to use their cell-phones as their office numbers.

For those who worried about hurting current Penn State football players, portraying them as "innocent victims," I point to one of the most popular T-shirts at Emory University in Atlanta (which, by the way, had the No. 1 Division III male and female tennis players this past year): "Undefeated since 1836." There has never been a football team at Emory, but its students' average SAT score is 2,100. How has it survived only 176 years?

Robert Strauss is a former Daily News and Sports Illustrated staffer and author of Daddy's Little Goalie: A Father, His Daughters and Sports.

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