Welcome to the mailbag. It's Friday, and that is always a good thing.
To the notes.
Bryan from Portland, Ore., writes: Now that Northwestern football players have been declared employees, and are eligible to unionize, can they be taxed for their scholarship? Nobody would be very happy to have to pay $15K in taxes for a full ride scholarship to NW.
Ted Miller: You are correct. And if college football teams in the major conferences unionized across the country, things would become complicated.
In fact, I don't think that's what's going to happen. Further, despite my mailbag last week and tweak of Texas AD Steve Patterson here about being all business until it comes to the issue of treating college football players like employees, my feeling at present is unionizing college football would be fraught with potentially negative unintended consequences and probably not a good thing for the sport -- both for those who play as well as those who coach and administer.
Yet the threat of unionization, the threat of players uniting to get a better cut of the action, is what I view as a positive good. Unionizing should be a last resort if the folks who run things don't figure out a way to treat the players better.
To repeat myself from last week, my thinking on this aligns with Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, and I keep linking his article because he wrote things I was thinking before I did, so he merits acknowledgment.
Further, this represents a change of heart for me. For a long time, I saw a scholarship as enough payment, and I resented the ignorance of the drive-by-columnists who took shots at college football without regularly covering the sport. My feeling was only a handful of players owned real star power, and that the jersey players wore on Saturdays actually held the enduring value and ultimately created the revenue. But that position was developed in the 1990s. Over the past three to five years, with conferences realigning and then signing mega-deals for broadcasting rights, as well as the coming College Football Playoff, I've adjusted my thinking.
What should players get? Glad you asked.
Full cost of attendance scholarships. My feeling is this is going to happen pretty soon.
Lifetime disability coverage for injuries suffered while they played college football.
Players should be able to profit from their images, though we certainly understand this could get complicated to monitor.
Transfer rules need to be reevaluated, making it easier for players to change schools. That will make life difficult for coaches, but they are paid $3 million or so a year to deal with difficulties.
There should be a need-based fund that pays for parents to go on recruiting visits and to attend games.
I also think we need to reevaluate player-agent contact. While pay-for-play with boosters is about a program gaining a competitive advantage, player-agent contact is about a player looking out for his future. You'll notice that the carping about agents tends to come from coaches, ADs and fans because they don't want their star players entering the draft before their eligibility has expired. Rules against agents have zero benefits for players.
Sure, you could open up some unsavory situations, but it seems like it would be better to have as much as possible happening out in the open than what we have now.
Gret from Salt Lake City writes: Hey guys, the Big Ten blog did this a while back and I thought it would be fun to try here! If you could be the dictator of the Pac-12 for a day, and could only make three changes, what changes would you make?? and no school, no matter how powerful, could fight you on anything. They would all just have to go along with whatever decisions you made.
Ted Miller: First, I adopt much of what I wrote above.
Second, I'd force the Pac-12 Network and DirectTV to reach a compromise deal. This is mostly because I am sick of hearing about the impasse between Pac-12 Network and DirectTV.
Third, I'd schedule more day games. There would be no more than two 7 p.m. PT (or later) kickoffs during the Pac-12 schedule.
Fourth, I'd make Kevin call me "The Great and Powerful Oz." Oh, oh or "Heisenberg."
Ryan from New York writes: Ted, Nice "puff" piece on the Bruins. But they need to beat somebody other than embattled Bo Pelini and a depleted USC team that dressed less than 50 scholarship players in LA last fall. UCLA is 1-6 in the last couple of years against Oregon, Stanford and ASU. Not good. Before you start popping off about being a national title contender, you have to beat the good teams. Oh, and beating an underachieving Virginia Tech team that played more than half the game with a backup QB who had thrown less than 5 passes all year doesn't count. Peace out.
Ted Miller: I was wondering where you'd been. I fear it's going to be a long and frustrating year for you, Ryan.
UCLA welcomes back 19 starters from a squad that beat five teams that won eight or more games last year, including a 10-win USC team. By 21 points! Also back is QB Brett Hundley, leading a team that finished the season 10-3 and ranked 16th.
The Bruins are going to be ranked in or very near the preseason top 10. Oregon, USC and Stanford all visit the Rose Bowl.
You can stew and frump all you want, but the reason people think highly of the Bruins’ chances is something called "supporting evidence."
Brian from San Diego writes: You know how cities across the U.S. have sister cities? Los Angeles has Athens, Greece for example; and San Francisco has Naples, Italy. Just for fun what schools would you say are "sister schools" of Pac-12 members?
Ted Miller: Just for fun.
Arizona-Florida: If you've hung out at both places, you'd get it. Close color schemes, too.
Arizona State-Florida State: Hey, bud, let's party!
California-Michigan: Great state schools. And not afraid to tell you about it.
Colorado-Texas: Perhaps the nation's two best college towns.
Oregon-Ohio State: Our fan base is more obnoxious. No, our fan base is more obnoxious. Wait. I like how you think. Same here! (Hugs). [70 percent of Oregon fans will find that at least reasonably funny; 30 percent will swear a blood oath against the Pac-12 blog].
Oregon State-Kansas State: Great coaches, overachieving programs, folksy atmosphere, cool towns.
Stanford-Duke: They could talk about computer code and James Joyce. Only problem is Duke students are mostly folks who got rejected by Stanford and the Ivy League.
UCLA-North Carolina: Good schools. Great hoops tradition. And shades of light blue!
USC-Alabama: They'd argue endlessly about which program is the "Greatest in College Football History," and the experience would be absolute bliss for each fan base.
Utah-TCU: The Pac-12 is hard! The Big 12 is hard!
Washington-Miami: They shared a national title and are presently trying to regain their national stature. And this pairing would give Hurricanes fans somewhere to go in the summer and Huskies fans somewhere to go in the winter.
Washington State-LSU: These programs are very different but if you got the fan bases together the party would be absolutely epic, whispered about for centuries, as in: "Great Granddaddy, tell me about the time you partied for four weeks with those Cajuns."