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Outside the Lines:
Is it That Bad? and Walking from Glory


Here's the transcript from Show 89 of weekly Outside The Lines - Is it That Bad? and Walking from Glory

SUN., DEC. 9, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by -Bob Holtzman, ESPN.
Guests: Football -- Kurt Kittner, University of Illinois quarterback; Ramogi Huma, former UCLA linebacker. Baseball -- Donald Watkins, applicant to buy Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Bob Ley, ESPN - Well, I'll tell you Robin, baseball says its finances are a mess. Ahead, I'll be speaking with a man willing to buy either the Devil Rays or the Twins.

And on this incredible weekend of college football, we'll meet a couple of student athletes who say it's impossible to be both a student and an athlete at the top of the game.

Announcer - December 9th, 2001.

Big time college football - glamour and glory. But at what cost? For two players, it was all too much. One left for a small college.

Matt Campbell, Mount Union junior defensive end - I'm going out every day for the love, for the love of the game.

Ley - The other player left the game completely.

Neal Ambron, former Notre Dame football player - It's finally over, thank God.

Announcer - Also this week, baseball on the field has never been better, but with free agent millions swirling, when the commissioner told Congress the games finances are imploding...

Governor Jesse Ventura (I), Minnesota - It's asinine. These people did not get the wealth they have being stupid.

Bud Selig, baseball commissioner - You have all the numbers, all the statements have been audited except for this year...

Representative Waters, Congress - Mr. Selig, let me remind you, you're under oath.

Announcer - This morning on Outside The Lines, the questions of baseball's bookkeeping and walking away from glory.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Ley - It's an old joke among accountants, how much does two plus two equal? Whatever you want it to. So, when major league baseball, which spends more money by far than any other sport lobbying Congress, tried to explain to a Congressional committee how bad the games economics are, few people were moved. Even "The Wall Street Journal," hardly a center of Marxist thought, featured a derisive headline, "Poor, Poor, Baseball."

Later this morning I'll speak with a man so confident of baseball's prospects, he's willing to buy either of two teams on the short list of those teams to be killed off.

But first this morning, college football. On a weekend that featured the SEC title game, which of course has thrown the national championship picture into anarchy, a weekend with the most dramatic Heisman trophy anticipation in recent memory. With all of those reasons keeping fans on the edge of their seats, here's a reminder of the Human element in the industry of college football, that some student athletes who try to live both sides of that phrase find it impossible to do so.

Here's Bob Holtzman.

Ambron - Hey, tell them I'll be back in a little bit.

Bob Holtzman, ESPN - It's not even 8:00 on a Tuesday morning, and Neal Ambron is headed to class. All 6-feet-7 inches and 265 pounds of him.

Three years ago, at Littleton High School near Denver, Ambron was one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen in the country, with dreams of playing in the NFL. He chose Notre Dame.

N. Ambron - It was definitely a motivating factor. In fact, if you could be successful there, you had a shot at the next level. You definitely had an audience.

Holtzman - But after more than a year in South Bend, Ambron left the prestige of Notre Dame for the beauty of Boulder. He didn't transfer to the University of Colorado to play football, but instead to get away from it.

N. Ambron - I couldn't take it. You know, after a little over a year, you know, I didn't like it at all.

Holtzman - Matt Campbell was a freshman defensive end at the University of Pittsburgh the same year Ambron was at Notre Dame. Campbell also was highly recruited out of high school and also left Division I football after just one season.

Campbell - I never felt comfortable. There was never a feeling of, man, I belong to this program.

Holtzman - Campbell passed on Pitt. for Division III Mount Union College, not far from his Ohio home.

Campbell - At first, it was pretty rough, you know, and I, I thought, you know, man, everybody, the hard work that I've put in to getting to this point in my life, you know, everybody's going to think, man, he really messed up, what's he doing, you know? He didn't reach the goals that he set out for.

Holtzman - You might think Campbell and Ambron must have been homesick to leave a program like Pitt. or Notre Dame, but both insist they left for one simple reason - they went to college to experience college, and found themselves working 24 hour a day jobs.

N. Ambron - You'd usually have like lifting in the morning, or some kind of speed-bag drills real early, about 7:00.

Campbell - You know, we had to get up early, get in, get the films...

N. Ambron - And then you would go to class...

Campbell - As soon as class was over, went to another film session for about two to three hours. Went to practice.

N. Ambron - We'd practice until, you know, half-hour after it was dark. They would turn on the lights and, you know, we'd get off that, and by the time we got off practice we'd be running to the dining hall, you know, right before it closed, just to get dinner. And, you know, a lot of times we missed dinner and had to order out or go out. And then, you know, it was to bed, and then the next day it was the same, the same thing over and over.

Sueann Ambron, Neal's mother - He had no time. In other words, every moment of his day was scheduled. And he said, you know, mom, even if I met a pretty girl at Notre Dame, I wouldn't even have a chance to go have a coke with her or have a coffee with her. No time.

N. Ambron - They are in total control of your life. When you practice, you know, how much you weigh, you know. They tell you these things, and when you need to, you know, when you need to eat. They would check, you know, if we ate all our meals. And I had less freedom in college at that point than I did in high school, and I was thinking at that time, you know I was like, you know, what did I get myself into.

Holtzman - Ambron's best friend at Notre Dame was fellow offensive lineman Brennan Curtin, who just finished his junior season for the Irish.

Brennan Curtin, Notre Dame junior offensive lineman - It's hard to justify going out and, you know, working your butt off all week and then not playing, you know. But I think that in the end, you know, not to take anything away from Neal's decision or anything like that, but they're going to respect themselves a lot more for having gone through it, even if it doesn't result in anything, you know, tangible.

Any, like, thing that they can, you know, go on and play at the next level or anything like that. I think, you know, there are some guys on our team this year that are like that and, you know, they'll look back on it, you know, it's the best experience of their lives.

N. Ambron - I've heard that before, and I thought by doing that, you know, I'll lose my whole college, doing that, you know, and I didn't want to, you know, give up my whole college just to look back and say, hey, well, you know, I worked hard there, it's finally over, thank God.

Holtzman - Today Ambron is a business major at Colorado. He hopes to study abroad next year, something he says he wouldn't have been able to do as a football player at Notre Dame.

Ambron's lost 40 pounds since leaving South Bend, and says he feels better than ever, happier too.

N. Ambron - This is what I expected of college, you know, the student life, where you study and, you know, you eat with your friends and you, you know, you get through things with your friends, instead of just football, football, football.

Holtzman - Matt Campbell is still playing football, only now it's in an old stadium where you can't even squeeze 6,000 fans. He is the confident leader of Mount Union's defense, a far cry from how he felt as a freshman at Division I Pitt., where he says the game felt like a big business.

Campbell - Every time I see a recruit coming, I'd put myself through the, man, am I going to be as good as he is. I'd look at that depth chart, you know, I think every week, and think, man, can I get to this point or am I just another number here?

I love football. That's what I always knew, that's what I wanted to do with my life, and, you know, the last couple, the last five weeks there I just, it seemed like I fell out of love with the game.

Larry Kehres, Mount Union head coach - Matt has a passion for football, and it might have, that little light might have went out, or flickered, but it never disappeared from him.

Holtzman - This month, two years after leaving Pitt., Campbell was named one of Division III's defensive players of the year, but he's even more proud of the difficult decision he made to give up his Division I scholarship and pay to go to school.

Campbell - Football is football, no matter what level it's at. I think what's outside the lines is where a lot of things changed.

Ley - Matt Campbell's Mount Union team beat St. John's of Minnesota yesterday to advance to the Division III championship game. That'll be next Saturday against Bridgewater College of Virginia.

Joining us to discuss disenchantment with big time football, we welcome Kurt Kittner. He quarterbacks the Big Ten champion, Fighting Illini at the University of Illinois, preparing for the Sugar Bowl, and then on to the NFL, where he will be the most experienced quarterback on the draft board coming up as a three-year starter. He joins us from Champagne, Illinois.

Ramogi Huma played football at UCLA. He was a linebacker for the Bruins through the 1998 season. He was also chairman of the Collegiate Athletes Coalition, active in trying to organize athletes in college. He is with us this morning early from Los Angeles.

Good morning to you both. Kurt, you heard two players, both said this is not for me. What went through your mind as you listened to their rationale in walking away from this big time picture?

Kurt Kittner, University of Illinois senior quarterback - I just think it's more about time management. When I came on my official visit here at the University of Illinois, I did everything I could and asked questions to all the guys of where I'm going to be and what schedules are like, so I knew what I was getting into before I got here. And then, you know, it's just a little time management. When you're a freshman, it's hard to balance class, and lifting, and practice, and study hall.

So, I mean, you get used to it after a while, and yeah, I got homesick, but I got through it and, you know, the second semester of my freshman year and my sophomore year, it was much better and much easier to handle.

Ley - Ramogi, is it that simple?

Ramogi Huma, UCLA linebacker (1995-98) - I think Kurt touched on a good point. I think the degree to which student athletes are successful or unsuccessful making the transition to college and ultimately in their college career, I think it depends a lot on their expectations. And many of these expectations are formed during the recruiting process.

I think the recruiting process is somewhat lopsided.

Ley - Lopsided how?

Huma - Well, the student athletes, they hear all about the great things that they're going to come up, you know, that lie in store for them; how they're going to fit into the system, and things like that, which the majority are true. But I don't think they're given a healthy dose of the realistic, the real challenges that they're going to face once they get to college.

Ley - Challenges such as?

Huma - Well, everybody is talking about the, you know, congratulating you for getting a free ride through college, you know, a full scholarship. But student athletes find out shortly that nothing in life is free. They're going to work year round. You know, football is not just a fall sport where you walk out on a couple of Saturdays, play a few games, and that's it.

You have off-season workouts. You work year round. You work very hard for your scholarships, and I think that some of the other challenges, even off the field. You know, you talked about the full scholarship, which is nice, but the full scholarship actually doesn't cover all your expenses. Like the NCAA, they set your stipend that's actually below the cost of attendance, so that you have about $2,000 per year that you're not, you're not getting, to pay for your expenses.

Ley - Yeah, I know that's a big issue with your organization. Kurt, let me ask you, do you feel like you have a full time job and have had for the last four years, as the quarterback of the Illini?

Kittner - It is very, very time consuming and it takes a lot of effort to do it, but...

Ley - I mean, you have to make some compromises, haven't you?

Kittner - Yeah, I mean, we're here year round and there's times where I'd just love to go home and visit with my family, but I can't because I have to be here. But, I look at it as, I love the sport and I love being here. And I have a good time.

It's kind of like, regular students go out and join fraternities or sororities and, you know, we have kind of our own thing right here with all the football players, and I get along with them great.

Ley - Do you feel that there are parts of the college experience, though, you regret not being part of, Kurt?

Kittner - You know, we don't get to hang out -- if I was a regular college student, I don't know what I'd do with all my time, because I'd just go to class and, right now my classes, I'm done at about 1:00, and I wouldn't have anything to do for the rest of the day but study and hang out.

So, I mean, I like being occupied sometimes, and I hate feeling lazy and laying around, and I think that's what I'd be doing if I wasn't playing football.

Ley - Ramogi, for those student athletes, especially in football, I mean, Kurt obviously has an NFL future. He's going to be up there on the draft board. But for those who are in there knowing that there really is not a realistic chance, maybe they'll get a free agent look, and that's about it, do you think that there is a gap in the expectations of what college can mean to these guys as opposed to guys who are sure fire NFL draftees?

Huma - Oh, definitely. You touched on a good point. Less than 1 percent of college football players actually get to the pros, and of those who do, the average career is only three years. So, I think that we have to look at college football players, as far as the trends that are going to, that are existing today, the majority won't have a shot in the NFL, and they have to look at what else they have.

Football, playing college football is really a game of trade-offs, and I think having a football scholarship is a great opportunity, but there are trade-offs. Maybe you won't have as much of a social life as you'd like. Also, you're going to be competing against people in the classroom who have three times the time and energy that you have to be successful in the classroom. And while you're playing football, they might be in internships gaining valuable job experience, and when they ultimately get their degree, they might have many more options than you do as a student athlete.

There are a lot of trade-offs in college football.

Ley - Kurt, it about 10 seconds, I imagine you feel, obviously, whatever trade-offs or compromises you've had to make, obviously you feel they -- it's worked for you.

Kittner - Yeah, I think it's a great experience for everybody. And then, I mean, obviously you have to keep everything in perspective and know the possibilities before and after of what's going to happen.

Ley - All right. Thank you, Kurt. You now know who you're playing in the Sugar Bowl, finally, after last night. We appreciate you being with us. And Ramogi Huma, thank you also for joining us on Outside The Lines.

Kittner - Thanks for having me.

Ley - All right. Next up, baseball. So healthy, so popular on the field, tries to open its book, financial books, and plead poverty.

Allen Sanderson, associate chair, University of Chicago Department of Economics - There are an enormous number of ways in which a reasonably competent attorney and a good accountant can get in a room and through perfectly legal, ethical ways, make these teams seem unprofitable.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Ley - Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad publicly confirmed this week that his club and the Montreal Expos indeed are the baseball teams targeting for extinction.

Now, it's possible that will not happen this winter, either because it's getting too late or because the owners and the players may agree to wait at least a year, but baseball went to Capital Hill Thursday, saying it was opening its financial books to prove its case. A number of people were not amused.

Ley - Even as Bud Selig swore to tell Congress the whole truth, that baseball is hemorrhaging money, Jason Giambi was even close to becoming a Yankee for a contracted reported around $120 million.

In an off-season, where Barry Bonds and Juan Gonzalez are also seeking high paying work, an off-season off to a slow start because of the threat that two teams would be going out of business...

Selig - In examining baseball's competitive and financial issues, it has become clear that there are clubs that generate so little in local revenue, that they have no chance of achieving long-term competitive and financial stability. That is why baseball has made the decision to contract by two teams.

Ley - Minnesotans were angry.

Representative Martin Olav Sabo, (D) Minnesota - It is a diversion. Well, yeah, and listen, commissioner, don't give me a lecture about stadiums.

Representative Betty McCollum, (D) Minnesota - You could tell some members here from other states that their teams were going to stay. But you can't tell that to any of us here from the Minnesota delegation.

Ley - The Twins, according to Selig, are among the vast majority of money losing teams, in a business where despite record revenues, losses are not only huge, they're mounting. The commissioner encountered skepticism.

Representative Colin C. Peterson, (D) Minnesota - I'm a -- before I got into politics, a CPA, and we kind of tend to look at the bottom-line. The economics of this whole situation are pretty mystifying to me.

Ley - Selig maintained baseball had fully opened its books for Congress.

Selig - You have all the numbers, all the statements have been audited, except for this year...

Unidentified Female - Mr. Selig let me remind you, you're under oath.

Ley - The debate was about dollars, and the death of the Minnesota Twins.

Selig - We haven't moved a team since 1970. We have not moved a team...

Representative John Conyers, Jr., (D) Michigan - But, yeah, but...

Selig - So, I can't help...

Conyers - What about the threat, the threats don't count.

Ventura - Commissioner Selig has said they're going to lose $500 and some million, I think, was his quote, this last year. Well, they'll pay that out to three or four players, because you've got free agents out there right now -- Mr. Bonds is going to get over $100 million, no doubt. Mr. Jason Giambi, now if I were Harmon Killebrew today, I would be beside myself.

Sanderson - $500 million is almost an impossible figure to lose on an income base that these guys have. It just almost can't be done.

Ley - University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson is unconvinced baseball's losses are as stark as portrayed.

Sanderson - There are an enormous number of ways in which a reasonably competent attorney and a good accountant can get in a room and through perfectly legal, ethical ways, make these teams seem unprofitable.

If the 25 franchises are currently money, and that they have been losing money, and they're going to continue to lose money, then there is a very simple market test. The franchise value is zero on an open market.

Ley - But that's not been the case, even for the weakest teams on baseball's balance sheet.

Ley - Among those teams, the Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, both are prime candidates for contraction if that occurs. Donald Watkins has applied with each of these clubs to become the next owner. He is an entrepreneur, he is a banker, a former trial attorney, and he joins us this morning from Birmingham, Alabama. Good morning, sir.

Donald Watkins, businessman interested in buying a MLB team - Good morning, Bob.

Ley - Good morning, again. If Bud Selig spent four hours telling Congress on Thursday how bad, how wretchedly bad the economics of this sort is, why and how can you make sense of an attempt to buy in to two of the worst teams on the balance sheet?

Watkins - Well, let me tell you, the greatest business opportunities sometimes come from the ability to acquire an asset while it is undervalued.

Looking at the certified financial statements is only part of the equation. But the real answer to value lies in what can you do with the revenue streams. This is not a start up business. Whether I get Tampa Bay or whether I get the Twins, this is not a start up business. It comes with a block of revenue streams. The questions are, can the revenue streams be enhanced? I believe the answer to that question would be yes, in many ways. And, can they be multiplied? The answer there would be yes.

And if revenue streams can be enhanced and multiplied, then you know where future value is...

Ley - Well, you've applied for the Tampa Bay application...

Watkins - I did. I did.

Ley - Where does your application stand now with the Twins? Are you officially an applicant?

Watkins - When I applied in September, I had to specify a team. I specified Tampa Bay. When the contract issue came up, and I realized that Minnesota might be one of the teams, I made contact with them, a week or so ago, to find out what was the protocol. Could I pursue both at the same time? The answer to that question came this week, this past week.

Ley - It came in front of Congress, in fact. So...

Watkins - Yes it did.

Ley - Now, the biggest issue -- the big issue with the Twins is the stadium. You have been on record -- I'll ask you again, are you prepared to privately finance a stadium deal for the Twins?

Watkins - You know, the answer to that is yes, and...

Ley - Because that's the big stumbling block to saving that team.

Watkins - It's not a stumbling block for me. It's probably one of the pluses on the Twins' situation. I get a chance to privately finance, the way I want to, using financial contacts that I have, a first class, world-class facility that I will own. And there's nothing better than owning the team and the house that the team plays in.

Ley - Well, I know certainly, now, obviously, you would be the first African American majority owner in major league baseball. You are making a move at the same time to possibly save a franchise whose lineage goes back to the Washington Senators. I would think baseball would be beating down your door.

Watkins - Well, baseball has not exactly been beating down my door. I'm not looking for any special favors, any rules to be waived. I am going through the process, and I expect to complete the process. I'm going to evaluate these two teams, and I -- this weekend for example, I spent the weekend with a team of experts, business valuation experts, accountants, investment bankers, attorneys, to see which one of these opportunities is the one that I really need to put my eggs in.

Ley - Do you actually accept the audited figures given to Congress, a half-billion dollar less the last year? I mean, you know -- you can crunch numbers.

Watkins - Well, obviously, if I'm going to be an owner, I'm going to have to work with Bud Selig, but let me say this - audited financials are where I start. That's not where I end. I start there. But I go a little bit further. I ask you to tell me what is the growth plan? Where is the room for enhancement? If you can't tell me, I try to figure it out on my own. You can't judge business valuation if you don't know what's going to happen in terms of a forecast for the next two or three years for a particular franchise...

Ley - And it's an open question, whether those franchises have another two or three years.

We're out of time. Mr. Watkins, thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

Watkins - Thank you.

Ley - Next, the sure fire short stay college basketball star, like Dajuan Wagner, and your reaction to a change in some recruiting philosophies.

John Calipari - He is a great young man. If he wasn't, I wouldn't have done it. When I met him and said this is a beautiful kid, now I want him on my team, because he's going to help me build a program, not just be a taker.

Ley - John Calipari has been willing to deal with a one-year player, speaking about Dajuan Wagner. Last week, we examined how some college coaches will not recruit star players destined for a short college stay. And among the e-mails to our in-box on our Web site, a view from Columbia, South Carolina:

"I am sure all these guys, the coaches, have honored their four-year contracts while moving up the coaching ladder. Yeah, right. I'm sure all the players who relied on these coaches promises that he would see them through their four years were equally as disappointed when they left for better opportunities."

From Detroit - "Now that players know they may be overqualified to play at Arizona and St. John's, maybe they will look for coaches or schools who are willing to teach and mentor them in both education and basketball, and in some cases for life, if only for a year or two."

Visit our site on Type the keyword "OTL WEEKLY." Our complete library has not only transcripts, but streaming video of all Sunday morning shows. And as always, we invite your e-mail comments to our address, Thanks for being in touch.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is a presentation of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. For more, log on to

Ley - A reminder, this program -- if you joined us along the way, will re-air at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time today on ESPN2.

Tonight, the Seahawks and the Broncos at 8:30 Eastern on ESPN, that's after NFL Primetime at 7:30 p.m..

I'll be back with Robin Roberts in 30 minutes for another edition of SportsCenter, a look at the SEC title game, of course the Heisman, and the release of the coaches poll. We can tell you this much at this hour, three ballot points separate the third and fourth place teams. It's going to be interesting to see who goes to the Rose Bowl.

Now, John Saunders in for Dick Schaap and The Sports Reporters. We'll see you.

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 Outside The Lines
Is it That Bad? and Walking from Glory

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