A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Billy Reed: Moneyball, moneyball, moneyball — let’s play ball; we can watch and wonder as players collect


When Kentucky begins playing basketball this season, it will be difficult for me to keep from wondering just how much money is being made playing college – yes, I said college – basketball.

By then, of course. Coach John Calipari’s talented players, who are getting plenty of mention as the next national champion, will be getting something from somebody.

I single out Dontaie Allen because he’s the only player from these parts on the list of 15 players I’ve been able to document who have taken advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that college players are free to get paid for their name, likeness, and image.

All this did, of course, was change the culture of NCAA Division I sports. Amateurism is as dead as James Naismith. The NCAA has no clout. The rich only will get richer.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

I’m sure there are many who have not announced their sponsors. But trust me, that’s coming. Here are the ones I’ve documented, courtesy of the internet:

ALABAMA – Brice Young, football quarterback. His coach Nick Saban, says he’s getting an “obscene” amount approaching seven figures.

ARKANSAS – Trey Knox, football.

AUBURN – Bo Nix, quarterback. and Shaun Stivers, football.

BAYLOR – Jared Butler, basketball.

FLORIDA – Derek King, football quarterback.

FLORIDA STATE – Milton, McKenzie, football running back.

FRESNO STATE – Hanna and Haley Cavinder, women’s basketball.

Believe it or not, one of their sponsors has paid for a billboard in Times Square to increase their visibility.

JACKSON STATE – Antwan Owens, basketball.

KENTUCKY – Allen, basketball

MARSHALL — Will Ulmer, football.

MINNSOTA – Gabe Stevenson, wrestling.

NEBRASKA – Lexi Sun, women’s volleyball.

OHIO STATE – Nicholas Petit-Frere, football fullback.

TENNESSEE STATE – Hercy Miller, basketball.

As I said, this is only scratching the surface. As the seasons go on, the list will grow and grow, and where it will stop nobody knows.

It also could lead to some hilarious conversations between coaches and their star players. Consider if you will, UK coach Mark Stoops and Will Levis, the junior transfer quarterback from Penn State who is second in the SEC in passing and has led UK to a 3-0 record.

The intercom in Stoops’ office crackles with the voice of his secretary. “Coach, Will Levis is here to see you.” Replys Stoops, “Send him in.” Levis enters, stage left.

“Coach,” he says. “I’m going to get right to the point. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been putting up much better numbers than almost every quarterback in our league, even the ones that are far better known than I am. I want more money coach. Simple as that. If you can’t find some sponsors for me, I’m going to quit right now and go into the transfer pool or play in one of the minor pro leagues. I need your answer by the end of business today.”

Stunned, Stoops mumbles something about old-fashioned team loyalty, but Levis is gone.

This couldn’t really happen, could it? Nobody knows. But what we’ve always called NCAA Division I is churning in unchartered waters.

Anybody who knows me, or has read some of my stuff, knows that I am a diehard traditionalist. I am not against change, even like some of it, but it must be change for the better.

The Supreme Court decision does not meet that standard.

Cynics will point out that for decades, gutless university and college presidents looked the other way, their coaches were guilty of all sorts of NCAA infractions, most of them involved extra benefits for star players, such as cars, or academic fraud by which some had no business in school or no interest in staying longer than ir takes to get a pro contract.

The cavalier disregard that many coaches and players have for academics. I realize it’s a quaint idea, one that will draw sneers from the majority, but I don’t care. We are talking about COLLEGE sports, for heaven’s sake.

I still think college sports should be played by students who have some interest in academics. I think a four-year scholarship is ample reward for playing any sport.

My younger granddaughter Lucy will be a college freshman in two years. Just for the heck of it, I looked up some college tuition prices last week and was surprise that some schools, big and small, were charging north of $50,000.

Lucy loves field hockey and is a good player. A college scholarship in field hockey would be a godsend, but they will not put any pressure. All they want for her is an enjoyable high school experience.

I will follow big-time college sports with detachment. The Supreme Court and the spineless college presidents have ruined it for me. If you see me at a game, it probably be at Georgetown or Centre.

It just feels right, that’s all.


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One Comment

  1. Willie says:

    Someone, anyone please clean this up for Billy. The Kentucky quarterback is Will Levis, with a V (not Lewis as was noted in the column more than a few times).

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