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Billy Reed: Malik Cunningham deserves a raise. Said as college sports as we know it is dying as we watch


Malik Cunningham deserves a raise.

I don’t know what the University of Louisville’s star running back is making now because the athletics department doesn’t release such information, but I’ll bet Rand Paul’s suits that he deserves more.

Although the Cards lost 37-34 at Wake Foremost yesterday, Cunningham’s running was dazzling. Coming into the game, he led the nation in touchdowns scored and he got a couple more against a Wake Forest defense that was strained to the limit trying to stop him.

How much should he be paid?

Well, since the U.S. Supreme Court system destroyed the last vestiges of amateur athletics, we have learned that Alabama’s freshman quarterback is making close to $1 million. Tennessee’s quarterback is just south of that. The women’s basketball team at Fresno State has received an infusion of cash that it can afford to rent a billboard in New York’s Times Square.

At the University of Kentucky, where John Calipari will have a roster full of NBA draft picks, the coach has said they’re going to put all the endorsement into one pot and give a percentage to charity. Then each player will receive an equal slice of what’s left.


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.

At first, hearing that sounds good. But what when, say, Player A, who received $1 million, sees he’s getting the same amount as Player Z, who got only $50,000. You can bet all of Player A’s family members, agents, and hangers-on aren’t going to let him take Calipari’s deal.

It’s hardly a revelation to say that with money comes greed. They walk hand-in-hand, revealing the worst about people. So are we now going to have players and coaches at each other’s throats? Will self-interest destroy team togetherness? Will players bicker jealously in public about what they’re being paid?

I fear the worst. The Supreme Court already has neutered the NCAA. The only solution is to blow up the whole thing and start again.

Here is what I believe about college sports:

1. They should be played by students sincerely interested in getting a degree.

2. Tuition, room, board, and books should be payment enough.

3. A new NCAA would have a board of administrators that holds college presidents accountable for any wrongdoing at their school.

4. Colleges that can’t control their athletics directors or coaches should be suspended indefinitely.

5. Television contracts and other business deals would strictly be controlled by the administrative board. In negotiating those contracts, the welfare of the student-athlete always must come first.

The league members may form conferences based strictly on geography. No conference may have more than 12 members.

What I have suggested above could easily be done if the university presidents would find the will to do it. They are the culprits in the current mess. For decades, they have lacked the spine and morals to do the right thing.

So Malik Cunningham deserves a raise. But who’s going to find a corporation or wealthy booster to come up with the cash? What if nobody is willing? What if Cunningham threatens to join the labor pool that facilitates transferring?

Questions, so many questions. And while we’re looking for answers, college sports as we have always known them are dying an ugly death right before our eyes.


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One Comment

  1. Jack Frost says:

    Billy, I agree with you totally. You have always made great sense and observations with your columns. What you have forecast for the demise of college athletics is right on target. It’s a sad commentary about the weak leadership of many college presidents and how the love of money has turned our largest educational institutions into minor leagues for professional sports. Bringing money into amateur sports as incentives to keep student-athletes in college is the sending the wrong message because it creates an uneven playing field as the athletes are not created equal. How will the unheralded offensive lineman react when he is not cashing in while the quarterback or star running back, whose success depends on that offensive lineman, take in tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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