Category Archives: Sports

The Legend

Many of you know Bo as a star at DFA over the past 20 years but before that Bo became a football legend at the University of Washington.  Bo is being honored at the Husky game this weekend and this recognition is well deserved.  I just wanted to share this  article I dug up giving you a few highlights his storied career.

Bo Cornell was a hulking football player who ran over people, his fearless style allowing him to move easily from Roosevelt High School to theUniversity of Washington to the NFL.

He had a name suited for toughness, but only because his younger sister, Cindy, couldn’t pronounce Bob.

The Miami DolphinsBenny Malone, however, even had trouble spitting out Bo.

In 1974, Cornell was two games into an NFL position switch with the Buffalo Bills — from backup fullback to starting linebacker — when he chased after Malone on a running play moving away from him. When the Dolphins tailback finally turned up field, the pursuer delivered a massive blow.

“I hit him in the head and we both went down; he was out cold,” Cornell recalled. “He had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. I chipped a big chunk of tooth. I felt I should have been carried off, too.

A lineman told me that was the hardest hit he had ever seen in his life.”

Today, Cornell travels in a far less violent world. At 56, he’s a slighter man with a mild demeanor. He’s into finance, a regional director for California-based Dimensional Fund Advisors. An Issaquah resident, he’s been married to his high school sweetheart, Jeanie, for 33 years and has two grown children.

Cornell started playing football when he was 8, advancing to each level with the same players, among them Jim Currie, Rick Smith, Steve Grassley, Bob Vynne and the late Hugh Klofenstein. As Roosevelt seniors, these guys had become such a cohesive unit they won seven of eight games and captured the 1966 Metro League championship, beating Sealth 14-13 in the Thanksgiving Day title game.

Cornell was durable, lifting weights at a downtown gym up to six times a week, starting when he was 15. He got the tough yard whenever needed but was equally impressive in the open field. He returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown against Lincoln. He scored from 79 yards out against Shorecrest. Recruiters everywhere sought him out.

The UW was not an automatic choice. Cornell pursued an Air Force Academy appointment, thinking he might become a pilot. Yet he was nearsighted and failed a two-day physical at McChord Air Force Base. He signed a national letter of intent with Stanford and placed it in a mailbox, only to have immediate second thoughts. His father retrieved it from a postal worker.

At the UW, Cornell played for two bad teams and one good one, but was consistent throughout. He scored 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,250 yards in his career. When his team went 1-9 in 1969, he lost just three yards all season while running for 613 in a wishbone offense. Demonstrating his versatility, he caught 33 passes as a senior when the Huskies switched to a passing attack.

The pros wanted him. Cornell was the Cleveland Browns‘ second-round draft pick and spent two seasons as a special-teams player. The Bills traded for him and asked him to move from offense to defense in his second season in Buffalo, considered a radical move at the pro level.

“That was one of the things I was most proud of,” he said. “I had to learn everything on the run. I hadn’t played any defense since high school. To me, it was just football. I wanted to play. I knew I could do it.”

 

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“March Madness”

I love it, all basketball fans love it, and we will all be spending a lot more time on the sofa watching (or hanging out at our local “sports bar”).  College sports has become one of the “crown jewels” of the entertainment industry, creating incredible amounts of wealth for those with the power to direct that wealth into their own pockets.  I am certain the NCAA and the “Big Five” major conferences are having a great time counting their money, but they have to be looking over their collective shoulders at the increasing threats to the monopolistic and exploitive system generating all that wealth.

As a reader of this blog you know I have written about this scandal for the past couple of years.   Public awareness of the injustice of the system is growing rapidly and a “full court press” (no pun intended) on the NCAA and the major conferences is emerging.

In no particular order, here is a short list of current developments that will hopefully put an end to what can only be described as “disgraceful” and a real black eye for our American system of “higher education.”

 

  1. Northwestern University football players have filed with the National Labor Relations Board to organize as a union.
  2. Ed O’Bannon’s class action lawsuit against the NCAA for the profitable use of player images, without their permission, (and with no compensation being paid), will go to trial June 9.
  3. Pac 12 Commissioner, Larry Scott, came out against the “One and Done” rules stating that the amount of time a scholarship athlete must stay in college should be increased to return to the objective of actually offering an education to those playing the game.  But he also stated that young athletes should not be required to attend college.  They should be allowed to pursue a career in professional sports whether it is in the NBA, the NBA Development League, the NFL, MLB, overseas or anywhere else opportunities arise.  You know, the sort of options and freedom all the rest of us have.
  4. Four college athletes have filed suit against the NCAA and the Big Five conferences alleging that they have created a “cartel” which prevents players from negotiating with individual schools to get the best possible deal in exchange for playing ball.  The prices are all “fixed” and relative to the amount of money being made off the players, the compensation is miniscule, especially for star athletes who bring in the big bucks.

As the NCAA, as we know it today, slowly sinks, maybe the NCAA orchestra will be playing “Nearer, My God, to The” and Kevin Spacey will be cast as Jeffery Immelt in the mini-series, “House of Shame.”

One last note on the hypocrisy embedded in the NCAA rules.  If a player gets a free meal, he or she can be declared ineligible and the school punished.  But if a university, in order to make certain an athlete is eligible, gives athletes credit and a passing grade for fake classes, the NCAA does not consider that a problem.

Huh????  That’s right.  The University of North Carolina admits it was happening for several years but evidently that’s okay with the NCAA.

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“Game On”

What game?  Johnny Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies vs. Alabama on September 14th.  Returning Heisman Trophy winner vs. the defending National Champion, what a fabulous draw for CBS and the SEC.  Now that the Manziel autograph “scandal” has been dealt with we can all relax, grab a beer and watch some great football in Prime Time in a couple of weeks.

Was there ever any doubt that the NCAA would stand in the way of this unique match-up?  CBS is paying the SEC over a half billion dollars for the rights to broadcast Prime Time SEC Football over the next 10 years, and you better believe they intend to make a profit.  College Football is one of the biggest media draws in the entertainment industry today and no one wants the NCAA, with their archaic rules, to screw it up.

The time has come for the Major Conferences and Universities that want to be in the entertainment industry to withdraw from the NCAA.  The NCAA is an impediment to the players, the fans, the coaches and the Universities who want to see a great “product” on the field.  The NCAA was never intended to be the overseer of a huge entertainment business. The Major Conferences already negotiate their own Media contracts.

As we have seen, over the past few years, the revenue generating capabilities of each school (business) determines how the conferences organize themselves to maximize their profit.  Thus we see Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference, Boise State in the Big East etc. etc.  It’s a business and they should have the freedom to take the actions they deem necessary to maximize their profits.  All the parties, except one, have this freedom, and of course that is the players.

In a world without the NCAA each Conference would be free to establish their own rules, and the players would decide which school best meets their needs.  If the player’s primary goal were to get an education, he would perhaps choose a school that guaranteed a scholarship for 4 or 5 years.  If the goal were to develop the skills necessary for a career in professional sports they could choose a school with a great coach.  Each Conference would establish its own rules recognizing the vested interest of all concerned, including the players.

In summary, the players deserve a “seat at the table” and a share of the benefits being created.  The current situation is not sustainable and it’s time for a change.

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“The End May Be Near!”

No, I am not talking about the end of the world.  I am far to optimistic about the future to embrace that idea.  To the contrary, we may be about to witness the end of “indentured servitude” for college athletes.  About that, I am optimistic.

The NCAA (often referred to as the owner of the plantation) is facing a situation in which may be about to lose one of it’s most prized and profitable assets, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.  Why?  He sold his autograph, but according to the NCAA, his autograph is their property.  Only the NCAA can sell Johnny’s autograph.

What to do?  What to do?  Mark Emmert, the Chief Executive of the NCAA, must not be sleeping well these days.  If he declares Johnny ineligible he exposes the NCAA for what it really is, a multibillion-dollar entertainment business built on the exploitation of those who actually play the game.  As I have written before, the coaches and administrators are “living large” while the players live with rules guaranteeing them a poor standard of living.  The rule broken by Johnny Manziel is just one of those rules that ties the athletes down.

I have never understood how coaches making millions can live with themselves without taking a stand for these young kids they claim to care about.  Is it peer group pressure, fear of being “black listed” by conference administrators, or just the joy of being an “exploitor” rather than an “exploitee?”

Johnny may end up being the guy who “knowingly” or “unknowingly” brought about the demise of the NCAA, as we know it today.  And in my opinion, it is long overdue.

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NCAA- A Solution

It is easy to find fault with the NCAA and its members, but criticism alone will not solve the problems.  What is needed is a solution that doesn’t throw out all the good things regarding college sports while getting rid of the hypocrisy and exploitation that will ultimately destroy it.

The current model for the NCAA has been in existence for decades and no doubt it was never envisioned as a rule making body for a multi-billion dollar entertainment business.  Many of our largest “educational” institutions are far better known for their success playing football and basketball than for their contribution to education.  And if that is the priority for those managing these institutions, that should be their choice.  College football and basketball are great businesses that can generate fame and fortune.

The NCAA was created to set up rules to govern college sports.  It was about local pride and the athletes were actually students.  It’s a different world today as evidenced by the recently crowned NCAA basketball champion.  I didn’t see much connection with Kentucky or the presence of many student athletes.  The coaches and players worked hard to produce a championship team that was fun to watch.  And they are to be congratulated!  But it’s a business with very little connection to the University of Kentucky as an educational institution.  If you doubt my conclusion just compare the coach’s salary with the salary of the university president.

The solution is to simply recognize the reality of the current situation.  The NCAA should be split between those institutions that want to be in the “sports entertainment business,” and those who want college sports to be an aside to their primary mission as educational institutions.  Some universities may want their membership to be sport specific, i.e. the money making sports would apply the rules established for the “entertainment group,” while the other minor sports would continue to function under the current set of rules.

Recognizing that college football and basketball are businesses would:

  1. End the hypocrisy that they are not businesses.
  2. Stop the unethical exploitation of the athletes who are more often than not black and poor.
  3. Force the NBA and the NFL to pay the NCAA members currently providing a cost free farm system.

There would be no losers with this reorganization (well maybe a little less money for those taking it all now).  Change is inevitable and the NCAA should take the lead and stop trying to defend a system that is dysfunctional.  If the NCAA  doesn’t, it may end up being changed in the courts.

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NCAA-It’s All About The Money

The NCAA’s exploitation of young men, mostly African American, from impoverished inner city neighborhoods has finally entered the conscience of the American sports fan.   The “tipping point” may have been last year when the NCAA signed an $11,000,000,000 multiyear contract for the broadcasting rites for “March Madness.”  That’s a difficult number for most people to comprehend and it got many peoples attention.

As with any business, those responsible for developing a great product reap the rewards of their efforts.  In this instance I am referring to the Coaches and Athletic Directors who are now receiving multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts.  The product being sold to consumers is, of course, the athletic talent of those who play the game.  And it is a great product!

The Coaches and Athletic Directors of major college programs have become by far the highest paid faculty members at most of the Division I “educational institutions.” And perhaps they should be because they and the players generate staggering amounts of revenue for their employers and the NCAA.  All the while, the NCAA continues to claim that it is all about education and not a business.  (It was down right painful to watch, Mark Emmert, the current president of the NCAA, trying to defend the NCAA’s position in an interview on the PBS program NOVA.  The words came out but you could see that he really doesn’t believe it.  The man has a conscience. He must know how Public Defenders feel proclaiming the innocence of their client who has murdered someone in front of a dozen witnesses.  A difficult task at best.)

College Athletics is a “business” but there are major differences between the business of College Athletics and all other businesses.  The profits are earned free of tax.  Private individuals can make tax-deductible capital contributions to the business and the employees, who actually play the game, receive no compensation other than their scholarship.  (And the scholarship is only good as long as the athlete performs up to the coach’s expectations.)

All the while the colleges can use the players’ name, likeness, video replays, video games etc. etc. to generate revenue without paying one dime of compensation to the players.

Back in 1998 a talented poor kid from Los Angeles named Andre Miller led the University of Utah’s basketball team to the Final Four in Dallas Texas.  His mother wanted to see her son play for the national championship so she road a Greyhound Bus for 26 hours, in order to be there.  USA Today wrote the story to show just how dedicated this mom was to her son.  But what I realized as I was reading this story was that if the school or some alum had bought her a ticket to Dallas on Southwest Airlines the NCAA would have declared Andre Miller ineligible.  I’m betting that no executive from the NCAA has ever ridden a Greyhound Bus half way across the country to see a game.

Since that time the business of the NCAA has grown into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but yet the exploitation of these young men continues unabated.  I am not so cynical as to believe this was all by design.  But it is very real.

Professional leagues, the NBA and the NFL love the system because the college programs provide a cost free minor league system for player development.  They were happy to collude with the NCAA by requiring players to play at least one year for the NCAA before moving on to the pros. How can that not be a violation of human rights.  A quick look at the NBA All Star roster list many players, such a Kobe and LeBron, who chose not to work for the NCAA before joining the NBA.

Everyone, the NCAA, the Schools, the Coaches, the Media, are all making money.  Everyone except the players who make it all happen.  When I tell other sports fans how it works their reaction is  “I didn’t know that” or “you must be kidding.”  But it is the truth, and a huge black mark on our institutions of higher learning.  We should all push to see a change soon.

The NCAA must clean up its act or they will self-destruct.  Can you imagine the consequences if a handful of star players refuse to play basketball in March.  It’s going to happen and I would love to give a guaranteed scholarship to any player willing to take a stand on this issue.

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“One and Done”

As Kentucky marches towards its predicted “college” basketball championship, a lot is being written about the NBA rule requiring players to play one year in college or be 19 years old at the time of the draft.

Without the rule, the NCAA and the media would have an inferior product to sell to basketball fans.  Before 2006 they missed out on the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, but no longer.  The real stars coming out of high school since 2006 are required to work for the NCAA for a fraction of their true market value.  They are sort of like “indentured servants” earning their right to make a living.

Realistically, these athletes attend college classes for one semester, not one year.  If they make the required grades to be eligible, after one semester, why would they continue to attend classes?  It doesn’t matter if they lose their college eligibility after March Madness, they simply want to be eligible to play in the NBA.

I don’t know what the average length of an NBA career is, but I can guess that it’s well shy of 10 years.  Forcing these athletes to give up one year of potential career earnings is just not right.  High school graduates are allowed to join our Military, to fight wars, but too young to play in the NBA?  The argument that these “kids” need a year of college basketball falls apart when you look at the roster for this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA was willing to create the rules because the NCAA provides a cost free farm system.  It’s a “win-win.”  When I read that John Calipari, the Kentucky coach who openly exploits the “one and done stars,” was critical of the rule, I was impressed.  But then I read on and his solution is to have a “two and done” rule.  Is he joking or what?

Like most things in our culture, it’s all about the money.  And there is nothing wrong with that motivation if it’s a fair deal for all concerned.  But this rule does not provide a “win-win” but instead it is a “win-win-lose” arrangement.  And you know who the losers are—-it’s the high school stars.  But they have no voice.  March Madness is great entertainment, but the “one and done” rule imposed on the star players takes a lot of the fun out of it for me.  It’s hard to think of it as “college” basketball.

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