One of the biggest problems currently facing football (college or professional) is that of money. The NFL recently ended a four-month labor dispute centered primarily on distribution of revenue. Even with the work stoppage no longer lingering, questions remain about money. Several star players, most notably Titans’ running back Chris Johnson, have failed to report to work because of contract disputes.
In college football, the situation is seemingly even worse. Many of the scandals that have recently rocked institutions have centered on illegal benefits. Ohio State suspended several players and lost its coach because the players were believed to have received money for autographs and free or discounted tattoos. If proven true, the University of Miami faces a potentially much larger issue, as a booster claims to have given money and illegal benefits to 72 players over the course of the last nine years. Several former players who are now notable figures in the NFL are included, but the list also includes some current players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris.
On a separate note, Texas A&M University has all but expressed its desire to leave the Big XII conference and join the SEC. Two primary issues seem to be driving the decision: first, that A&M could make more money as a member of the SEC; and second, the school seems to be upset that priority has been given to the University of Texas in allowing the school to create its own television network. In the words of ESPN’s Pat Forde, “Tradition is up for sale.” Baylor president Ken Starr submitted a guest column to the Waco Tribune-Herald this past Sunday criticizing Texas A&M for wanting to leave. His words included the following: “This week we learned of plans that would tear Texas A&M from the fiber of the Big 12 and place it within the Southeastern Conference where it would no longer face its sister institutions from the Lone Star state.” He continued, “Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M have been competing against one another for more than a century, while Texas Tech has been facing these foes for more than 80 years. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine having a Baylor football season without a game against A&M with the Midnight Yell and the pageantry of the Fighting Texas Aggie Band marching at halftime. Any change that disrupts our current athletic affiliations will create aftershocks throughout our conference and others. I shudder to consider a future gathering of my fellow university presidents in which conversations about the disappearance of our historic rivalries lead us to consider what we were thinking back in 2011 when we let something so valuable slip away.”
It is the “aftershocks” Starr referenced that have been creating the largest stir among college football analysts. The concern is that if Texas A&M leaves the Big XII, it would need to bring another school with it to create an even number of teams in the SEC. The leading candidate seems to be Missouri, which would leave the Big XII with only 8 teams. Despite the fact that the Big XII started out as the Big 8 Conference, many are concerned that an 8-team Big XII conference would not survive. Some teams would likely join the Pac-12, Mountain West, or Big East conferences. Other teams – Baylor considered the most likely candidate – would struggle to find a new home. With this in mind, it is easy to understand Ken Starr’s passion for keeping Texas A&M where it is.
I’ve mentioned several different issues facing football at the college and professional levels. Despite the variety, however, I believe that all of these situations can easily be summed in one word.
Why would the NFL and its players’ association argue for months about revenue sharing, what many described as a conflict between millionaires and billionaires? Selfishness.
Why would players making millions (or at the least, very close to it) hold out from training camp in hopes of a better deal? Selfishness.
Why would college players seek illegal benefits at the risk of harming their institutions and potentially losing eligibility? Selfishness.
Why would a school seek to destroy century-old tradition and possibly cause other schools great financial harm to potentially gain more money for itself? Selfishness.
In each of these situations, the people involved are risking great hurt to others (and potentially themselves) in the name of the Almighty Dollar. The question that you and I must ask ourselves is this: are we, deep down, willing to do the same?
We may not end up on the front page of a newspaper as a result of such decisions, but integrity is still an issue regardless of fame. The choice to live a selfless life is not an easy one, but it is the call Jesus gives us in Luke 9:23: “Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” It’s also the call that of Matthew 7:12 (“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”) and Matthew 6:19-21 (“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”), both from Jesus’ sermon on the mount.
Instead of pursuing wealth at any cost, we are to be selfless and love others as ourselves. It’s a difficult call to follow but it is at the very heart of Christianity. I’ll likely address different aspects of this topic again in the future.
What is the most difficult part of being selfless?