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Billy Reed: Sports management program is a good idea, but the timing just doesn’t seem quite right

My alma mater, Transylvania University, has begun the process of starting a sports management program. I like the idea, even suggested it a while back, but now I have to wonder if the timing is right.

For one thing, money is tight at most colleges and universities. Depending on the magnitude of their problem, many have eliminated positions, slashed budgets, instituted hiring freezes, and cut salaries.

This will be more or less the way things are until a vaccine is found for the Coronavirus pandemic. When that day finally comes, no element of our society will look the same. In the sports worlds, both pro and college teams will have to reevaluate, and probably scale down everything from coaches’ salaries to travel budgets to ticket prices.

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.

Television may ask to renegotiate its contracts with leagues and conferences, and that could change a lot of things considering how dependent sports has become on TV money. The networks will not pay exorbitant fees for the mediocrity we already have seen in the college football season.

I was in the minority who felt that football should be canceled at the college level. However, under pressure from wealthy alums and donors, the university presidents put athletic profits ahead of player safety.

They can claim, of course, that they’re only doing what the President of the United States wants them to do. Donald Trump has taken the credit for the Big Ten’s change of heart. In early fall, the league announced it was canceling football until next year. But the outcry from Trump, donors, and alums was so loud and angry that they backed down in order to save their jobs.

In the Big Ten and every other leagues, the “season” bears little resemblance to normalcy. Because of the Coronavirus, games have been canceled and. Rosters decimated. Many of the potential All-American players have either chosen not to play or been forced to the sidelines because they caught the virus. Most games have been played in stadiums that are 80 per cent empty.

Nobody, including the NCAA, has any good answers to the problems that will only get worse. So it seems to me that it might behoove my alma mater to put any plans for a sports administration on hold, at least until the virus is under control and the college sports world can see what it’s dealing with.

Existing sports administration program surely will have to rewrite their curriculums to accommodate the new conditions. The jobs of athletics directors will change dramatically. They must reconsider everything from coaches’ salaries to conference affiliations to travel budgets. Some might even have to cancel some non-revenue sports.

Some of this is not necessarily bad. For a long time, I have deplored the commercialization and professionalism of college football and men’s basketball. If some sense of balance between academics and athletics is restored, it will be good for all concerned. And let’s do away with the one-and-done schedules.

Both Kentucky and Louisville lost again yesterday, but so what? This is not a real season. It’s only a makeshift season designed to give the nation’s football junkies their weekly fix. Whoever emerges as the national champion should get a big, fat asterisk next to its name.

(Memo to UK Coach Mark Stoops: If you’re going to use a new quarterback, you must give him a playbook that fits his style, not the same one his predecessor used. Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.)

I hope that Transylvania will someday have one of the best sports administration programs in the nation. But until revenues increase and the virus is under control, I would go into Dean Smith’s “Four Corners” delay game and hold the ball. It’s not very exciting, but it seems the prudent way to go.

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