Northwestern football players got plenty of attention earlier this week when they held a news conference to announce the formation of a union representing the interests of college athletes..
Lead by former Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter and union leaders from around Chicago, the group is not so much interested in pay-for-play of today's student athletes but rather compensation for things like medical related issues and as Colter says, "A seat at the table to get our voice heard."
The possible formation of the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) sparked debate from Evansville to Columbus to any campus which on which a football or basketball program gets more attention than the academics.
The debate is always centered around money. NCAA FBS football is a multi-billion dollar machine drawing revenue from ticket sales, huge television contracts, video games, merchandise sales, bowl games and sponsors.
Everyone is making money except the players.
The flip side of the debate is that players are nicely compensated with free tuiton, room and board, top notch athletic and athletic traning facilities and the opportunity to springboard their career into the money engorged world of pro sports.
Let that debate rage on.
Now consider how an Ohio State athlete may react to the business related side of athletics that came out of Buckeye-land this week.
Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith has a new contract.
Mr. Smith gets a new title, (vice president) and a raise of about $100,000 in his base salary to $940,484 per year.
It should be noted Smith is not the highest paid athletic director in the country. A USA Today article from March of 2013 had Smith ranked 7th among his peers in terms of compensation.
An athlete giving his blood, sweat, time and knees might likely understand why an administator in charge of 36 varsity sports, a 105,000 seat stadium, two arenas and countless other olympic sports venues might be entitled to $1 million per year.
But imagine the thoughts that must cross the mind of a star football player who helps sell tickets, boost TV ratings and sell jersies when he reads the types of bonuses included in the new CEOs contract.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Smith's bonuses include a $120,000 bump for the football or basketball Buckeyes winning a Big Ten championship. Smith could also pick up a $120,000 bonus if Urban Meyer gets the Buckeyes into a major bowl game or Thad Matta gets the hoops team back to a Final Four.
Though there doesn't seem to be a direct correlation between Mr. Smith doing his job well and a basketball player making free throws, the two are none-the-less connected.
Same with a touchdown pass. Imagine this coming out of Brent Musberger's mouth. "Miller fires it to Spencer, he's got it. 68-yards for the a Buckeye touchdown!. Man, that Gene Smith really has things going tonight!"
There's more from the banks of the Olentangy.
According the the Dispatch, Smith stands to earn a $200,000 bonus for "dealing with reporters and attending promotional events."
Think how many times you've seen Aaron Craft in a press conference or Braxton Miller or Ryan Shazier. It's at least once a week during the season and literally dozens of times over the course of the year.
Players receive nothing for meeting with the media and it could be argued it is a part of their regular routine as an athlete.
Promotional appearences? Ask an OSU cheerleader or the guy under the Brutus head what kind of bonus they recieve Michigan week.
The good news is they get the same pay the players get.
A player understands meeting the media is part of his or her "job description" as an athlete representing Ohio State.
Why wouldn't the same be true for the man in the corner office?
There was another bonus in Mr. Smith's deal outlined in the Dispatch.
He also receives a $60,000 bonus if Ohio State athletes meet their academic goals.
Graduation success rates have risen in Smith's tenure at Ohio State and that is to be commended.
But to put a $120,000 price tag on winning a conference title and only $60,000 on continued academic success sends a message especially to the student-athlete.
The contract places emphasis on winning championships over academics by 50%.
And that says nothing of paying a $200,000 bonus of paying an adult administrator to meet the media as student-athletes do almost daily.
If the athletes only compensation is an education then shouldn't they also be getting 50% more than that by winning the Big Ten or advancing to the Final Four?
Shouldn't they get a little something when asked to explain a bowl game loss or a blown second half lead?
These are the types of issues today's college athlete appears to be waking up to.
We shouldn't be surprised it's those athletes from Northwestern putting their five star education to good use for the benefit of five star athletes everywhere.