Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Colleges Taking Advantage of Athletes!

Thursday, April 9, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Millions of rabid college basketball fans have been glued to their TVs over the past month as March Madness reached its crescendo this Monday night. My North Carolina Tar Heels came close in an effort to win its second national title in the past five years. And the big bucks have been rolling in. There are lots of winners, with coaches getting big salaries, and colleges spiting up their percentage of huge TV and admission revenues. But there is one group that is being both exploited and shortchanged. It’s the players, themselves.

There’s certainly not a shortage of income. This year in the NCAA tourney, television income is estimated to be some $750 million, with an additional $50 million from ticket sales and sponsorships. The cost of a thirty second spot for Monday night’s championship game exceeds $1 million. And college football is awash with the same increasing yearly income. More bowl games, and the ever increasing television revenue allows most college football programs to cover the cost of a growing array of minor sports.

One sign of the growing sports revenues is the dramatic increase in coaches’ salaries. The University of Kentucky hired basketball Coach John Calipari from the University of Memphis with a salary package of $35 million over the next 10 years. Head coaches whose teams made the NCAA tournament have an average salary of $1 million. And that doesn’t include all the perks like free cars, country club memberships, housing subsidies, access to private jets, and generous severance packages.

In college football, the numbers are even higher. LSU football fans are still incensed over former Coach Nick Sabin taking a salary package estimated at close to $ 4 million at arch rival Alabama. South Carolina Football Coach Steve Spurrier was enticed to take the job with a free country club membership at Augusta, home of this week’s Masters Golf tournament, which includes the use of a private jet to get him there for a quick 18 holes. LSU is paying assistant football coaches as much as $700,000 a year or more. The University of Tennessee announced it would pay two assistant football coaches $650,000 or more, each, for the coming year.

The average compensation for these NCAA tourney coaches is almost triple that of the typical university president, which shows us the perverted priorities of these institutions of higher learning. Little wonder that American industry has not been standing up too well in world competition.

Fans pay through the nose to attend major college athletic events. As an LSU football season ticket holder, I personally pay $840 just for the right to buy my season tickets. The seat ticket itself is $54 per game. So there are big bucks coming into major college programs all over the country. Top-level college sports are big business. LSU, for example, receives some $100 million in revenue each year from ticket sales, television rights, concessions, parking and logo sales, which is about five times what the school receives from tuition.

All this income comes from one source…the athletes. Yet only college expenses -- room, food, tuition, books, and maybe a summer job -- the basics are paid to these young men and women. No pocket money to go to the movies, no gas money, no extras whatsoever. So we have college athletic programs raking in millions on the backs of talented, disciplined, hardworking athletes, without sharing the revenue with those responsible for generating it. Such a system is ill-defined at best and hypocritical at worst. The universities, administrators, and coaches are reaping great value -- even luxury -- provided by their recruits, and the players, themselves, are given only a Spartan subsistence.

It was a little better than 40 years ago when I was lucky enough to attend the University of North Carolina on an athletic scholarship. I was given a housing and food allowance that exceeded my costs, as well as “laundry money” that allowed for weekend dates, gas, and a few frills above the basic scholarship costs. What I received then was equivalent to some $250 in pocket money if the same were allowed today. But it’s not. The NCAA tightened up the rules, and college athletes get less today than athletes like me received some years back.

Supporters of the present system will argue that there is the opportunity for these athletes to move on to the pros and make big financial returns. But we all know that very few make it to that level. They may not even end up with the basic skills necessary to succeed in other workplaces, since only a minority of student-athletes in major sports even graduate. LSU football and basketball players generally graduate at a rate of less than 40%
There is a system in place now that’s allows our young college athletes to be exploited, and the exploitation is being committed by their adult mentors. What a deal -- your body in exchange for a pittance of basic expenses. A little monthly expense money is not about to corrupt the system. Providing $300 a month to all athletes on full athletic scholarship seems reasonable. March Madness, as is always the case, turned out to be a financial bonanza -- but not for the kids that many of us paid to watch. They deserve a better shake and a small piece of this huge financial pie.
“The coaches own the athletes’ feet, the colleges own the athletes’ bodies, and the supervisors retain the large rewards. That reflects a neoplantation mentality on the campuses that is not appropriate at this time of high dollars.”
Walter Byers, former executive director of the NCAA.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show live each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at Many radio stations throughout the country carry the program at various times throughout the week.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is America Overextended?

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Pensacola, Florida


My morning coffee group can solve just about any domestic problem, and it generally offers better solutions than the folks up in Washington. But all of a sudden, our daily rants about Wall Street bailouts, corporate welfare, the bumbling educational system, and lousy final four picks are being overshadowed by murky events from half way across the globe. We now are inundated twenty four-seven with news on countries most Americans could not point out on a map.

If you sometimes think the world is spinning out of control, maybe that’s because it is -- and at breakneck speed. Japan has been crippled by a gigantic earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear meltdown. Revolution has engulfed the entire Middle East and North Africa. A month old crisis is eclipsed by a new cascade of events, and the U.S. has now declared war on Libya. We’ve been broadsided with American confrontations from countries and factions we can’t even pronounce. Try Djibouti, Qatar, Shiite, or Nicker-rog-wah.

It was exactly eight years ago this week that President George Bush gathered the so called “Coalition of the Willing” to invade Iraq. President Barack Obama has now jumped into the fray by invading Libya under the banner of “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” As Steven Colbert pointed out, President Reagan fired missiles on Libya in the 1980s, and named his mission Operation El Dorado Canyon, a name that "sounds like some serious desert ass kicking." As for Odyssey Dawn? "That's not a military operation," Colbert said. "That's a Carnival cruise ship."

Those of us who gather each morning to commiserate about our daily lives are not well versed in foreign affairs. America has been the center of the universe for decades, and we all agree that our schools have done poorly in bringing the rest of the world alive to our young minds. But we do have some basic common sense and follow what happens beyond our borders in a broader view of how we are affected. And we know a few things that don’t seem to sync in up in Washington.

First, we know we have been at war for a long time. Our troops have been fighting in Iraq for eight years, which is twice as long as our World War II efforts to defeat Nazi Germany. 4,385 U.S. soldiers have died over a war that was supposed to have ended back in 2003. Remember President Bush, standing in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, telling us that “the United States and our allies have prevailed, and that major combat operations have ended?” So the Iraqi war ended, and then another 4300 American soldiers were killed there.

Our longest war in Afghanistan continues into its tenth year. More than 1500 U.S. soldiers have been killed and we are spending $2 billion dollars a week to keep this war machine moving. 64% of Americans oppose this war, including a wide majority of my deep southern coffee group, but our congressmen seem quite comfortable with letting the president and the generals carry on as they see fit.

Second, experience and common sense tells us it’s easy to start a war, but hard to end one. Hey, we have invested blood and money in this foreign country’s cause, so we just can’t pull out. And then we have to undertake nation building, even if that nation shows little or no interest in wanting to build it. There are always a multitude of reasons why we can’t get out. And we just may not have that tolerance to wait. There is a Pashtun taunt that is often hollered to our soldiers in Afghanistan: “You have the watches, but we have the time.”

Third, we all know that air power doesn’t win wars. Oh, maybe the A-bombs dropped on Japan hastened the ending. But again, going back to common sense, when some general starts talking about “no fly zones” bringing Libya’s Gaddafi to his knees, we know better. A lot of civilians are going to be killed, and we are going to see American troops on the ground fairly soon. You can bank on it.

Fourth, is the America really invading for humanitarian reasons, or is it primarily about oil? The U.S. showed little humanitarian concern for years of massive slaughter throughout Africa, the most catastrophic example being Rwanda. Zimbabwe, under brutal dictator Robert Mugabe, continues to carry out numerous atrocities against his own people. In his new book, “The Fear,” Peter Goodwin, points out that most Americans view Africa as monolithic, with little understanding of individual countries. Libya is much easier to understand. It’s a small country with a bad dictator who has been accused of killing Americans, and sitting on lots of oil. Easy call there.

Here’s what my gang at coffee is saying. Wall Street bailouts have cost the U.S. a bundle, we can’t afford to fix our roads and crumbling infrastructure, home values have plummeted, our national debt continues to rise at alarming rates, and our educational system seems to be going into the tank. But there seems to be no end to tax dollars available to fight big wars and small brushfires worldwide. We may be our brother’s keeper, but are we obligated to be? And just as importantly -- can we afford to be the world’s peace keeper? So when we do bring down a tyrant like Kaddafi, do we end up just propping up another puppet, who often turns out to be just as brutal as the one just deposed? Using the bully stick of U.S. troops, are we destined to perpetuate these “necessary” wars with no end in sight? We executed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and created the perfect storm for the Taliban tyranny to explode across Afghanistan, destroying our soldiers and fortunes at an incredible rate.

Here’s the bottom line from my guys. American is not the Messiah, and our government has been hypocritical in “picking and choosing” its “humanitarian” fights. Our country is broke. Yes, there is a role for America to play in a United Nations effort to intercede when brutal dictators set prey on their countrymen. But it’s not always our cause. We can’t have a dog in every fight. Our government needs to quit looking for (supposed) dragons to slay abroad.

If we continue to jump into every future skirmish, they ought to call the next one “Operation Enduring Idiocy.”

“We cannot ignore our own complicity in arriving at this point. We cannot continue to arm regimes that abuse their own citizens, and try to claim the moral high ground when addressing the conflicts that those same arms have helped to perpetuate.” DAVID LAMMY

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Unpatriotic Act by Congress!

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


When Tea party candidates throughout the country ran for office last fall, most members offered soaring campaign promises to defend liberty of ordinary Americans, and fight governmental intrusions on basic freedoms. But whatever hopes there were that newly elected Tea Partiers would put the brakes on intrusive domestic surveillance, illegal wire wiretapping and warrantless searches went out the window just 20 days into the new Congress.

With only minor whimpers, Tea Party leaders did an about face by abandoning their previous opposition to the so called Patriot Act, voting to indefinitely extend this Orwellian law that flouts the Bill of Rights. The federal government has now been given carte blanche to spy on everything you do online, every call you make, and every trip you take. “But there is danger out there,” says your congressman. “So just get used to it!” Privacy is gone, so get with the new world. No more basic constitutional protections? “Get over it.”

As Brian Doherty writes in the American Conservative: “Thanks to the massive security apparatus erected after 9/11, the government now wiretaps telephone calls without warrants, creates profiles of citizens even if they’re not suspected of specific crimes, and seizes information without judicial oversight.” In this brave new world, private companies that maintain massive data bases of information on what we are saying, writing, buying and thinking, willingly turnover reams of information about their customers.

Here’s one example. Sprint Nextel provided the government with GPS locations on its subscribers 8 million times in a recent one-year period. Thanks goodness I use AT&T, who, to its credit refused to provide such private information to the FBI without receiving a warrant signed by a judge.

William Pitt stood up in Parliament back in 1763 and declared: “The poorest may, in his cottage, bid his defiance to all the forces of the Crown, the storm may enter; the rain may enter….but the King of England may not enter.” But because of the betrayal of a majority of the members of Congress, including most Tea Partiers, the FBI can now enter our personal cottage of electronic communications without the nuisance of any court oversight.

And three cheers to US Senators on both sides of the aisle who had the courage to stand up for the Bill of Rights. They include Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Jon Tester (Montana), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Tom Udall (New Mexico), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Ron Wyden, and (Oregon), and six other courageous senators. Boos to my home Louisiana delegation, who marched in lock step with political party leadership, and voted against basic American freedoms.
Peggy Noonan was Ronald Reagan’s speech writer and now writes a regular column in the Wall Street Journal. Here are her thoughts on the basic intrusions of the Patriot Act. “When we lose our privacy, we lose some of our humanity; we lose things that are particular to us, that make us separate and distinctive as souls, as, actually children of God. We also lose trust, not only in each other but in our institutions, which we come to fear. People who now have no faith in the security of their medical and financial records, for instance, will have even less faith in their government”

George Bush began the deep decline of basic civil liberties, but Barack Obama, has been no better a protector of the Bill of Rights. The President recently signed into law provisions allowing “roving wiretaps” that allows the FBI to wiretap phones in multiple homes without having to provide the target’s name or even phone number. The mere possibility that a suspect “might” use the phone is enough to justify the wiretap

The FBI continually protests that their investigations will be hindered if they have to go find a judge to approve such invasive surveillance. Getting judicial consent, a foundation of our basic protections, just “slows down the process,” they say. “Hogwash,” says Fox News commentator and former Judge Andrew Napolitano. Here’s his response.

“The time-is-of-the essence argument is nonsense. I once issued a search warrant in my gym shorts from my living room at 3 am, and I know a former FISA court judge who did the same from his cell phone while riding a motorcycle. While neither of these situations is optimal, there are at least written record of what was done to whom and why.”

The so called “Patriot Act” has driven a stake trough the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments-the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Amendments, as well. Conservative columnist John Whitehead put it this way: “In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they told anyone that the government had subpoenaed information: monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause, and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.”

Many Tea Partiers and other Patriot Act vindicators continue to hound us with the supposition that we have to choose between liberty and security. And if your only concern is security, then certainly if we lived in a police state, it would be much easier to catch the terrorists. If we just would allow the government to listen to your phone conversations, read through your mail, look at all your email communications, search your home on a whim, and lock you up because what you write or think, then we would surely catch more terrorists and other bad guys. But is that what America is all about? Do you want to live under such a restrictive cloud? Is that the kind of country that we ask our young volunteer soldiers to fight and die for?

In Herbert Hoover’s winning campaign backing 1928, his slogan was “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.” Today’s slogan could well be “a government agent on every corner, a wiretap on every phone.” It is, after all, for our own security, right?

“Some things are unforgivable in a democracy. The patriot Act should be at the top of the list. Nobody who has supported this wretched law should ever be allowed to brag of defending liberty again.” Former CIA Agent Susan Lindauer

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Roemer one of many Louisiana Prez Wannabes!

Thursday, March 10, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana


Here’s your question for the day! Name a Louisiana resident who seriously considered running for President? Here are a few hints to round out his profile. His resume’ shows that he was well educated and intelligent, was a member of congress, was elected governor of Louisiana….and is short. Several candidates come to mind, right? Bobby Jindal, and now, Buddy Roemer. But there were more. Read on.

Actually, no Louisianan has ever been elected President. Zachery Taylor might barely qualify, although he spent very little time down in the Deep South. One resident of the Bayou State did make it to the nation’s highest court. Edward Douglass White, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921. In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft.

The latest Louisiana native to give the presidency a good look is former one term Governor Buddy Roemer, who kicked off his campaign at a presidential forum in Iowa this week. Roemer right now is the longest of long shots, but so was his case back in 1987 when he pulled an upset victory to get elected as governor. He beat quite a pack of candidates back then, including incumbent Governor Edwin Edwards, Congressman Billy Tauzin, future Speaker of the U.S. House Bob Livingston, and some other forgettable character named Brown.

Roemer is taking on the system and the other Republican candidates by chastising the moneyed interests in politics. He’s going after Washington lobbyists, Middle East oil money, and ethanol subsidies that he says are ruining the country and its politics. “I declare my independence,” Roemer told the crowd. “Tell people a seasoned warrior against special interest money is in the race. Washington is not about leadership. Washington is not about people. Washington is about money and re-election.”

So is Roemer undertaking a fruitless effort and becoming the Don Quixote of the presidential season? Maybe not. It will all come down to money. Roemer is, and has always been, a good messenger. But to get his message out, it will take big bucks. He has a self-imposed rule of refusing any money from political action committees, nor will he take any individual donations greater than one hundred dollars. It took Obama $250 million to get the democratic nomination. Do the math, and you will see Roemer needs several truckloads of checks to be competitive.

Current Governor Bobby Jindal, with his obvious national ambitions, keeps raising money nationwide, but will sit on the debate sidelines while dealing with a huge budget crisis back home in Louisiana. But don’t think that Jindal would not jump at the chance to be on a national ticket as vice president. Roemer actually helps Jindal’s chances by keeping an articulate voice from Louisiana in the national spotlight.

So who were the other candidates? Edwin Edwards gave a national race a good look back in 1978 when the President Jimmy Carter was floundering. Edwards just didn’t like Carter, and had read several books on how the former Georgia Governor had come from obscurity to the Presidency. Edwards toyed with the idea for six months, and then ended up supporting Republican Ronald Reagan.

John McKeithen sought the national stage, and thought he had a commitment to be the Vice Presidential candidate on the Hubert Humphrey ticket in 1968. The Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago was the convention headquarters, and I had trekked up to the Windy City as an observer. I happened to be on the hotel elevator when McKeithen and Sen. Russel Long got on. Long later told me they were on their way up to the penthouse meet with Humphreys and solidify McKeithen’s position as the vice presidential nominee. Humphrey changed his mind from his earlier commitment, turned McKeithen down, and the Louisianan governor immediately left the convention to return home in a huff.
Don’t forget Huey Long, who had all but announced a challenge to sitting President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Though a backer of Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, Long split with the President in June 1933, and planned to mount his own presidential bid for 1936 in alliance with radio's influential Catholic priest Charles Coughlin. Long was assassinated in 1935, and rumors abounded that his presidential ambitions played a role in why he was shot to death.
So we have Long, McKeithen, Edwards, Jindal and now Roemer. All served in congress except McKeithen. And they were all short. I wonder how the results would come out if we took the three living candidates and had a Louisiana primary? Roemer, Jindal and Edwards. Yes, ole’ EWE is eligible under federal law to run for president. Who do you think would be the top vote getter in this three man race?

Right now, it’s just Buddy Roemer in the national mix. At 67, Roemer is telling the nation that he is “old enough to know what to do and young enough to get it done.” Remember that the first primary is in Iowa, and the winner is determined by a small number of voters who have to show up on election night in person. If Roemer’s gift of gab can create some sparks and convince a respectable number of reformers in the Buckeye state to jump on his band wagon, who knows how far the Shreveport native might go.

In the meantime, I say let’s go with our own state in the presidential primary. Along with Roemer, Jindal and Edwards, let’s thrown in country singer Tim McGraw, a Louisiana native who has expressed great interest in politics. And maybe Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and General Russell Honore’ to round out the slate. Mardi Gras just ended, so we need something way down here in the deep south to keep us occupied.


“I never lose. Even when I’m the underdog, I still prepare a victory speech.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at