Money Matters, Blowhards, and Transfer Madness
In the dog days of summer, with no NFL, NBA or college football games being played, and baseball's interminable season only half over, there isn't as much to write about in terms of competition or on-field excitement.
My current follows include Aaron Judge's home run assault, the incredible Shohei Ohtani, the injury- and defense-plagued San Francisco Giants, and the WNBA's Sabrina Ionescu and Nneka Ogwumike.
But the headlines of late have been dominated either by money matters or tone deaf and idiotic comments from blowhards in the commissioner’s office or the governor’s chair.
Baseball’s Shame: Major League Baseball reached a $185 million settlement last week in a longstanding legal battle with minor-league players. The players had charged MLB with labor violations, alleging they were making less than minimum wage.
They were right. Rookie and A-league players had been pulling in a whopping $14,700 annually before a recent raise reportedly upped their pay to $20,800 and $26,000. Triple-A players, with the increase, zoomed up to $36,400.
In his annual “state of the game” press conference at last week’s All-Star game, commissioner Rob Manfred—who just 19 months ago eliminated over 40 minor league teams—rejected the notion that these players weren’t making a living wage, calling them “seasonal employees.”
Manfred, by the way, makes $17.5 million a year.
Newsom's Nonsense: Not to be outdone by the MLB commissioner, California Governor Gavin Newsom was huffing and puffing last week about UCLA's decision to bolt for the Big Ten, threatening a review by the California regents and hinting that he might try to stop the move or force the Bruins to compensate their University of California siblings in Berkeley.
This was all political posturing. There was no way Newsom or the regents had the right to stop UCLA from leaving the Pac-12. And I seriously doubt UCLA will owe Cal any money.
The UC President's office quickly confirmed that the regents didn’t have the authority to stop UCLA's move.
If they had tried, the Bruins might've pointed out they were facing a $103 million deficit and that joining the Big Ten will get them out of the financial hole by doubling or tripling their annual conference payout. Otherwise, they’d have to cut several Olympic sports.
In terms of compensating Cal, the Bruins might point out that they've been subsidizing the Golden Bears for decades by winning NCAA basketball championships or going deep in March Madness on a regular basis, thereby generating tens of millions of dollars for the conference’s coffers, of which a proportionate share flowed to Cal.
As for Newsom, who just a year ago signed the nation's first legislation authorizing NIL compensation for the state's college athletes, he seemed to be insulted that no one had consulted him on the Bruin's impending departure.
I’m sure he’ll get over it.
Lacob Fined: Then there’s, the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, who fined Warriors owner Joe Lacob $500,000 for saying the league’s luxury tax was “very unfair.”
Pretty mild criticism, really. One can only imagine how big the fine might’ve been if Lacob had said the tax was “bullshit.”
Fact is, all of the team’s top players other than Andrew Wiggins were drafted and home grown, and all the free agents signed last year were for the league minimum.
So basically the Warriors are being penalized $200 million because their draft picks became great players and are being paid accordingly.
I think Lacob has a point.
Kirby Strikes It Rich: The University of Georgia Athletic Association rewarded head coach Kirby Smart for winning the national championship with a contract extension that will keep him in Athens through the 2031 season. Under the new agreement, Smart's compensation for the upcoming 2022 campaign will be $10,250,000, followed by annual increases that will raise his pay to $12,250,000 for the 2031 season.
Nice work if you can get it.
Transfer Insanity: The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, is planning to eliminate the “one time only” transfer restriction. This will essentially allow “student-athletes” to transfer schools every year, if they wish, without any consequences.
Up until 10 years ago, players had to sit out a year if they transferred. Then in 2012 they were granted the right to transfer without penalty if they were graduate students or if they received a waiver because of a family emergency or alleged mistreatment by a coach.
Finally, in April of 2021, the NCAA granted all athletes the right to transfer once without penalty. Three months later, NIL compensation was authorized.
The combination of unregulated NIL and the transfer portal has created a toxic situation where recruiting directors and agents are regularly approaching players on other teams with the promise of more NIL money if they will transfer.
Once the new rule gets final approval in August, an athlete will theoretically be able to play for four different teams in four different years.
Without any consideration being given to academics.