The Dye-Gest: The Cure Could Be Worse

College football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the possibility of changes in the game he played and coached.

With all of the money college football is generating in this era a lot has been written about it and there has been a lot of discussion recently on the topic of providing funds for college football players beyond the tuition, books, room and board covered by their scholarships. In my opinion the leaders of college football who are looking at this and considering changes will need to do a lot of in-depth research on the subject because there are no easy answers on what should be done.

When I was a college football player we received $15 every month for laundry money, which would go a long way back then, plus we also received four tickets to every game that we were allowed to sell. Unlike today the players back then could scalp the tickets, especially for big games, because it wasn't against the law or against NCAA rules. However, that is no longer the case with rules in place to prevent that from happening.

I played and started coaching in an era before the big bucks arrived in college football, even for the head coaches. Like the players, assistant coaches also got four complimentary tickets they could sell and I believe they could buy up to four more and sell them, too, something they really needed to supplement their income because most us weren't making much money. Like many things in college athletics, that has changed.

I remember when I took my first full-time coaching job at Alabama for $6,000 a year, which made it tough to support a wife and two children. If I hadn't been in the National Guard I couldn't have survived at the time. I also sold my tickets to help buy groceries. That is how other starving assistant coaches survived back then and how players from financially poor backgrounds got by.

In my opinion there is no clearcut solution to providing the modern equivalent of laundry money to college football players without providing funds to all athletes in all sports, something that would get really expensive.

The rules might say you get that extra money as part of a scholarship, but anybody in their right mind knows there are colleges across the country that are struggling financially to afford intercollegiate athletics the way it is structured today. Maybe a lot of colleges can afford to pay supplemental funds for all of the football players, but there is no way many can afford to do the same thing for the hundreds of athletes on scholarship in a variety of sports

The thing that is clear to me is that some students need more financial help than they are getting. I think that is especially true these days with the way the economy is struggling, and I think that makes athletes vulnerable to somebody who is willing to bend or break the rules.

My guess is a lot folks who are making the decisions on this subject don't have a full grasp on how financially underprivileged a substantial number of athletes are who compete in intercollegiate athletics. When I say underprivileged there are families struggling to provide the basics for students such as clothes and other necessities. Whoever makes these decisions for the NCAA, I hope they can look at things through the eyes of the players who come from these circumstances.

As a college coach you wish when you are recruiting that every house you went into had a perfect situation with the mother sitting here and the father sitting there while little brother and little sister were sitting on the sofa listening while you try to sell your school to the family, but it is fantasy world to believe that all of the kids in college are coming from families like that. That is not the real world and it never will be even though fortunately there are a lot of families like that.

The kids who come from really tough environments, they need to go to college more than anybody does. A football player from that background isn't going to have opportunities back home. He isn't going to inherit the family business. He isn't going to have the doors opened for him that he will have as a college graduate. I have recruited kids from backgrounds that were so rough they wouldn't let me come to their neighborhoods to see them because it was too dangerous.

The thing I hope happens is before any changes are made a lot of research is done and the decision-makers have the correct information to make good choices. In trying to help college athletes if too much financial strain is put on athletic departments, entire teams may be eliminated for cost cutting purposes, which in the long run will provide fewer opportunities. Sometimes the "cure" can be worse than the problem so college administrators need to consider the long-range effect of the changes they make.

It is not going to be easy and I don't pretend to have all of the answers. Hopefully, the people making the decisions do what is best for college football in the long run.

From the mailbag

Coach Dye,

I wanted to say we (The Auburn Family) are glad to have back after hitting a "bump" with your health.

I met you many years ago in the mid 80's when we had just moved back to the Southeast and we were attending the Atlanta Auburn meeting. My two boys who were 6 and 10 at the time were sitting a table on the side of the meeting room. (I was at the tables getting dinner for everyone.) I watched as you noticed them sitting across the room by themselves. You walked across the room to introduce yourself to them. I will neve forget the look in their eyes as you focused and talked with them. One son went on to Duke University and the other to Washington & Lee University, but to this day they mention meeting you and how special that was to them. They knew their dad was a big Auburn fan. After that Auburn Club meeting they were sold on AU. All through their college years they would get together with other sons and daughters of AU alums attending their universities and watch the AU games.

Now that they are grown; 31 and 35, they and their families go to AU games with us and they love AU as much or more than me. You played a big part in that happening with the kindness and time you spent with my boys over 25 years ago.

So glad to hear that you are feeling better.

Best Regards,

Pat Hardin, 72
Sandy Springs, Ga.

Your comments are a reminder that Auburn is a special place for a lot people, even ones who didn't attend the university. I am glad your family still enjoys attending the game and spending time in Auburn. As you know it is a great place.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)

Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye also writes the Dye-Log and Pat's Picks columns for AUTigers.com.

Order Your 2011 Auburn Tigers Football Guide.


Premium Subscription Signup


Pat Dye's Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve and Lodge

Pat Dye's Quail Hollow Gardens


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories