The Lament of a College Football Fan

No season has challenged my belief in the value of college football like this one. The accumulation of small blemishes over the off-season at some of college football's most storied programs -- Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, Miami, USC, Auburn, and LSU (playing tonight for a national championship) -- were troubling enough. Stories of star players trading their memorabilia for tattoos, boosters using illegal money to sponsor sex parties for players, and coaches lying to cover it all up became more and more difficult to hear. But then the guillotine dropped mid-season with the tragic news out of Happy Valley, which saw the fall from grace of one of college football's greatest programs and the defamation of its most heralded coach -- a man who had embodied many of the higher callings of the institution -- for covering up something as despicable and wrong as a child sex abuse scandal to save his program.

This season has been devastating for those of us who believe that college football can be about more than just money and big egos.

But perhaps that's because it may not be about anything else anymore. Athletic departments at most FBS schools operate independently of the rest of the University -- their earnings aren't funneled back to promote education and provide scholarships (to non-athletes) like most of us think. That makes them, effectively, big multi-sport franchises of the NCAA, much like any given team in any big professional sports league. While they can't make money, per se, given their non-profit status, their employees certainly can. That's why football coaches and athletic directors are among the highest paid employees at many FBS universities. For example, according to the public register of employee salaries, the highest paid employee at LSU is John Chavis, the football team's defensive coordinator, earning $500,000 annually -- Les Miles is listed as earning only $300,000 (although it's well-known that he's on contract for $3.75 million per year, with performance bonuses -- meaning his full salary isn't even listed).