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Oklahoma football: Bob Stoops has the right idea, but his delivery needs work

The Oklahoma football coach went all Marie Antoinette the other day, but his primary point is valid: A college scholarship is no small reward. Stoops does say he's all for giving players stipends.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 11, 2013

Stoops' primary point to The Sporting News was lost in the Hungry Sunday comment but remains valid. A college scholarship is no small reward.

Stoops pointed out the economic worth of a scholarship and all the amenities that go with it, from support personnel who build up their minds and bodies.

He also bristles at the idea that all this money generated by football is going to his lofty salary. OU has made major capital improvements and added support personnel in every area during the Stoops Renaissance.

“All that money we're making is going to me?” he asked. “What they pay me is a small part of what we make. Don't act like it doesn't get put back into the athletes.”

Again, right message. Wrong messenger.

But it goes much deeper than just what Stoops listed. Playing football at OU makes connections and opens doors that are unavailable to most non-athletes. Can't put a price tag on that.

And while everyone drifts the debate to the money generated by athletic departments, built on the backs of ballplayers, they don't see the bigger discrepancy.

The same can be said, only more so, about the university at large. OU's university operating budget for 2013 was $838 million. That's a lot of money. That's a lot of paychecks, many of them with six figures left of the decimal point.

A major university is a serious economic engine. All of it built on the backs of engineering majors and education majors and business majors and fine arts majors. Most of whom are not getting scholarship help and some of whom are going into serious debt in pursuit of that degree.

And people want to talk about the unfairness of the football dichotomy?

This debate long has been with us but has intensified with the escalation of coaches' salaries. Hard to take a sermon on hanging in there from a guy making $4.5 million a year.

Stoops told me he wishes the Hungry Sunday line hadn't become the focal point of this debate. But he doesn't back down. Stoops stands by what he said. Says he feels bad if money's tight with one of his players. “But I feel bad for the hungry kid in the other dorm, too,” Stoops said.

That's part of the deal. College life is not an end. It's a means to an end. Stoops knows that and can express it well, except when he says to let his linebackers eat cake.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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