Showing what is truly valued

“You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget
We only get what we give”
“You Get What You Give” — New Radicals

It’s hard to believe, but New Radicals released their upbeat inspirational piece nearly 25 years ago, in November 1998.

The song was a modest success, reaching No. 36 in the Billboard Hot 100, but its staying power has lasted over the years as it has appeared in numerous television shows and movies and was even performed as part of the 2021 inauguration of Joe Biden (it was a favorite song of Biden’s son Beau).

The song cites multiple things within its (admittedly basic) lyrics that challenge political and societal structure, asking how the long-standing “normal” is truly benefitting the average person, imploring them instead to carve a unique path to impact the world instead of going along.

It definitely has a great hook, and it’s a notable one-hit wonder, but many really miss the deeper meaning in the song, challenging what we consider as society norms and encouraging care for the unique diversity of each citizen of the world.

A few recent pieces of sports news have called into question - while also shedding light on - what we value as a society.

In a town that is smaller than Huron according to the most recent census (2020 population of 14,245 for Huron), Melissa High School in Melissa, Tex. (2020 pop. 13,901), a $35 million investment was made at the school.

Investing that kind of money in the school is something that should be lauded, right?

No, not really.

The investment was made for a new football stadium, complete with luxury boxes and seating for 10,000 fans. The high school in the Dallas suburb has just over 1,500 students, from the school’s reporting at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

Mind you, this is on top of an indoor field and training facility that was part of the project - facilities that rival those I’ve experienced at Big Ten schools.

For the high school football team.

One of my teammates in college was from the Dallas area, and he relayed that Texas prep football is unlike anywhere in the country (and he was a military kid, so he had lived in Georgia and California as well during his school years).

Even then, this is insane spending for a district where the average salary of a teacher in the high school is $45,000…but the football coach is paid $92,000!

Meanwhile, the rapidly-expanding school is encouraging the music and theater departments to fundraise for new/updated facilities ... as $35 million is spent on new football facilities in the next breath.

This is nothing new, really.

While the internet exploded about the spending on this stadium, what was missed is that it will only be the 10th most expensive stadium built by a high school in the last decade in Texas. Multiple football stadiums at high schools in the state cleared a $50 million price tag.

While there was some amount of fundraising for this project, the majority of the funding for the football facilities will be provided by taxpayers in the district.

Certainly, the stadium may fill as the population of Melissa has continued to explode (an estimated 6,000 additional residents in 2022 over the census number cited from just two years prior), but revenues from that stadium will never come back to the taxpayer - they will only fund the school’s spending on other projects - and one would hope that would include spending on areas of the school other than sports.

Of course, this level of insanity is only piggybacking on the drastic shifts in major college sports conference alignment that have been announced in the last few months.

When Rutgers and Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014, there was a level of knowledge that the driving force behind the decision on the conference’s part was to capture New York and Washington, D.C. television markets for the conference for financial reasons. The distance to games wasn’t terribly crazy, though, as Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State all were within roughly 500 miles of Maryland. Not an easy jaunt, but certainly something that could still be done on a game day for a student-athlete.

The most recent additions to the same conference, however, do not have any sort of geographical sense. UCLA and Southern Cal will both join the Big Ten in 2024 for athletics. Then, Washington and Oregon both signed on earlier this month to also join the conference in 2024.

Those four leaving the Pac-12 led to multiple other members of the conference jumping ship, with Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Arizona State officially announcing their move to the Big 12 this summer, leaving just Oregon State, Cal-Berkeley, Washington State, and Stanford in what used to be the Pac-12.

Incredibly, one of the strong rumors on those schools left involves the ACC adding Stanford and Cal. In case you may not realize, the ACC stands for Atlantic Coast Conference…which means adding two schools prominently on the opposite coast of the country.

Many don’t realize the incredible time suck that it is being a college athlete. While many still struggle with the addition of name, image, and likeness (NIL) funding to athletes in college, schools do make millions of dollars on these athletes, make them household names, and then had previously held stringent rules about the athletes making anything off their own momentary celebrity.

However, simply to be a college athlete is a full-time job in practice time - for any sport. A lot of thoughts are on football right now and the travel for football, but many sports travel for 2-3 days of competition each week, and UCLA traveling to Rutgers for a softball series will require a day ahead and a day behind the series for travel. That means a series will require a Bruin softball player to be away from her school home for five days…and then still get all school work done to keep current in classes.

So why are all of these major shifts happening?

Pure and simple, money…and not money for all sports, money specifically for football and men’s basketball.

While those schools are considered the “revenue” sports by colleges, revenue is the accurate word, as very, very few college football or men’s basketball programs in the nation are profitable, despite their revenue. In fact, in a study done by Sports Business Journal, roughly half of the 133 teams in the top division of college football lost money in 2021, and the smaller the national pull, the bigger the chance the school is actually losing money, meaning schools in the FCS level, formerly known as Division 1-AA, are significantly more likely (roughly 70% of schools in the 2021 study) to be losing money, and the rates only go higher and higher as the schools get smaller losing money on football.

This is by no means a rip on the game of football. I had some of the best experiences of my life attempting to walk on at a Big Ten school and seeing some of the incredible stadiums that exist. However, I also had many friends who played soccer, golf, tennis, or swam for the school, and their sports seldom offered any scholarships, let alone full-ride scholarships like the third-string punter is getting at a huge school.

The past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to highlight two recent Huron graduates that had incredible success.

Quite frankly, Pierre’s Lincoln Kienholz could only hope to have the achievement that Bryn Huber and Kenedee Rowen achieved last season as Huron seniors.

Nearly everyone in the state knows Lincoln’s name - and even sought out his autograph, but few - even in Huron - know Bryn and Kenedee’s incredible achievements.

Athletics can provide incredible opportunities for students to grow as people and potentially earn a college education for the 1% who are elite enough to do so (and those who do quickly find out just how tough it is to combine collegiate athletics and academics), but there are so many other things that create a well-rounded individual that our education system can offer, and we should ensure that we’re funding and supporting all of them at the same level.