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Why not let agents pay schools that turn in players

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003

In the revenue-generating college sports -- Division I men's basketball and football -- the athletes deserve a modest stipend. However, colleges say it is not economically feasible.

The solution: Let the agents pay. No, not in a wild, sleazy-agents-invade-campus sort of way, but in a regulated system controlled by the NCAA.

Here's how it could work: Deep-pocketed athlete representatives such as IMG bid for an athletic program, like shoe companies do. The highest bidder pays the school, which distributes the money -- say, $300 a month maximum -- evenly among that team's juniors and seniors.

For football, that's about 40 players, a total of $144,000 a year. For basketball it's much less, roughly $18,000 per team annually.

What do the agents get? The first presentation to each athlete when his eligibility expires.

Limiting the stipend to upperclassmen is an incentive to stay in school. Excess bid money would go toward a general scholarship fund. Lesser programs invariably would receive smaller stipends, but perhaps the NFL and NBA, who reap the rewards of the college development system, could lend a hand.

It would help a flawed and fracturing system: Basketball and football players who want to play professionally must go to college, regardless of their academic inclination, because there are no viable developmental leagues.

And rave

How Swede it is to have Sorenstam competing against men

She will be taking an opportunity from a fringe male pro who is pounding away trying to earn a living. Other than that, Annika Sorenstam's decision to play the Colonial is all good.

Some have said she should have to qualify, and they have a point. But that's what sponsor's exemptions are for, to bring in golfers who generate interest in the tournament, which in turn benefits the sponsor. Mission accomplished. It will be the biggest golf event of the year aside from the majors.

And it's not as if they gave the spot to Bill Murray. Sorenstam's glittering record speaks for itself. Though she will be among the lightest, if not the lightest, hitter in the field, she will not be outclassed.

In fact, aside from being shorter off the tee, will she be outclassed at all? When power is negligible, there should be no difference between men and women. Women have successfully competed against men at the highest level in a handful of skill-dominated sports, including archery and drag racing.

On long shots and bad lies, power is a vital element and men should be better. But the best women should be as good as the best men from 125 yards and in, when control becomes most important.

In such situations, Sorenstam and other top women should be the equal of Tiger, Phil, Ernie, et al, right? Let's find out.

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