By all accounts, University of Southern Mississippi football coach Todd Monken is a super-good dude.
Not only was the guy named Conference USA Coach of the Year, he finished out the season by giving each of his players a snazzy parting gift...
...a brand-new suit.
Jason Munz in the Hattiesburg American has the scoop on Monken's generosity:
"For the second straight year, Monken also outfitted his departing seniors with suits as a gift.
'I’ve always thought, "What could we do for our departing seniors that they can take with them?"' he said. 'Something beyond their memories. And so [the suits] are really for their first [job] interview.'"
Now, when ex-Southern Miss football players show up for post-graduation job interviews, thanks to Monken, they will do so lookin' good.
This is, by all accounts, a great idea, and Monken is clearly a total mensch.
The money for the suits came from funds donated to the football program, and it was Monken's idea to do the good deed.
It does, however, raise a teeny tiny question.
Why do college football players need their coach to buy them suits in the first place?
College football is a lucrative business.
In the 2013-2014 season, teams in the top five conferences took in $2.8 billion in revenue — about $1.4 million of which was pure profit (though many smaller programs like Southern Miss essentially break even). And the players have a lot to do with this!
In fact, all of the major NCAA sales items like tickets to games where players play, TV rights to those same games, and merchandise with players names and faces on it — things that allow coaches and school administrators to swim in a pool of money (or whatever it is they do) each week — involve the players' hard work.
Yet college football players don't see a dime of that money.
Zero. Nada. Bupkis.
But wait, what about tuition? These guys get a degree!
Yes, and that does count — for something. But frankly, not that much.
Southern Miss estimates the out-of-state cost of tuition, room, and board at just around $26,000/year. Not only is that pretty darn paltry, that money comes with the obligation of attending class — on top of what is already a full-time job.
In some cases, student-athletes don't even get to reap the benefits of an actual education, as in the case of the University of North Carolina, where administrators enrolled many players in a series of fictional classes so as to monopolize even more of their time.
The coaches and administrators are making bank while the players get squeezed.
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan — home of one of the country's top football programs — earns just shy of $1 million/year in total compensation. Rodney Erickson, former president of Penn State, earned a whopping $1.5 million/year in 2013-2014.
But public university presidents may as well be heating up ramen in their two-bedroom converted studio apartments compared to the kind of money football coaches rake in each year.
In the vast majority of states, NCAA coaches are the single highest-paid public employee on the payroll.
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban makes over $7 million/year while his players make precisely $0. The generous Monken himself makes $700,000 annually.
How are these salaries even possible? Because the labor provided on the field and in practice week after week by the highly trained, expert, professional student athletes is — essentially — free.
What can be done about all this?
College football players deserve to be compensated for the work they do and the ridiculous profits they generate. And the thing is, the players actually have a lot of leverage.
When University of Missouri football players went on strike to protest racial injustice, fears over the potential loss of revenue helped convince the university president to resign.
And while Northwestern football players' unionization drive ultimately failed (for now), it helped catalyze at least some reform in the NCAA — and the National Labor Relations Board decision was narrowly tailored enough that players at other schools may yet succeed.
Bottom line: If players continue to organize and demand their rights, good things might start to happen.
'Cause in a perfect world, college football players could afford to buy their own suits — and still have a little left over to all go in on one for the coach.
Instead of the other way around.