Hansen: College athletes get bread, and maybe butter, too

2014-08-11T21:30:00Z 2014-08-12T09:29:54Z Hansen: College athletes get bread, and maybe butter, tooGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A red and blue banner picturing UA tackle Fabbians Ebbele hangs on a street pole near McKale Center. Another captures wide receiver Austin Hill in uniform.

Near Arizona Stadium, an image of UA point guard T.J. McConnell flutters in a summer breeze.

According to last week’s ruling by a District Court judge in San Francisco, the use of such likenesses would cost the UA, or any school, a minimum of $5,000 per year, per athlete, beginning in 2016.

And how about those Jake Fischer No. 33 football jerseys that were sold at the Tucson Mall last season? Unless last week’s ruling is overturned in appellate court, the UA would be forced to pay $5,000 to the next linebacker whose jersey is made available for purchase.

Here’s a headline that works: The NCAA Finally Passes the Bread.

In a historic 48-hour period last week, college athletes learned that they will be released from fiscal bondage and able to share a small part of their school’s revenues.

How much bread are we talking about?

Arizona reported 2012-13 revenues of $66.3 million to the Department of Education. That figure is likely to pass $70 million this year and head north.

Nobody’s going broke here.

Athletes in the Pac-12 and the four other power conferences are likely to be given an extra $2,000 to $5,000 a year for expenses not covered by a typical scholarship. But I don’t care about that. A few extra late-night pizza deliveries and a flight home for Christmas will eat up that $2,000.

That’s spending money, which is overdue and well-deserved.

The most meaningful part of any potential revenue sharing will be extended medical and insurance benefits and common-sense care for a former athlete.

Call it the Legend of Joe Lohmeier.

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon has been the front man in an attempt get athletes a cut of athletic department revenues, but those like former UA and Sahuaro High School linebacker Lohmeier did the behind-the-scenes suffering long ago.

With 47 seconds to play in the 1994 Territorial Cup at Arizona Stadium, Lohmeier was blind-sided by an ASU blocker. The collision separated Lohmeier’s shoulder and blew his right knee to smithereens.

When Arizona went to California for the Freedom Bowl, Lohmeier was in the hospital, recovering from his third major knee surgery in six years. A year later, he underwent knee reconstruction.

By 1997, Lohmeier’s knee was still killing him. He had difficulty keeping up with his young daughter. A surgeon in Southern California told him he needed a cartilage transplant and that it would cost $40,000. Alas, Lohmeier’s UA insurance had expired.

He appealed to the school at which he won the 1994 Ewing Award as the top male student-athlete on campus. Lohmeier had a 4.0 GPA at Arizona, so he wasn’t fooled when the UA refused to pay any of the $40,000

“Most people at the UA except (football coach) Dick Tomey treated me like a leper,” he told me.

The good part of this story is that Lohmeier became a force in the business world and soon paid for the surgery himself. He is now the vice president of U.S. channels for Avaya, a computer software conglomerate in Austin, Texas.

I would like to think that the Big 5 power conferences, all of them oozing with media rights money, will take care of future Joe Lohmeiers. Here’s some context: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was paid about $63,000 a week last year, on a total income of $3.3 million.

Given that sort of excess, there’s no reason an ex-Pac-12 football player should ever again be limping around, unable to pay a medical bill related to a college football game.

Over the next five or 10 years, Big 5 college sports are sure to be vexed by the tribulations of the elite. How do they most prudently spend their TV money?

Will it be permissible to charter a jet to fly the parents of a Sweet 16 basketball team to the Big Game? Can you serve champagne on the flight?

Will the Big 5 extinguish the life out of the Boise States and BYUs by offering 100 football scholarships instead of the FBS limit of 85?

What if USC offers a coveted high school quarterback a $5,000-a-year stipend while Oregon State can only pay $2,000? Who do you think gets that kid’s signature?

According to the Department of Education, ASU spent $13.4 million on coaching salaries and $11.2 million on student-aid in 2012-13. Those numbers should be flipped.

As for Joe Lohmeier, the last time I saw him he gave me the quote of the decade about his years at the UA:

“I not only got a job out of the deal, but I got a wife and a baby daughter, too.”

The only thing he didn’t get was his insurance money.

The next Joe Lohmeier shouldn’t have to worry about it.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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