For years now, it seems, the world of college athletics has been dividing between the “haves” and the “have-nots” — where only the very top tier of schools will be able to compete, year in and year out, at an elite level. The events of the last few years have only served to accelerate the widening of the gap.
We may come to see NCAA President Charlie Baker’s proposal this week as the watershed moment — the point when it became glaringly obvious that there was no turning back.
As you might recall, Baker sent a letter to Division I schools proposing the creation of a new subdivision — for our purposes, let’s call it “The Haves” — consisting of universities with the resources to pay at least half of their athletes $30,000 each per year in a trust fund. Ralph Russo, The Associated Press’ longtime writer on college football, has a good piece breaking down the proposal — and why Baker floated it now.
Obviously, only the schools with the richest athletic budgets will be able to afford to do this — and so those are the schools where highly touted recruits will look first. The rich will get richer, and other schools will be left behind.
If you’re wondering where Oregon State University sits in all this, it can be worthwhile to take a look at how its budget for athletics compares with other schools — and that’s where USA Today annual survey of public universities comes in handy. The newspaper’s 2023 survey of athletic budgets at public schools places OSU at No. 54 among 232 schools, with revenue of about $83.5 million. That works out to about a third of Ohio State University’s revenue, $251.6 million. (The other OSU tops the USA Today list in revenue.)
If you’re curious, Oregon was No. 19 on the list, with $153.5 million in revenue. (And for the extra-curious: Michigan State was No. 12, with $172.8 million in revenue.)
Interestingly enough, Washington State University was listed at No. 53, just one spot ahead of Oregon State, with about $85 in revenue. Those two universities — the only two schools who will remain in the Pac-12 after this academic year — had the lowest revenue totals of any listed Pac-12 university. (USC and Stanford, being private schools, were not listed, but I’m betting their athletic departments have revenue greater than $83.5 million.)
In possibly related news, the transfer portal opened on Monday, and the Beavers suffered some expected blows: The team’s top two tacklers announced they were entering the portal. The team’s starting quarterback is in the portal, as is Aidan Chiles, the Beavers’ ballyhooed quarterback of the future. Tight end Jack Welling is in the portal, as is another tight end, Jake Overman. Jermod McCoy, the cornerback who was the only true freshman to play in every game this season, is in the portal. Wide receiver Anthony Gould has declared for the NFL draft, and offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga is expected to declare as well; Fuaga could be a first-round pick. The Oregonian/Oregon Live’s Nick Daschel, the best reporter covering the Beavers, has launched this handy updated guide to the portal, which closes on Jan. 2. (The story, alas, is available only to Oregonian subscribers.) The big question to watch now is this: Who’s coming via the portal to OSU?
It’s the coaching equivalent of the transfer portal: Here’s a new Associated Press story on the Beaver-heavy coaching staff Jonathan Smith is bringing to his new job at Michigan State.
That’s enough moping about the state of college athletics this weekend. Let’s zip through some other topics for this weekend:
The Gazette-Times doesn’t run many staff-produced editorials these days — it doesn’t have enough newsroom staff to consistently produce them, which is, believe me, something with which I can identify. But it has a fresh local editorial up today about the effort to force Ward 5 City Councilor Charlyn Ellis to forfeit her seat. It’s worth a read. (I know; you need a subscription to the G-T to read it, but — as I’ve said before — if you can afford a digital subscription, you should subscribe, even though Lee Enterprises is doing everything it can to make it hard sometimes to justify the $30 a month.)
In an alarming reminder about how serious the opioid epidemic is in Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority is offering free opioid-reversal medication to schools. As Lynne Terry of the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports, the initiative comes in the midst of a record rate of teenage overdoses over the last five years.
Winter Whale Watching Week is set to begin Dec. 27 along the Oregon coast. By that time, with any luck, the atmospheric rivers that have triggered landslides and flooding along the coast will have abated somewhat — not that the migrating whales care much about that. Jamie Hale at The Oregonian/OregonLive has the story.
Here’s a fascinating story from OPB’s Kami Horton: Dec. 9 marks the 55th anniversary of what’s been termed the “mother of all demos:” On that day in 1968, Oregon State University alumnus Douglas Engelbart hosted a presentation in a San Francisco auditorium where he demonstrated word processing, hypertext, shared screen collaboration, multiple windows, on-screen video teleconferencing — and a device he called a “mouse” because its cord looked like a tail. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Engelbart’s 90-minute presentation changed the world.
No surprise here: Time magazine has named Taylor Swift its person of the year. (My favorite headline about all of this: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Berks County woman named Time’s 2023 Person of the Year.”) Here’s Tom Jones of The Poynter Institute making the case for why Time’s person of the year choice still matters — even in an era where Time has lost much of its clout. Swift gave an interview to Time for the piece, and it’s believed to be the first in-depth interview she’s given in four years. You know who’s really ticked off about all this? Bryan West, the reporter hired earlier this year by Gannett to cover the Swift beat full-time, who didn’t get the interview. That won’t look good on the annual review.
Poynter also has an item about a new report that says that news organizations have cut more than 2,500 jobs this year. That’s more than in 2021 and 2022 combined. That same link has news about Lee Enterprises, which announced Thursday that it ended its fourth quarter on Sept. 30 with a $1 million loss despite increasing its digital revenue. Lee made $100 million in cuts in the 2023 fiscal year, mostly to its print business’, including layoffs, furloughs and reductions in publication days. Lee, by the way, recently sold one of its papers — the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale — to the Paxton Media Group, which has laid off the entire unionized newsroom. Lee ignored an offer from a local investor who vowed to match or exceed the purchase price and who planned to honor the union contract, Poynter reports. Lee, of course, owns the newspapers in Corvallis and Albany.
I went searching for something upbeat with which to end this edition of the Weekend Reader, and here’s what I found: A piece in which The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber, who does a good job covering music for the magazine, discusses why holiday songs can be so depressing. I mean, it’s not that big a secret — holiday songs can be depressing because so many of them ARE depressing (is there a more depressing song in the English language than “I’ll Be Home for Christmas?”) — but I found this an engaging read. And I learned something I didn’t know: “Do You Hear What I Hear” was written during the middle of the Cuban missile crisis; on some level, it’s a song about nuclear annihilation! Now, that’s what I call Christmas music.
Speaking of holiday music, nominations will open early next week for this year’s inductees into my completely fictitious Holiday Music Hall of Fame. The hall recognizes those recordings of holiday songs that are so definitive that it should be illegal for anyone to record them ever again. Here’s a link to a Spotify list of all the inductees to date, along with some honorable mentions; you’ll need to log into Spotify to get the full versions of the song, but you’ll get the idea. Dive into your stash of holiday music and be ready to nominate your favorites when balloting opens on my blog.
That’s it for this weekend. I’m sorry if I’ve ruined “Do You Hear What I Hear” for you, but I thought you needed to know. Here’s a link to a very upbeat version of the song, if you need it — and you might.