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Archive for Sunday, August 23, 1998

WOODLING COLUMN

August 23, 1998

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If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there, does it really make a sound? At the same time, if the NCAA passes legislation that doesn't affect anybody, it is really a law?

I'm mixing hypotheses, but I'm beginning to wonder if all this hue and cry about student-athletes being allowed to take a part-time jobs isn't just a falling tree in an empty forest.

College administrators all over the country are wailing about the potential for abuse and college under-administrators are moaning about the mountain of paperwork.

When nitty hyphens gritty, however, I'll be surprised if very many student-athletes on full scholarship -- particularly those in the most visible sports -- seek a part-time job. Basically, this legislation is aimed at the soccer player, the rower, the tennis player and the golfer -- most of whom have only partial scholarships.

Kansas football coach Terry Allen mentioned Saturday that not a single one of his players has approached him about taking a part-time job. Still, he added: ``I suspect we'll have some in the spring semester.''

When I think of an athlete with a part-time job I envision Zac Wegner smashing hamburgers at Hardee's, Nick Bradford dealing dollars at a Mercantile Bank branch office and Suzi Raymant waiting tables at Molly McGee's.

Plenty of other KU students have jobs like that, but how many of them have full scholarships? Probably very few.

No doubt the first high-profile KU student-athlete who decides to take a part-time job will receive plenty of publicity, and it might be embarrassing trying to justify the need to work when he or she doesn't have to pay for room, board, tuition and books.

Janelle Martin is the Kansas associate athletics director charged with overseeing this new program. Martin says a few student-athletes -- all with partial grants in low-profile sports -- have inquired about the new legislation.

Martin will conduct a meeting late this week or early next week to explain the scope of the NCAA's right-to-work law.

``I expect a big crowd of people who want to find out about it,'' Martin said, ``but I think the ones who go out and get a job will be smaller.''

Will that number be bigger this year than next year? Will word-of-mouth of student-athletes who were in the vanguard encourage or discourage others from doing the same thing? I'm guessing discourage.

Regardless, Martin and other collegiate administrators with her job title will be required to oversee the program. Already, the Big 12 Conference has developed forms so everyone in the league will be on the same page. Er, make that same pages.

``Right now the count is at seven forms,'' she said.

Some administrators scoff at calling this new legislation a can of worms. They think barrel of snakes is more descriptive. And you know where most of the snakes are in college athletics. That's right. In recruiting.

It's as plain as an anaconda with a glandular problem that the NCAA let-'em-work shuffle has removed the shackles from boosters (``Free at last; we're free at last'') and placed coaches between a rock and a hard place.

What does a coach tell a high school recruit when the youngster asks about mixing school, sports and a job?

``That's a good question,'' Allen said. ``I guess it depends on the situation. In some cases, it might be the most important thing. It others, it may not be.''

At least a coach cannot promise a high school recruit he can obtain a job right away. Freshmen and first-year transfers are ineligible under current rules. I say ``current rules'' because interpretations seem to be changing daily.

One aspect Allen is very certain about, however, is how he will react if he learns another school is bending the rules to its advantage.

``If we know people are abusing it,'' he said, ``we're going to stand up and shout.''

That shout won't be in an empty forest, either.

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