Players get crunched in chip money dip

January 03, 1996|By Dan Le Batard | Dan Le Batard,MIAMI HERALD

TEMPE, Ariz. -- This sentence is sponsored by Tostitos. So is this one. Everything here is brought to you by Tostitos, the miracle chip. College football had the big sports stage to itself last night, and it turned that stage into a colossal commercial.

There are nine things painted on the Fiesta Bowl's field.

One is "Nebraska."

Another is "Florida."

The other seven are "Tostitos."

The word is spilled all over the field, from end zone to end zone, like a bowl of party chips dumped on the living

room rug.

Even the nonpainted spots on the field are redundant.

They're the color of money.

Florida linebacker James Bates went to a news conference Saturday and, just behind him, someone smart had placed a simple white board that had "Tostitos" painted on it 16 times. This is so every time Bates or any of the other Gators or Huskers appear in a newspaper photo or on television, "Tostitos" appears with them. And you thought Danny Wuerffel and Tommie Frazier were the biggest players in this game?

Coaches Steve Spurrier and Tom Osborne get more attention than the players, of course. So when they spoke at a news conference, they did so before a giant board that had "Tostitos" painted on it 40 times.

The game is greed, and college football has it perfected. Southern California coach John Robinson said the other day that we're not far from the day when the quarterback wears Chevrolet on his helmet, and this is the worst part about this scam:

TC The schools in the 18 Division I-A football bowl games will earn about $98,860,000 for their university and conferences this season.

The kid carried off the field with shredded ligaments in his knee?

He doesn't even get the crumbs at the bottom of the Tostitos bag.

It is perfect that Tostitos sponsors this game, if you think about it.

4 Because the players are nothing more than chips.

Not the potato kind. The poker kind.

The NCAA talks about the sanctity of amateurism and somehow doesn't see the hypocrisy in having amateurism sponsored by a corporation. How in Joe Paterno's name can put-the-team

before-the-individual Penn State ban its players from wearing names on the back of their jerseys and then turn around and sign a $19 million deal to put the Nike swoosh on those same jerseys?

You know when the NCAA will allow players to take their helmets off during touchdown celebrations? When the NCAA figures out a way to put a Tostitos sticker on the said player's forehead.

Washington Bullets forward Chris Webber went pro early partially because of an incident his sophomore year of college. He ordered two fish sandwiches at a McDonald's and, upon rummaging through his pockets and counting all his change, he realized he didn't have enough money to pay for them. Embarrassed, he sent one back. On the way home, he walked past the student gift shop. A jersey with his name and number on it was selling for $49.99.

So don't blame Kevin Garnett when he jumps straight from high school to the NBA. The kid doesn't need an education. He's already very smart. He looked at the pros and looked at college and bubbled in the right answer on this multiple-choice question: He chose to be the master instead of the slave.

"It's modern-day slavery," Florida linebacker Dexter Daniels said. "Sure, we get a scholarship, but so does the chemistry student who isn't generating $8 million for the school on Jan. 2. It's discouraging. We can't afford to wash clothes or buy deodorant sometimes, and 85,000 people are paying to watch us broke kids play. That money is going to everyone but us."

Said Florida cornerback Fred Weary: "My mother doesn't work. I ask her for money sometimes and she doesn't have it. Can you imagine what those conversations are like? My mother wants to help but she can't, and I'm not allowed to help myself. So I'm always asking for money from my brothers and sisters. It's no fun."

Yeah, yeah, players get a free education, but that really isn't worth very much at a public school like Florida. It's about minimum wage, if you consider how many hours these kids have to put in to be champions. The players aren't allowed to work during the season, either, which is why every once in a while you'll have a story like you had this year, when a UCLA football player was suspended for a few games because he borrowed $150 from an agent to buy groceries.

"We're big guys who get hungry at night, and we can't afford food when the cafeteria is closed late at night," Daniels said. "And then people are surprised when the rules are broken?"

Daniels points to the University of Florida sweat suit he has on. It was a gift from the bowl people, one of the tiny perks given to players this time of the year. It's like giving a farmer a box of tomatoes after selling his crop and pocketing the cash.

"These sweats aren't even my style, but I wear them because they are free," he says. "Well, actually, they aren't free at all. I worked for them -- all year."

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