Scott Van Pelt, And Every Other Shithead, Is Missing The Point About Paying College Athletes

Scott Van Pelt is a net good. As just about the only classic SportsCenter anchor still hanging around Bristol, Van Pelt is a living throwback to ESPN’s snarky ’90s heyday, and he’s remained a gifted broadcaster in his own right as his network has cycled through scores of on-air talent around him.

But the goodwill that Van Pelt has accumulated over decades doesn’t excuse his occasional fuckups. Like the time he openly chastised Tom Izzo’s haters for daring to point out that the Michigan State coach shouldn’t go berserker on his own players. Or his segments devoted entirely to gambling. Or his gleeful participation in the first (and last) episode of Barstool Van Talk. Or this Costas-esque sermon from last night:

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Van Pelt tacked this heart-to-heart onto the back end of a segment on former Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Saban took his Fully Loaded Diaper Tour to Congress and told lawmakers there, “All the things I believed in for all these years, 50 years of coaching, no longer exist in college athletics. It’s always been about developing players, about helping people become more successful in life.” You and I both know that that’s Grade A horseshit, but that didn’t stop Van Pelt, who now works alongside Saban at ESPN, from defending it in the squirrely-est manner possible.

“Naturally, the reaction to Saban’s comments on social media was measured. ‘Oh, so YOU get to care about money and they don’t!’ I get the point.”

Now, listen carefully as Van Pelt proceeds to violently NOT get the point.

“…but keep in mind that this man is the all-time winningest coach in the sport, and he’s working. He’s a professional, so that’s why he gets paid all the dough.”

This is the point that Saban’s players, in asking for a bag, were making themselves. They’re working too, you know. I’ve played college football. It’s a LOT of work, even if you suck at it. There are wind sprints and tape sessions and lifting regimens and coaches yelling at you throughout all of it. It’s work. And given how much money FCS football generates, one might say that it falls under the purview of professional work. The idea that a fucking coach gets to be conferred all the financial privileges of being a “professional” while their players don’t is the whole reason why those players fought for years and years just to get NIL revenue. To say that Saban’s work merits the dough while Quinn Ewers’s doesn’t is just deploying cheap semantics in order to defend a greedy, withered old cock.

“It’s fantastic that players get to make money now.”

BUT………..?!!?!?!

“But every single coach, in every single revenue sport, if you’re paying attention, is saying the same thing: This is the only thing that any recruit is asking about now when they come on visits.”

No. Fucking. Shit. A lot of these players, and their families, need money right now: for bills, for medicine, for food, and for fucking weed if they feel like it. Are you really surprised that they’re treating their recruiting visits the exact same way that a professional like Nick Saban would conduct a job hunt for himself? Of course they wanna know what they’re gonna get paid. It fucking MATTERS. And what, I’m supposed to be worried that coaches don’t like it? Motherfuck these coaches, Scott.

“And I don’t believe that it’s pearl-clutching to wonder if maybe that’s not ideal.”

Yes it is. If you’re at all familiar with the sordid, deeply exploitative history of college athletics, you know that they have never been ideal. You know that college football has always been corrupted by moneyed interests, and that brave Atticus Saban was more than happy to be a little piggy at the trough all through his time as a head coach at Michigan State, LSU, and Alabama. You also know that Saban routinely pulled scholarships away from players who turned out to be of no use to him, which I suppose taught them a truly valuable life lesson. And you know that Saban walked away from the sport when his players all started talking about money—the kind of money he’d been making for decades—more than they talked about anything else. His is a hypocrisy of the most obvious kind, and here’s Van Pelt reinforcing it by essentially saying, “I love college football players, but they also should know their place!”

Now let’s get to the SportsCenter host shifting into Peak Smarm:

“Maybe something about the school, and your development there as a human being, ought to count in your process, in your line of thinking.”

Oh, is shaping your young mind not worth more than any amount of money that Dabo Swinney hoovers up from your on-field accomplishments?

“Because overwhelmingly, these athletes are gonna have to find a job, which isn’t football, when they leave. Sure, get your money. But there’s more to it. At least there’s supposed to be, right?” *just sayin’ shrug*

No, there’s not. There’s nothing more to this sport than money, and there never was. Why is Van Pelt, and every other NCAA fanboy out there, suddenly pretending like the previous version of college sports had every player leaving the program with all sorts of important job-getting skills? Or that elite institutions like North Carolina didn’t take their fair share of illegal shortcuts to keep their players academically eligible? Give me a fucking break.

The reason Saban left his post at Alabama after an unprecedented run of success was because, due to NIL, the parameters of his job had changed. He, along with Van Pelt, is framing this change as a tragedy. But the truth is that college sports were long overdue for this exact change, and that coaches like Saban—and all of the other ones who went crying to the press about it—are too fucking LAZY to change with it.

That’s all. There’s nothing else to it. We’re in an annoying gray zone where college athletes are free to make money but still aren’t considered full employees of the schools they play for. Those same athletes, however, already think of themselves as employees (and rightly so). They want to know how they’ll be compensated as such. Saban couldn’t handle these dynamics, so he peaced the fuck out. The slob.

But that doesn’t mean every coach will be unable to handle it. You can hire a coach who will find a way to build a program that wins consistently while addressing the monetary needs and desires of its players. It’s not an easy job, but it’s doable. You just have to have a sharp mind and the determination to make this strange new job work. In other words, you have to be a professional.

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