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Whether it was all the Christmas shopping or the national media trying to ramp up the economic scare, I've had costs on my brain the past couple of weeks.
It's seems everyone is talking about the cost of this or the cost of that. So I want to talk about a couple of potential costs today. (And to those that don't like lyrics that serve as mini-headlines … bah humbug.)
"I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about Number One, oh my me my." - Toby Keith
Did you catch the story of South Carolina's leading tackler Emanuel Cook? The Gamecocks' strong safety is ineligible for Thursday's Outback Bowl because he failed to pass six credit hours during the fall semester.
According to Steve Spurrier, the junior "tossed it in midway through (the semester)." A couple of weeks earlier, after the Clemson game, the Ol' Ball Coach had complained that some of his players had already turned their eyes from Carolina to the National Football League.
Cook told the press he wasn't one of the guys Spurrier was talking about. "I know I'm not thinking about the NFL right now," he said at the time. "I'm thinking about finishing this season strong."
Not necessarily. Cook was already skipping multiple classes by that point. "I think pro football was on his mind," Spurrier reiterated.
What does that have to do with you, the Tennessee Vol fan?
Only this: it's pretty clear that new coach Lane Kiffin has decided to make his top recruiting message the following: "If you want to play in the NFL, come to Tennessee."
That's not my opinion, that's what he's said on CSS, during an interview at a UT men's basketball game, and in recruits' living rooms.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. Every school in the country tries to tout their ability to prepare players for the pro game. College football has become a minor league for the NFL.
Players know it. Coaches know it. And Kiffin's just saying it. He's also building his staff with that fact in mind.
"If you want to make it in The League, come matriculate at old UT, where former NFL coaches are at the ready to turn you into a pro football man."
The only danger in being so upfront about your pro player assembly line is that Tennessee might start attracting players more interested in themselves than in winning.
Yes, every school risks it, but the more the NFL is made the calling card, the bigger the concern should be.
Beware the Kelley Washington factor. Beware of folks using cell phones during games a la Troy Fleming. Beware a season where the goals can't be met and the team starts eyeing their own individual futures. Anyone remember the 1999 Tennessee team?
This is not to say that Kiffin and crew won't snare the nation's best players and win championships with them. But it is something the new staff will need to guard against. Team first, NFL second.
With every recruiting philosophy, there is a possible negative. And having a me-first team is the potential cost of becoming NFL U.
"And you've gotta stand and fight for the price you pay." - Bruce Springsteen
Another cost that is already on some folks minds is the record amount of money that UT is prepared to pay Kiffin's NFL-heavy coaching staff.
I'm sure you've already heard a few of them. "Why, in this economy!" "UT is having budget cuts but they're paying their coaches an obscene amount!" "Coaches aren't worth that kind of money!"
First things first, in this economy businesses pay what they're able to pay. Exxon Mobil isn't hurting right now and that's why their top muckety-mucks are still rolling in filthy greenbacks.
Second, UT's academic cuts have nothing more to do with the athletic department than perception. The university is one entity with one pool of money. The athletic department is another entity, completely self-sufficient, that tries to give money back to the university with yearly "gifts."
The more-than-a-million bucks a year that soon-to-be defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is asking for won't cost a student a seat, a professor a class or a custodian a job. (Though it might cost an athletic department usher a hot dog or two.)
It might look bad, but it's not bad. And in this case, the perception needs to be ignored. Coaches ARE worth millions of dollars.
Or at least they can be.
Nick Saban will make more than four million dollars this year at Alabama. Many say "no coach is worth that." They're wrong.
Let's throw out all of the revenue Alabama has made this year due to record merchandise and memorabilia sales. Let's not talk about the monetary value of the increased national exposure for the university, either.
And let's not even factor in Alabama's slice of a BCS bowl payout ($17.5 million).
Let's just look at the fact that the renewed interest in Alabama football has pushed forward plans to expand Bryant-Denny Stadium. When completed, the additional seats are expected to bring in more than $9 million in new revenue per year.
Let's see here, $9 million minus $4 million equals $5 million that Alabama would not have made without Saban. And again that doesn't include a single thing other than the potential revenue from a proposed stadium expansion.
Coaches can absolutely bring in huge dollars. They can be worth every penny spent on them. For that reason, East Tennesseans shouldn't be fretting over the money doled out to Kiffin and his staff.
They should only worry about whether or not those guys prove to be worth it.
John Pennington hosts the Hall's Salvage Sports Source on Sunday at 11 a.m. on WATE.