Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Zup's Formula for 'Pure' College Athletics

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Zup's Formula for 'Pure' College Athletics

Article excerpt

Every once in a while I pull away from thinking about politics and agonize over the sad state of college athletics.

What occasions this outburst is the news that my dear old University of Illinois has hired a new basketball coach and, to lure him away from his previous college post, is paying him $900,000 a year. How many professors at my former university are receiving even one-tenth that much? Not many, I'm sure. And yet they are the deserving ones at what are called institutions of learning, not institutions of shooting baskets or throwing or running with a ball.

I knew this payment of enormous salaries for coaches in colleges and universities all across the country has been going on for a long time. So I wasn't shocked by the news that Tulsa University's coach, Bill Self, was replacing Lon Kruger, the highly successful and personable fellow who had just shown his loyalty to Illini fans, who had been paying him big bucks, too, by becoming head coach of the Atlanta Braves for a $2 million contract.

I called a friend and asked how in the world Mr. Kruger could leave those who had been so good to him.

"Money," he said, "money. That's the answer."

It was not always so. When I was a youngster and growing up in Urbana, Ill., and hearing much of what was going on at the U of I through my father, a loyal alum, I was well aware that the university was putting education first and athletics in a decidedly secondary place. No salaries were very big at that time; but professors certainly did better than coaches financially.

When in college I got to know that famous Illinois football coach, Robert C. Zuppke, and I learned that even his salary was not out of line with those on campus who were involved in developing minds, not muscles.

"Zup," as we all called him, had coached winning teams for years - including one national champion - after coming to Illinois in the teens. Zup believed that his job was to take students who had come to the university for an education and make those who were so inclined into football players. He was against proselytizing and refused to engage in the stroking of high school stars in the hopes of inducing them to come and play on his teams. …

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