- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ken in Berkeley, Calif. writes: Kevin, If college teams were populated by professional employees instead of amateur athletes, wouldn't it change the relationship with fans, who would play the role of shareholders with Athletic Departments being like corporate management? It is currently very rare to boo an unpaid player. But if a paid player screwed up, we could be all over them like we now boo coaches when they screw up. Is that the world they want? Even their fellow students would become their employers via the tickets they buy. If they slack off senior year looking to the NFL, then they should be at risk for losing their job. And what does this mean for equality of opportunity for women athletes? A full ride, including room/board/books is quite another thing as many scholars receive that.
Kevin Gemmell: You tell me, Ken. Would it change how you feel about a player? Have you gone to a Single-A baseball game and ripped into an 18-year-old pitcher who was just drafted in the third round? Did you boo Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett when they jumped from high school to the NBA and got paid, but had bad games?
Are those taunts justified compared to, say, the UCLA folks who were booing the Bruins on their final offensive drive against ASU last year? After all, Brett Hundley was sacked twice and there were back-to-back holding penalties. The Bruins went 11 yards in eight plays with the South Division title on the line. That didn't stop people at the Rose Bowl from booing. Was that deserved?
I get your point, and it's valid. But folks are going to boo players regardless of whether they are getting paid. Usually it's out of heat-of-the-moment passion. Sometimes fans are just jerks (see the Marcus Smart situation).
Now, as for the idea of equity. That's a whole other argument -- especially when you're talking about women's athletics and non-revenue sports. In terms of payment, does the starting quarterback make more than the backup long snapper? Or is it equal across the board? Those answers depend on how much money we're talking about.
No question, it's dicey. And I don't have a perfect and equitable solution. I do think more needs to be done for athletes. Whether that's full cost of tuition and/or modest stipends to go with the scholarships and room and board and meal plans, etc.
There will always be those who believe a college education is payment enough -- especially when you look at the cost of some of the private schools. And there will always be those who feel college football is simply a farm system for the NFL and players should be getting a thick piece of the pie. I believe there is common ground between those extremes.
But how you choose to look at the athletes is entirely up to you. If you were the kind of person who was programmed to boo them before, you'll boo them again.
We're always looking for good poll questions, and this might be an interesting one for later in the week.
John in Dublin, Calif. writes: While I agree Nelson Agholor is an important player for USC, in a conference with a bunch of returning quarterbacks, and a variety of offenses, the most important player will always be on defense. In which case, Leonard Williams or even Su'a Cravens should emerge as the most important player.
Kevin Gemmell: Can't argue with that. So I won't try. What Justin Wilcox did at Washington with three- and four-star players was outstanding. And I can't wait to see what he's going to do now that he has some four- and five-star athletes to work with.
USC's defense made fantastic strides when it moved to an odd front. The Trojans were first in the conference in total defense and third in scoring defense last year. Compare that to 2012 when they were fifth in scoring defense and seventh in total defense. Strides were made, and guys such as Cravens and Williams were a big part of that.
That's the beauty of the Most Important Player series. Some folks have sent mailbag notes saying it's a boring waste of time. Ted and I concoct these types of series not just to fill the slow summer months, but to spark some debate amongst fans.
I have a feeling, John, if you and I sat down over a couple of root beers, we could talk for a few hours about this. And it would be a fun discussion. And while we sit around and speculate and count days until the season starts, I don't see anything wrong with a little lively debate.
Joe Bruin in Los Angeles writes: Hey Kev! Long time! Maybe it's just me, but do you feel like Kendricks hasn't gotten the attention he deserves over the years and is classified as underrated? Obviously, you guys of the Pac-12 blog are quick to notice how important of a player he is for UCLA, but why don't the ESPN "expert" analysts such as Herbstreit, Corso, Palmer, etc. give him much love? Also, are you taking any vacations this summer? You have been working hard on the blog and definitely deserve a nice PAID vacation from Ted!
Kevin Gemmell: Every moment Ted and I aren't working together is like sticking toothpicks under my fingernails. I just can't quit him.
Your Pac-12 bloggers are just as guilty as some of those other guys you named. True, I picked Eric Kendricks as Most Important Player. But go back and look at our preseason and postseason Top 25s from the past couple of years. You won't see Kendricks on them. And that's our fault.
Every year when Ted and I put those lists together, there is vigorous debate and usually a bit of name calling. And when we're finally done, there are always a couple of names that we look back and ask ourselves, “how the heck did we leave him off this list.” Kendricks is one of them. But I promise you he will be in the preseason top 25. You hear that, Ted!? You won't shout me down this time.
No one in the league has had more tackles over the past three seasons than Kendricks (331). The only other player close was Deone Bucannon, who had 300 and led the league last season.
Kendricks doesn't tally a lot of the premium stats, like sacks and tackles for loss, that some of the other outside linebackers do. He's just a good, hard-nosed run-stopper. And he's one of the best in the country at what he does.
Tom in Ft. Myers, Fla. writes: You missed what I thought was the worst loss for Colorado -- Fresno State. 69-14 from 2012 and down 35-0 after 1 quarter. Colorado best win 17-14 at Utah in 2011. Snapped a 23 game road losing streak, which dated back to 2007.
Kevin Gemmell: Yep, that one was all kinds of yucky. It was as demoralizing of a loss as there was in the league over the past four years. I picked those assorted games for Colorado because I just remembered all of those games where players were setting offensive records.
Each week during the season, I do the Pac-12 Blog player of the week post on Mondays and it felt like every single week during 2012 I was picking a player who did something great against Colorado.
As for wins, that Utah victory is a good call. I went with the Colorado State game from last season because, to me, it symbolized a changing of the guard of sorts. Out with the old and in with the new.
But like our Most Important Player post, there really isn't a right or wrong answer. It's just fun to have those kinds of discussions in the offseason.