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SLATE: Nijel Pack to Miami isn’t a moral failing

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Baseball takes series, and other weekend results

Don’t hate the player, hate the system
Don’t hate the player, hate the system
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Any system in which entities can profit from humans who’ve been given the freedom to market themselves will inevitably lead to huge bags of cash being thrown around. It’s the nature of the beast, and you can see it everywhere. Britney Spears didn’t pitch Pepsi because she loves Pepsi, after all. Nobody would know who Tom Emanski is without his being carried on the back of Fred McGriff’s fame. Hell, O.J. Simpson might have made more money in his life running through airports than on a football field.

So it’s no surprise that, in the rush to capitalize on the newfound ability of college athletes to profit of their own image, companies are busting open the piggy bank for sums that seem a little absurd. Which leads us to the top story for Kansas State athletics this weekend: the departure of All-Big 12 sophomore guard Nijel Pack to Miami. Pack will reportedly receive $400,000 a year from LifeWallet as well as a new car in return for relocating to South Beach and promoting their services.

This is the new world, ladies and gentlemen. Once the decisions — morally correct ones, by the way — were made to give athletes the freedom to profit from their own image as well as choose to transfer, the barn door was completely blown off its hinges. There is no meaningful regulatory prescription for this that doesn’t impinge on the athlete’s right to market themselves, and no meaningful way to prevent schools from using businesses as proxies to recruit.

The entire collegiate athletic model as we know it has been predicated on the idea that athletes will commit to a school for the duration of their undergraduate years, and the naive idea that they’re doing it because they love you. While loyalty is a virtue, the reality is this: nobody says anything when you quit your job to go somewhere else with a higher salary, better benefits, or even just better hours. Likewise, nobody’s ever criticized anyone who wasn’t an athlete for transferring to a different school.

Why shouldn’t college athletes be able to do that too?

The irony is that back in the early days of collegiate sports, this was normal. Go look at the careers of the players in the College Football Hall of Fame who played in the late 1890s. John Outland, for whom we have a trophy named, went from William Penn to Kansas to the University of Pennsylvania. John Heisman, whose name adorns an even bigger trophy, went to both Brown and Penn. Fielding Yost went from West Virginia to Lafayette.

Loyalty was never a feature until the NCAA forced it.

The long and short of it is this: if the idea of competitive balance is that important, the only — only — solution is the unionization of athletes. That will allow for collective bargaining between the NCAA and the players in order to potentially restrain this Wild West chaos. Until then, buckle up and get used to the new paradigm.

Meanwhile, we see how former players just plain got shafted.

Pack links:

Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle
Isabel Gonzalez, CBS Sports
Blake Malick from our sister site State of the U
Jonathan Givony and Jeff Borzello, ESPN
Madison Williams, SI
Michelle Kaufman, Miami Herald

In other transfer news, Matt Hladik of SI reports that K-State might just replace Pack with Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis, and Russ Wood of BullsInsider (via BamaInsider) reports that Selton Miguel has landed at South Florida.

Baseball

The Batcats took two of three from Cal-Irvine this weekend, giving the team a nice boost to their RPI.

In game one, K-State erupted for 11 runs in the seventh inning, with Dominic Johnson homering twice in the inning; that’s the first time a Wildcat has accomplished that feat since Jeff Hulse pulled it off in 1988. The outburst erased a 5-2 Anteater lead. Jeff Heinrich also homered, a third-inning blast that tied the game 1-1. German Fajardo (3-1) picked up the win out of the bullpen as the Cats took the opener 13-8.

The Anteaters got revenge in game two, blasting Connor McCullough (3-2) and Christian Ruebeck early to take a 13-4 lead after four on the way to a 16-7 rout. K-State got four homers on the day courtesy of Heinrich, Nick Goodwin, Justin Mitchell, and Raphael Pelletier.

Game three, naturally, was close. Griffin Hassall (4-4) gave up two runs over six innings, but that was enough; K-State got homers from Goodwin, Brady Day, and Cole Johnson and Blake Cosentino got his second save on three innings of one-run ball as K-State took the series with a 5-3 win on Sunday.

Next up is a one-shot trip to Lincoln to face the Cornhuskers (15-23, 5-7 Big Ten) on Tuesday.

Track and Field

K-State won four events, and notched 12 other medal finishes, at the John Jacobs Invitational in Norman on Saturday. The winners were Hadley Splechter in the men’s 1500m, Devon Richardson in the men’s triple jump, Travis Hodge in the men’s 800m, and the women’s 4x100m relay team of O’shalia Johnson, Shalysa Wray, Alex Ferguson, and Macy Heinz. Tejaswin Shankar competed in the 110m hurdles, shot put, and the men’s 4x400 relay... but not the high jump.

This weekend, the team splits; some members will be at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Ia., while the rest will head to Lubbock, Tex., for the Corky/Crofoot Shootout.

Golf

The women finished in ninth place at the Big 12 Championships at Houston Oaks Golf Club in Hockley, Tex. That’s last place, because West Virginia doesn’t have women’s golf; the Wildcats finished 23 strokes back of eighth-place Texas Tech and 60 shots behind champion Texas. Hayley Vargas, at 13-over, was K-State’s top individual finisher, coming in 26th and 11 strokes behind individual champion Lianna Bailey of Oklahoma State. It was a tough course; of the 135 individual rounds over the course of the tournament only 13 were at or below par.

Meanwhile, at 8:00 this morning the men teed off for the same purpose at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Tex. They’ll shoot two rounds today and one each on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tennis

Although they got past TCU on Thursday, the ninth-seeded Wildcats run in the Big 12 Championships ended Friday with a 4-0 sweep at the hands of top-seeded Oklahoma. The Wildcats (10-13) were unfortunately overmatched, taking only a single set from the Sooners (26-1) out of 12 sets completed.

Oklahoma also swept Kansas in the semifinals, but was dispatched in the finals by second seed Texas in a 4-2 affair.

Rowing

Yesterday at Carter Lake, Ia., the Wildcats swept Creighton in the Creighton Duel, taking all five races. The closest of those was the second Varsity 8, won by 6.8 seconds. Next up is the Dillons Sunflower Showdown, Saturday at Wyandotte County Lake in Kansas City.

Other

Andrew Lind of KSNT reports that Byron Pringle, now a Chicago Bear, was arrested Saturday for reckless driving and driving on a suspended license. Pringle was observed doing donuts in a Dodge Charger with another adult male passenger and a child, and was arrested after becoming confrontational.

Sigh.