Dan Wetzel: ‘AT&T Stadium Wasn’t Great Setting For Final Four’
Looking back on it, it’s mildly ironic that the NCAA held this year’s Final Four at AT&T Stadium – AKA Cowboys Stadium, AKA “Jerry’s World.”
“In a year where they’re so under assault and they’re holding on to this amateurism model – which is intellectually bankrupt to begin with – the idea that the Final Four was at Jerry’s World, which is a complete monument to American sports capitalism and is unapologetic about that, (was ironic),” Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel said on The John Feinstein Show. “We’re going to have this huge palatial place, we’re going to pack as many (people) in (and) we’re going to make as much money (as we can).
“That’s what Jerry’s World is. And it’s kind of funny that they’re up there going, ‘This is amateurism.’ I don’t know what romantic notion you could still hold on to. What’s next? We’re putting it in the Rose Bowl?”
To be sure, Jerry’s World is a first-rate stadium. It’s a great place to cover events.
But the Final Four shouldn’t be one of them.
“It’s designed to run Manny Pacquiao fights and Super Bowls,” Wetzel said. “It’s not a college venue. I did find that kind of funny. In the bowels of this billion-dollar stadium, they’re talking about things that just don’t (add up). The setting wasn’t really great for the NCAA, particularly this year.”
And now, it’s all coming to a head.
“I think this thing is careening toward the inevitable,” Wetzel said. “What we’ve had all these years is two sports (football and men’s basketball) essentially (making) all the money, (and the other) sports live off that money. That’s been the system because they’ve been able to pool the football and basketball money, and all players are treated equal. And I think what you’re seeing right now with the unionization movement, with these lawsuits, is men’s basketball and football saying, ‘When did we agree to that? We want more – whether it’s now in the form of a stipend or long-term disability or Tim Tebow getting a share of his jersey sales at some point. When do they get that cut?”
But forget about the Heisman Trophy winners for a second. What about the small-sport athletes?
“Those are the ones that are in the firing line here,” Wetzel said. “There’s enough money for college sports to do a lot of things for football and basketball. But their model, (is such that) the smaller sports – which have very little interest and very few fans and make very little money – get to operate on the same level playing field so that the Idaho field hockey player is the same as Johnny Manziel. That’s where I think this battle is potentially going.”
Andrew Bogusch, for one, doesn’t really care about the Idaho field hockey player. Neither does Wetzel, especially since football and men’s basketball have built vast empires with first-rate facilities for all.
“It’s a completely heartless argument,” Wetzel said. “Nobody wants to make it. I make it because I’m heartless. Nobody wants to say that, but at some point, there’s nothing wrong with club sports.”