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You get what you pay for in taxes and high school athletics

Tomorrow is the dreaded day. If you haven't filed your tax returns by now you may have already made the ink in our nation's financial ledger even redder than it already was. The Walkers have already received, and spent, our refunds. We normally use our tax refunds to pay for our Georgia football tickets that have to be ordered every spring. This year Uncle Sam barely threw enough back our way to fill the order.

When my wife asked, no, pestered me about why our refund was so low this year I didn't take it personally. As always I used a sharp pencil and as many legal deductions as I could find. The problem was our main charitable contributions in 2004 were to our children and the IRS didn't gouge us as badly as they used to. As I told her, "you get what you pay for." We paid less in taxes so we didn't get as much back.

"You get what you pay for" is a concept that I strongly believe in. Whether it's in your marriage, career, education, home and yard, automobile or golf game it only turns out as good as you and those around you are willing to make it. That willingness is defined by a C word called commitment. Commitment is often best described with the use of another C word called cash.

In my mind the two C words are essential to the development of a top-notch athletic program or team. There's a reason the Yankees are normally at the top of the heap every year in baseball. Owner George Steinbrenner is committed to winning and spends the cash to buy the best players. He usually gets what he pays for.

A total athletic program is no different. A college or high school administration must be cozy with the C words if every team, football to ping pong, is to be competitive and have at least an occasional chance at a championship. It will be painful if they chose to take shortcuts and it will be painful if they chose not to. The real decision will be what it is they want and are they willing to pay for it.

UGA Gymnastics coach Suzzane Yoculan was speaking to a group of Bulldog supporters here in Thomson a few years back and acknowledged that her hiring was not one made with great concern over the two Cs. She explained that at the time of her hiring she was a no-name with little experience but she came cheaply. Gymnastics was only a girl's sport and being a football school, Georgia wasn't too concerned with her resume. The same could be said for women's basketball coach Andy Landers. In those days Georgia took that attitude about every sport except football.

As fate would have it Yoculan and Landers turned out to be pretty good coaches that developed successful programs. Title IX was also evolving into the dreaded beast that required schools to spend a fair share on the female programs. In other words the two Cs were forced down the throat of the university administration like castor oil before the days of modern medicine. Now Georgia has a total athletic program, women included, to be proud of.

If shortcuts are taken, no C words, the teams will be laughingstocks. They will perform poorly on the field and likely in the classroom and society. The student-athletes will quickly recognize that nobody cares, so why should they. Coaches and players will come and go like rats in my granddaddy's old chicken house. The best thing that could be done for teams that get only lip service from their school administration is to drop them from the scene.

If the administration decides they want the teams to be successful, it too will be painful. Good leaders and coaches with experience and the burning desire to help kids succeed will cost good money. Will they be willing to prove their commitment by providing the cash? Will they be willing to provide facilities and support? Can they stand up to the questions that will be asked by those that see athletic opportunities for boys and girls as wasteful?

Like April 15 for taxpayers, all schools eventually have to reckon with these questions. Do they embrace the C words or avoid them like the plague? Either way, they'll get what they pay for.



Web posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2005











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