Football Wasn’t Always About Money


A sports’ fan who collects memorabilia recently sent me a copy of a 1944 National Football League player contract which places a lot of things into historic perspective.

The 67-year-old professional document, one must remember, was in a much different era from the current over-inflated economic times where multi-million-dollar arrangements are rather commonplace.

In 1944, there was no television, and TV revenues; no player endorsements, and advertisements; no three-digit event tickets; and no bargaining players’ unions.

The 1944 contract was mailed out to a Notre Dame player from West Allis, Wis., ED McGROARATY, by the Packers’ head coach/general manager E.L. (CURLEY) LAMBEAU. If that name sounds familiar, it should. The Packers named their field after him.

Lambeau’s letter, with the contract, includes:

”Dear Ed:

”Enclosed you will find regular League contracts for your signature. We will start you at $150.00 per game, pay your transportation to Green Bay and $35.00 per week living expenses until the first game. We will gladly increase the amount of this contract as soon as you are playing the kind of ball deserving more money.

”I take it for granted that you will have no trouble getting a leave of absence, therefore, am sending contracts to you.

”Our first practice is August 20th in Green Bay. Of course, you know we furnish all football equipment.”

That’s good to know. At least the player didn’t have to bring his own helmet and cleats.

But that was the ”good old days” of the National Football League when players competed because they enjoyed the sport and the competition.

It was a game, not a business.

Now the NFL, and all professional sports, have become entertainment-based and the patrons wind up paying the excessive freight – in inflated ticket prices, outlandish concession, souvenir and parking costs, etc.

But, a long as many people accept it, there’s no turning back to the ”Good Old Days.”

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Speaking of outlandish compensation, did anyone peruse the contract for the football coach-in-waiting at West Virginia?

DANA HOLGORSEN, who has yet to coach a winning game in major college football, could earn $10.75 million, PLUS incentives, through 2016. That would include a 2016 annual salary of $2.4 million and make him the highest-paid public employee in the Mountain State.

To put this in perspective, the all-time winningest college coach, Penn State’s JOE PATERNO, isn’t in the revenue ballpark with this ”hired gun” from the Southwest who resides in a hotel and will have his fourth college job in five years this fall.

I know a few other coaches in America have more lucrative contracts but they are established coaches with solid track records.

Is there any sanity in these financial deals?

The only good news out of all this is no taxpayer money is involved. WVU is one of the few colleges who have self-supporting athletic departments.

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(1) Sistersville native ALAN ROBINSON has taken early retirement from The Associated Press after 40 years in the sports writing business. No media person with Ohio Valley roots has covered more major sporting events than this former Intelligencer staffer and Pittsburgh area resident whose bylines have appeared on these pages since 1972.

(2) The Wheeling Park boys’ basketball team has rejoined the national rankings after upending nationally ranked Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) last weekend in Morgantown. The Patriots are No. 19 in the East Region rankings of the Powerade FAB 50 at ESPN Rise.

(3) Enjoy the wintry weekend.