Mike Lantry, 1972
Surrounded by a sea of sugarcane, this poverty-ravaged town on the southeastern edge of Lake Okeechobee always has been one of the country's most fertile football areas.
It's a place where players chase rabbits from burning brush to gain speed, college coaches begin recruiting trips and Friday nights produce future NFL stars. Football is the main diversion in Belle Glade, aka "Muck City," a place so depressed it lacks a big discount store and even a movie theater.
Now football is being threatened.
When U.S. Sugar Corp. -- the nation's largest sugarcane producer -- agreed in June to sell its nearly 300 square miles of farmland to the state for $1.75 billion, the deal was touted as an environmental victory for the government's ongoing Everglades restoration project. But for the community, it's a big blow.
In what is already one of the country's poorest areas, about 1,700 U.S. Sugar employees will lose their jobs when the transfer to the state is consummated in six years. The rest of the local economy, which mostly supports U.S. Sugar and its employees, will also suffer.
"The only thing most people around here know how to do is grow sugar and play football," 70-year-old resident Jack Brown said. "Without sugar, there will be no football."
The town of about 15,000, which got its nickname from its soil's black muck, has football talent just as rich.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes and dozens of other current and former NFL players call Belle Glade home. The four major programs in the area -- Glades Central, Pahokee, Glades Day and Clewiston -- have combined to win 17 state championships. Glades Central, the best of the four, has won six titles.
Pahokee, eight miles north along the lake's shore, produced Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin among others. Glades Central and Pahokee have combined to send 48 players into professional football.
More at link...
Jeff Zuttah, two years older than Jeremy, was one of the top prep offensive linemen in New Jersey in 2002, a consensus All-American who accepted a football scholarship to the University of Michigan in 2003.
It was there that his lifelong affliction derailed him for the first time.
Jeff Zuttah has sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder that affects 72,000 people in the United States. Two million Americans carry the sickle cell trait.
Doctors at the University of Michigan would not clear Jeff to play. He never took a snap in any practice for the Wolverines.
So he decided to transfer to Stanford, where team doctors allowed him to practice the following year.
He played two games for Stanford in 2004, but then could not continue.
He received an economics degree from Stanford.
"There's no cure, you just live with it," Jeremy said. "Since he's not doing anything overly physical, like conditioning for football, he's going to be fine."
So now, Jeremy, a rookie third-round draft pick of the Buccaneers, is feeling his way through his first NFL training camp, without the benefit of his brother getting there before him.
"That would have been cool, but you have to take whatever comes your way," Zuttah said.
Jeff Zuttah is an investment banker for Morgan Stanley in New York City.
"He's doing great for himself right now," Jeremy said. "He's going to make more money than me in the long run."
There are a lot of stories this morning about an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about the trend of soaring recruiting budgets throughout all of college sports. I figured some of you might be interested in reading it and examining the data yourselves.
Nearly half of the nation's largest athletics programs have doubled or tripled their recruitment spending over the past decade, as their pursuit of elite athletes intensifies and becomes more national in scope.
Forty-eight percent of NCAA Division I athletics departments at least doubled their recruiting budgets from 1997 to 2007, according to a Chronicle analysis of financial data reported to the U.S. Department of Education. Of the 300 Division I institutions for which data were available, 21 each spent more than $1-million chasing talented players in the 2007 academic year.
On the whole, the 65 biggest spenders shelled out a total of more than $61-million in 2007, an 86-percent increase from 10 years before. That amount does not include salaries for recruiting coordinators or construction and operating costs of the gleaming multimillion-dollar facilities that help lure prospects.
Rising travel costs account for much of the increase. But the budget growth also reflects a widespread shift in how and where coaches recruit, compared with a decade ago.
Driven by geographic constraints or a desire to bolster the competitiveness of their teams — or both — many more coaches now look far beyond homegrown talent, sometimes even crossing continents to court top prospects. For now, the increased price of recruiting is one that many administrators say they can tolerate. But the high-stakes chase for elite athletes can test even the most generous budgets.[/quote]
Budget-wise, Notre Dame comes in at #2 for the 2006-2007 season in terms of overall recruiting budget for their entire athletic department. Ohio State comes in at #10. Unsurprisingly, SEC recruiting budgets far outpace the rest of I-A.
I wrote a post today detailing the Big East's new partnership with Comcast. There are a couple parallels and contrasts to the ongoing Big Ten Network saga that may be of interest to anyone who's followed the coverage of the BTN's attempts to get itself up off the ground.
Would the Big Ten have been better off partnering with Comcast/Versus from the start, instead of bickering for a year?