JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
HORSESHOE BAY — Texas Tech University men’s head basketball coach Tubby Smith said he believes the NCAA will change in the coming months because of lawsuits and the financial situation of many athletes.
Some, whose homes are out of state, ask him how they can get home for the holidays or for breaks when their families can’t afford to pay for their travel arrangements.
“That’s the question the comes up this time of year,” he said. “That’s a real concern, those are real dollars. It’ll cost money to get on that plane. We need to step up and put money in (their pockets), so they can live comfortably.”
Smith, who spoke at the Horseshoe Bay Sports Club on May 13, was referring to a lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and one filed by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter.
“I think if we can do something, it’ll elevate it,” he added. “A lot will depend on these lawsuits. Some are good enough who can go directly to the pros. I think it’ll happen.”
O’Bannon’s lawsuit centers around getting compensated by the NCAA and its members for using his likeness in video games and other places, while Colter’s is about college students having the right to form a union.
Smith, who guided his first Red Raiders team to a 14-18 record last season, believes an index will be used to determine what is a fair amount to give to the players beyond their scholarships.
“(It’ll be) based on the cost of living, insurance, those things,” he said. “All those things will be beneficial. We need to do more for the student-athletes.”
Smith, who guided Kentucky to the 1997-98 national title, noted that the state of Texas produces some outstanding athletes. One reason is because of the size of the state and the cities of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio. By the same token, he said many of Texas’ best players leave to go to other programs, including Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.
“That type of exposure is attractive to the student-athlete and the high school player,” he said. “You can identify with (NBA players) Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Vince Carter. That’s what they aspire to do.
“To keep the players nearby, you hope they have a real affinity for these local (universities),” he added. “We are in the most competitive league (the Big 12). We’ve got to find a way for the most part to get them to the next level.”
Smith, who had a 124-81 overall record at Minnesota before taking over at Texas Tech, said he believes the NBA would like college players to stay in universities longer because college basketball is a great developmental league for the professional level. He noted the NBA wants to put the best product it can on the floor.
He said he teaches his players — and anyone who will listen — a lesson from his dad on stress. His father told him stress is having a family and not knowing if there was enough food to feed them or not enough money to pay a bill.
He also tells his players a story of when he was teenager with options to play college basketball. He recalled telling his mother than one day he would buy her all kinds of things.
“My dad came into the room with blood-red eyes,” he said. “He said, ‘I’m responsible for your mom and this family. I provide for you. You take care of yourself and your family.’ That was a valuable lesson. (Parents) just want you to be successful. When I got older, I built them a home and took care of them. I was able to live that dream.”