Beyond the lunch pail: Virginia Tech in damage control over fine-gate

bud fosterVirginia Tech athletics director Whit Babcock was in full damage control mode in an interview with the Roanoke Times published Thursday.

Blindsided by reports that defensive coordinator Bud Foster was talking openly about wanting to fine players from their cost of attendance monies, Babcock said no, that’s not happening here, and it’s not going to.

“Bud just misspoke on that part,” Babcock told Roanoke Times writer Andy Bitter. “We do a lot of education on cost of attendance. I think what Bud was trying to say was discipline has changed over the years. Maybe some of the things that we did in the old days and physical punishment and things like that is maybe not good. I think what Bud was trying to say is he believes in discipline and that was one way to get the guys’ attention.

“I’ve also been told it’s not something that we had in the past acted on or that we have done some of that in the past, but no, none of it can be or was associated with cost of attendance. So that was Bud speaking alone and proposing something. But nobody had gotten fined under the new system and we squashed it.”

That seemed to signal the end of that story. Then Mike Barber at the Times-Dispatch gave us some photo evidence that what Babcock thought was Foster waxing philosophic was actually something that the Tech coaching staff had already put into place.

Barber tweeted photos of a TV monitor outside a Tech football players’ lounge taken Wednesday night listing specific fines for specific offenses, and detailing players on the current roster and their fines to date.

So this wasn’t Foster “speaking alone and proposing something.” Nor was it “nobody” getting fined under the new system.

As Barber noted, it’s not clear if the fines levied had been enforced, and he wrote that Babcock is declining to comment further on the matter, for now, at least.

One can only imagine, then, the smoke coming out of his ears at being made to look the fool by Foster, and by extension head football coach Frank Beamer, who would have had to have signed off on the system of fines, you have to presume.

The idea of fining college football players, who are famously not paid for their work, despite their efforts in bringing in millions of dollars to their schools’ athletics departments, has been met with near-universal disgust in the sports commentariat, and for good reason.

Whit Babcock’s salary is $470,000 annually. Bud Foster is paid $900,000 a year; Frank Beamer makes more than $2.4 million a year.

Tech football players get a free education that they have to work in with their responsibilities to the football team, and you can imagine what happens if there’s a conflict between a class and football.

The notion of fining supposedly amateur athletes goes beyond the lunch pail.

– Column by Chris Graham


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