NOT THE BEST THING FOR THE KIDS? Thus concedes Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak.
"Ideally, no, I don't think it's the best thing for the kids," said NIU football coach Joe Novak. "We're going to get back at about 5 a.m. on Monday, and I'm going to tell our kids to go to their 8 a.m. classes."
Which they were given advance enrollment into, so as to have their afternoons free for weight training and practice.

But it has nothing to do with money.

NIU's game on Sunday is a prime example of a movement storming D-I college football. That movement is asking a majority of mid-major football teams to take big dollars to play nationally televised games on "school nights."

But is the television exposure coming at the expense of student athletes' personal health and academic integrity?

"In my view, the real 'exploitation' comes if institutions are admitting football players who are unable, or unwilling, to do the academic work," said MAC commissioner Rick Chryst in an e-mail interview.

Yes, let's kick that can back to the kids. The conference is on not-quite-double and not-so-secret probation for its dismal attendance figures, and the commissioner faults the recruiting efforts of the coaches? In an afternoon I could fill an entire deck of cards (as opposed to a 32 card Schafkopf deck) with athletic administrators who ought to be hiding in spider holes rather than taking easy questions from veteran sportswriters. But that would be about as challenging as, oh, working through the "times 10" table for integers 1 to n, for n large.

Northern Star columnist Sean Connor, fortunately, is made of sterner stuff.

Now, read the following stats and ask MAC Commissioner Chryst again whether or not mid-major schools are being exploited by ESPN.

Of the five Tuesday night D-I football games ESPN is airing this fall, all of them are match-ups between mid-major teams.

Four of the five games ESPN is showing on Wednesday nights this season are between mid-majors.

On Thursdays, nine of the 14 games involve mid-major teams. Then, on Friday, seven of 11 match-ups are between strictly mid-major schools.

Now that ESPN has lost the NFL on Sunday nights, ESPN has replaced it with college football.

And guess what? Five of the six Sunday night games on ESPN are between mid-major schools.

One Sunday showdown is between Morehouse University and Miles University. It begs the question of whether these schools would have gotten games on ESPN before this year.

Keep that kind of investigative reporting up and the sports desk is going to wish you were reassigned to the Washington press corps.

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