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NCAA players series: Former Tech defensive lineman not fan of CAPA movement

Barbee says scholarship as is gives players great opportunity

Posted: April 6, 2014 - 10:08pm  |  Updated: April 6, 2014 - 11:57pm
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Britton Barbee (97) says former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, right, "always liked the fact that I liked school, because he was an interesting guy himself."
Britton Barbee (97) says former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, right, "always liked the fact that I liked school, because he was an interesting guy himself."
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On the second day of preseason practice in August 2010, Britton Barbee suffered a torn Achilles tendon, ending his senior season with the Texas Tech football team before it started.

Then Barbee, a defensive tackle, did something that runs counter to the image of the jock stereotype. He already had a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but rather than coast to the finish line, he buried himself under a heavy courseload.

“I didn’t need to, but I was going to get as many classes as I could for free,” Barbee said recently. “I think I was taking 15 (credit hours) that fall, so I added on another class (to make 18). I did the same thing in the spring. I loaded up in the summer.”

Barbee says he “comes from a long line of high GPAs.” Everyone in his family of five graduated from college. His sister with the 3.97 GPA joked about being smarter than Britton with his GPA around 3.7.

A self-described nerd, albeit a 6-foot-1, 285-pound nerd, Barbee signed up for classes such as Greek Mythology, History of Egypt and Physics II, even if he wasn’t quite sure how, or if, they fit into a degree path.

But so what? He still had a year of football eligibility and his athletic scholarship.

“So I took more classes just because I wanted to,” he said. “I could have been done. I could have walked away from the program. I decided to take more school, because education gets you further.”

These days, the 26-year-old Barbee is at Sewell Cadillac in Dallas, one of the largest Cadillac dealers in the country. He started there in March 2012 and was promoted to new car sales manager two months ago. On the same day in March, Barbee ordered 2015 Escalades for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Barbee traces his success in the business world in large part to the structure and self-discipline he learned as a college football player.

He says if he sees college-athlete experience on a resume, it’s a plus, because it attests to a level of commitment and dedication.

Yet, the Barbee who used to show up on the academic all-Big 12 teams and the commissioner’s honor roll doesn’t much care for some of the discussion points coming from college football players these days. Specifically, that they’re used and then discarded by the system. And that, in the big business of college football, they need more.

“I feel like a lot of these guys look at the negative,” he said, “and there’s so much positive. Football’s put me in the position where I’m at now in my career.

“If you really look at the whole idea behind paying college players, what a lot of the guys don’t realize is how important school is.”

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt says a person in his position “would have to be living under a rock” to not recognize change on the horizon in major-college sports.

Barbee, on the other hand, says athletes can make hay with the opportunity a scholarship provides if they apply themselves.

“The money that you’re not being paid as a student-athlete, you get back tenfold as long as you do your part when you’re a student-athlete,” Barbee said, “because they’re essentially paying for your school, and that’s an opportunity not many people get.”

Barbee says the future of college sports is “interesting, to say the least,” particularly in light of an effort by the recently formed College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) to unionize and receive collective bargaining rights. A Chicago regional director of the National Labor Relations Board agreed with their position in a ruling two weeks ago, giving Northwestern players approval to form a union.

Northwestern players will vote on the issue April 25. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald, himself a two-time All-America in the 1990s, has come out against the union proposal.

A key leader in the movement is CAPA co-founder Kain Colter, a senior quarterback on the Northwestern football team last season.

On New Year’s Day 2011 at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas, Colter rushed for 105 yards, completed three passes for 38 yards and caught a 32-yard pass in a 45-38 loss to Texas Tech. He was a freshman back then.

Barbee was on the other sideline that day for the last game of his senior year.

He had an idea he could transition away from football, because he’d already been preparing for the real world.

Barbee says he remembers during his senior year giving some advice to one of the Red Raiders’ freshmen.

“I told him about the importance of making sure you have a suit,” he said. “When I was in school, everybody spent their scholarship checks on Jordans and clothes that can’t be worn past (age) 22. I wanted to be sure I had dress socks and belts to match so I could interview.”

CAPA isn’t necessarily advocating for college athletes to be paid.

The group’s objectives, spelled out on its website, include guaranteed coverage for sports-related medical expenses, better prevention and care for concussions, establishing an educational trust fund, allowing players to be compensated for sponsorships and securing due process rights that make punishments for rule violations the same at all programs.

Still, in an age of billion-dollar television contracts and multi-million dollar coaches salaries, the players’ lobby says there’s not been enough trickle-down effect.

On its website, CAPA says, “Currently, over $1.2 billion in NEW TV revenue is flooding NCAA sports yet players are too often stuck with sports-related medical expenses, can lose their scholarships if they are permanently injured, and ‘full’ scholarships are capped by the NCAA below the cost of attendance by $3,000 to $5,000 per player per year.

“Data have shown that virtually all of the new athletic revenues generated over the last several decades have been spent on excessive salaries and luxury athletic facilities while college athletes are denied basic protections. ... ”

Barbee joined the Tech football program as a preferred walk-on and eventually was placed on a scholarship. Then, just when it looked as if he might have a shot at some playing time, the preseason injury ruined his senior year.

None of which left him feeling aggrieved.

Barbee says he was preparing then for the life he has now with his wife Brandi and their 16-month-old daughter Bailey.

“Most people are so focused on getting paid now, they don’t realize you get paid later,” he said. “You get paid when it matters. You don’t need extra money when you’re 18 or 22. You need it when you’re where I am now, when you’re 26 years old and married with a 1-year-old. That’s when you need it.”

 

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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Editor’s note: The discussion of what college athletes should receive — and whether they deserve more — has been a source of debate for years. A recent regional National Labor Relations Board ruling setting the stage for the first college athletes’ union with collective bargaining rights moved the discussion back onto the front burner. This is the second in a five-part series looking at the topic from a Texas Tech point of view.

 

College Players: How Much Do They Need?

Sunday: The athletic director’s view

Today: Former players pro and con I

Tuesday: Former players pro and con II

Wednesday: What do current players think?

Thursday: Lawyers weigh in on legal questions

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