The 69-year-old Curry has spent the majority of his life in football as a player, coach and broadcast analyst. With that longevity, he’s seen many problems with the way college football has evolved since his beginnings in the sport as a center for Georgia Tech in the early 1960s.
According to Curry, the amount of money involved in the sport is at the forefront of those problems.
“The biggest change is negative, and it’s important to me,” he said. “It is the money ruining decision-making. It’s college coaches being paid on par with NFL coaches. Yeah, the guys are great coaches, and I don’t begrudge them a penny of what they earn, but that doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t square with the mission of the university. There are $100 billion loans for stadium expansions. That’s not what the university is about when the chemistry department can’t buy Bunsen burners, and I’m talking about stuff that I know about.
“That’s the down side, because, in America, we do everything bigger and faster than we should. That’s too bad, but that is a fact of life, and it’s where we live.”
On top of the financial aspect of the game, Curry said the mindset of recruiting has also changed for the worse.
“They want to know if we’re going to be in the big leagues,” he said of some the high school coaches, prospective players and parents he talks to. “Are we going to play at the highest level? Are we going to have a chance to play in a bowl? All of that stuff that we have pounded into our children’s minds over ESPN and every other network over the span of their lives, that’s what you get. Part of it is really disconcerting.
“The other part is that it’s just a fact of life, and it’s a part of the competitive world. I think that any child that gets to have a good football experience with good coaches and learns to be unselfish, and will be a part of a team giving themselves to that team, benefits enormously — especially if he gets a good education in the process.”
Although Curry acknowledged that any shift would be difficult with the added money involved in college football, he said that, at some point, the powers that be must take back control of the sport.
“At some point, the (university) presidents and boards of trustees must take control of this runaway wagon with financial control — moral, ethical and educational control. I know that’s easy for me to say.
“It’s very difficult to mount because the power of the conferences when connected with the revenue from network television and other media outlets is stunning. It’s billions of dollars. Billions of dollars cause things to happen and they always have in history.”
Curry also had to speak on the habits of consumers.
“There is a moral disconnect, and there is no simple answer,” he said. “My guess is that, at some point, because the public is mercurial, people will lose interest. People say to me that, ‘Ticket prices are ridiculous!’ I say, ‘Well, don’t buy them.’ All you have to do is quit buying them, and I promise you that the price will go down.
“‘Well, there’s too much on football on TV.’ Well, turn it off. If enough people turn it off, then I know what ESPN does — it cancels the show. So, I believe the public will control it with their remotes.”
In fixing the problems from the top with college football’s massive revenue stream, Curry also suggested a way that players and coaches could get closer to doing things the right way.
“Probably no scholarships,” he said. “(The players) have to wait tables or clean up the stadium in order to be on the team. You would have to go to class most of the time instead of practicing football, getting to play on Saturdays and getting to do what we all thought this was going to be when they played the first game in 1869.”
Although Curry had many things to say about the problems in college football, he wanted to further stress that there are many coaches and administrators in the university system that are doing the right thing.
“At the same time, I hasted to add that there are many, many administrators, and many, many coaches, that are very serious about getting their student-athletes educated. I’m not talking about those people.”