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GUEST COLUMN: Bob Costas' warning about football's future

By: Gene A. Budig and Alan Heaps
November 24, 2017 Updated: November 24, 2017 at 4:06 am
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Not many in public life and journalism are willing to cross swords with Bob Costas and for good reason.

The long-time voice of NBC Sports has lost remarkably few debates on the ever contentious world of sports. He has mastered a vast array of facts and figures that determine the outcomes of most competitions.

In recent days Costas has taken on football, at all levels, and has lit a national fire.

It should have been addressed by college presidents and professional owners' years ago. After all, their universities and professional teams have netted big dollars through radio, television and timely promotions.

But Costas has raised a clear picture of an impending crisis.

Addressing a national and attentive crowd at the University of Maryland, he said the game of football could collapse over time, barring a development in technology to make it reasonably safe.

He contends that the decline of football is today's most troubling sports story.

"The cracks in the foundation are there," Costas said. "The day-to-day issues, as serious as they may be, they may come and go. But you cannot change the nature of the game. I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football."

Attendance at pro games, as well as its television viewers, has dwindled, which has the owners uneasy. Meanwhile, sale of Major League Baseball tickets for next season appears well ahead of last season. The current sale of NBA tickets appears to match last year; interest appears quite healthy in pro hockey.

Outstanding college students in today's media classes are clearly troubled by the looming threat to football, as are their teachers.

Student quality remains high but that does not reduce the mounting fear on the campuses.

Costas has a long and successful record in going out of his way to talk with students from around the country.

He can be unvarnished, but always open and entertaining. He has lectured at Princeton, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas, among others.

The NBC sports veteran of major sports, including the Olympics, drew strong backing from others at the roundtable discussion at the University of Maryland.

With him was ESPN's Tony Kornheiser who likened football's trajectory to that of boxing, saying safety concerns could make the game of football obsolete in the coming decades.

"Bob's right," Kornheiser said. "If they don't find a way to make it safe, and we don't how they will . the game's not going to be around. It's not."

Costas has won three Emmy Awards for his work.

Need we say more?

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Dr. Budig, a resident of the Isle of Palms, was the last president of baseball's American League. Budig served as president of Illinois State University from 1973 to 1977 and of West Virginia University from 1977 to 1980 and was the chancellor of the University of Kansas from 1980 to 1994. Heaps is a former vice president of the College Board in New York City and a graduate of Princeton University.

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