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Published: Sunday, 1/21/2001

College coaches, their meal tickets fight for position in football market

The nerve of some people.

Against the advice of his coach, Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick announced he will bypass his final two years of college to enter the NFL draft. There's a good chance Vick will be the No.1 overall selection.

A few weeks ago I caught Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer on the radio. Beamer said Vick wasn't ready for the NFL.

Guess what?

A year ago at this time, Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer told Jamal Lewis he wasn't ready for the NFL. Lewis rushed for 1,364 yards as a rookie and he is starting for the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.

Two years ago, Miami coach Butch Davis told Edgerrin James he wasn't ready. James only had one of the best rookie seasons for a running back in NFL history.

Of course, Beamer said he had Vick's best interests at heart. Almost any college coach with a talented underclassman considering the NFL would say the same thing.

Beamer arranged for a $10 million disability policy in the event Vick suffered a career-ending injury.

Beamer also rounded up NFL officials, who told Vick he wasn't ready for their league and that he needs more seasoning.

Vick's return for another year at Virginia Tech would be advantageous to Beamer. Having Vick on his team makes Beamer a great coach.

With Vick, Virginia Tech became a legitimate contender for the national championship. The Hokies lost to Florida State in last year's BCS title game in the Sugar Bowl.

Vick's motives for leaving school are both selfish and sensible. He's looking out for No. 1.

In other words, Vick is only acting like most college football coaches, who stress team unity except when it pertains to their own careers.

Former Toledo coach Gary Pinkel is an honorable man, but Pinkel followed the dollar signs to Missouri. That meant leaving behind a group of loyal student-athletes who bought into Pinkel's philosophy of placing team goals ahead of individual goals.

When Minnesota coach Glen Mason spoke with high school recruits last year, do you think he told them he was monitoring the coaching situation at Ohio State?

That if Mason left Minnesota, those recruits who followed him would have to honor their commitments to the Gophers, while Mason could break his binding agreement with the school?

Many of the top college players are intelligent enough to see through the hypocrisy.

Their coaches are receiving seven-figure contracts and earning mad loot from shoe deals. Their schools are getting rich from bowl games and postseason basketball tournaments while the NCAA is making a mint from TV revenue.

When asked why he was leaving Virginia Tech, Vick said that by going to the NFL now he can provide for his family.

It's conceivable that Vick could sign a $50 million contract as the No. 1 pick in the draft.

If it were your son, what would you tell him to do?

John Harris is The Blade's sports columnist. Contact him by e-mail at jharris@theblade.com.

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