Wednesday, December 18, 1996
Pace needs schooling in finance

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Orlando Pace, oddly enough, is pursuing a business degree at Ohio State. Odd, because he rates an ''F'' in personal finance.

The All-American tackle has announced his intention to forego the National Football League draft and complete his college eligibility in Columbus. Pace's promise is non-binding, of course, but it reveals some glaring gaps in his education.

Where is Pace's appreciation of the laws of supply and demand? Where is his fear of diminishing returns? What would J.P. Morgan make of a man who spurned instant wealth for the sake of his studies?

''You can't criticize him for making a decision to stay in school,'' said Cincinnati attorney Richard Katz. ''But from a business standpoint, he's got to go.''

Katz is in the business of representing athletes, but he is not one of those agents who have been pestering Pace to turn pro for the sake of their percentage. He doesn't make cold calls to hot prospects. He is presumed objective until proven otherwise.

Yet even those with a vested interest in Pace's prolonged adolescence struggle to see the point. He has already achieved every honor attainable by an amateur lineman, and he finished a creditable fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He has not allowed a sack in two seasons and has been credited with enough ''pancakes'' to placate Paul Bunyan.

'Best player in college football'

Pace is a man among boys; a very large, highly mobile, deeply motivated man. College football might appeal to him, but it no longer challenges him. He is so far ahead of the class that he ought to skip the next grade.

''I don't think there's any question he's the best player in college football,'' said draft maven Jerry Jones, author of The Drugstore List. ''And I think right now he's the No. 1 pick in the draft. If he signs, he's fixed for life. That's a very difficult thing to show a kid who's 21 years old.''

UCLA tackle Jonathan Ogden was the first lineman selected in last year's draft, and subsequently signed a seven-year contract worth $15.4 million with the Baltimore Ravens. If he banked even half of his $6.7 million signing bonus, Ogden stands to make more in annual interest than 99 percent of Americans earn in salary.

In view of inflation and his fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy balloting, Orlando Pace would likely be looking at an even larger package.

''How,'' Jones wondered, ''do you turn down that kind of money?''

The answer, almost invariably, is you can't. College athletes are always proclaiming their allegiance to alma mater, only to reverse their field when a decision is due. Wake Forest basketball star Tim Duncan is a notable exception, but it is a rare amateur athlete who can resist the temptation to take the money and run.

''Certainly we hope Orlando lives up to what he said,'' said Mike Jacobs, Ohio State's offensive line coach. ''But we've had certain doubts since he won the Lombardi Award and Orlando's mother had some quotes about, 'What's left for him to do in his college career?'''

Maybe he'll change his mind

Jacobs wonders if Pace's announcement wasn't designed to defuse some of the pressure surrounding his decision.

''I think what he's going through is a very normal process,'' Jones said. ''I think a lot of athletes are torn very much. Going to college is fun. It's a great way to live. But here (when they turn pro), the party is over and they're going to the work world. They're torn between that immense amount of money and having a good time.''

Maybe Orlando Pace wants to make another run at the Heisman. Maybe he wants one more shot at Michigan. Maybe he will change his mind.

''If Santa Claus comes down my chimney on the 25th,'' Jacobs said, ''I'll believe it.''