Friday, December 10, 2010

Big College Sports

I am not nor have I ever been a big fan of Big College Sports.  I think Canada is far more healthy about collegiate sports, where there is not so much money or obsession poured into football and basketball.  The Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook, had much to say this week about college sports
A key myth to be busted--that college sports pay for themselves:
Recently the NCAA reported that only 14 Division I-A programs clear a profit, while no college or university in the United States has an athletic department that is financially self-sustaining. Nobody in Division I -- not Alabama, not Auburn, not Oklahoma, nobody -- has an athletic department that pays its own way. The median big-university subsidy from general funds to sports is $10 million per school, the NCAA found.
The big question is whether $10 million dollars is a worthwhile expense or not, not whether the sports earn back their costs--they don't.  It may be the case that having a big time identity that comes with a big program is worth it for the school in terms of advertising, alumni giving, etc.  On the other hand, "At many colleges and universities, athletic programs cannibalize donations that might have gone to education."

Given university budgets, $10 million may or may not be worthwhile with the tangible and intangibles that come with sports.  It is hard to say.  But I do find it problematic when college sports become the focal point of a university rather than just part of its identity.  And, of course, the more information, the better.  Dispelling myths of the money-making potential of such programs might be helpful in combating the spiraling salaries of the coaches who claim to pay for themselves.   Not to mention the "featherbedding" that TMQ documents.  Indeed, the real rant here is about the student to coach/faculty ratios that TMQ over-states a bit (making all students equal to English class takers perhaps inflates the ratio).  Vanderbilt apparently found all this so troublesome that the Division of Student Life now runs their athletic programs.  Very cool.

Anyhow, it is only about $10 million here or there, or the $795 million that all students in the US spend subsidizing college sports, which is a drop in the tuition bucket, I guess.

1 comment:

Chris C. said...

Note though that Vanderbilt just offered a potential head coach $3 million a year and extra support for football, so even that's coming to an end.

Football can be a great addition to a University's identity and provide a rallying point, but like you said needs to go hand-in-hand with other traditions and attractions. If football's all that you have, there are definitely going to be issues.

And really, I don't understand why perpetual cellar-dwellers continue to subsidize teams at the I-A level. Drop down to I-AA and you'll be more competitive and have to spend less $$. Not every school needs a DI team- in California for instance, if you want DI sports, you can go to Cal or Berkeley (or USC or Stanford), so there's really no point in spending millions on other campuses to get them sports teams that will probably again be perpetual cellar-dwellers at the DI level.