(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Friday, May 16, 2008

Why Rome Fell, or, The Silliness of College Athletic Programs

Most Division I programs lose money -- only about 15% finish in the black.

And why is this the case?

My theory -- instead of encouraging participation and fielding dozens of intercollegiate teams, those schools bet the farm on football and basketball, the revenue sports, and somehow they get it wrong. Whether they underprice tickets, have more assistant coaches than some departments have professors or their schools have academic and student life deans, spend scary amounts on training facilities and athletic dorms or pay their coaches outrageous sums, they lose money.

Is that a bad thing? I mean, breaking even is probably fine, because you'd expect schools to subsidize the bulk of their athletic programs. After all, if they give swimming or golf scholarships, they're not getting the allocated monies back in the form of ticket revenues. But if they're losing money, they have to assess their priorities and look for the root causes of the issue (note I said issue, and not problem, because some schools might find it okay to lose million on athletics if they believe they breed good will among alumni or if they think that those monies are better allocated than they would be to provide more financial aid or support academic programs).

Still, when you look at some of the expenditures, you start wondering when some schools will say enough. What will be the ceiling on compensation for football and basketball coaches, for recruiting and travel budgets, for facilities? And why spend monies on those line items?

Seems to me that many schools don't have their priorities right. They should encourage participation and good health, and not sitting and watching.

And spending.


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