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Football Is A Sucker’s Game

Just finished reading this NYT magazine story about the realities of bigtime college football today. It’s pretty gnarly. Read the whole thing, but be prepared to feel the need for a shower afterwards.

This bit here is the reason why I hate the Bowl Coalition Series and all of its privileged members:

”We are receiving letters and calls from conferences that want in,” Mike Tranghese, coordinator of the five-year-old B.C.S., told me. ”And we have formed a presidential oversight panel to form an answer.” But letting more members in would mean splitting up the money more ways. I asked Tranghese if I was missing something in assuming the B.C.S. had no incentive to cut more schools in. ”If you were missing something, I would let you know,” he said. ”The B.C.S. consists of the major teams as determined by the marketplace. Any other system is socialism. And if we’re going to have socialism, then why don’t we share our endowments?”

Let me suggest another word to you, Mike: oligarchy. “Cabal” also works. Whatever it is we’ve got today, it sure ain’t an unfettered free market.

There’s a third word that also applies: “Desperation”.

One reason B.C.S. members do not want to share is that college sports have become so immensely expensive that even some of the biggest of the big lose money. The University of Michigan, which averages more than 110,000 fans for home football games, lost an estimated $7 million on athletics over the course of two seasons, between 1998 and 2000. Ohio State had athletic revenues of $73 million in 1999-2000 and ”barely managed to break even,” according to the book ”Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports,” by Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College economics professor. A state audit revealed that the University of Wisconsin lost $286,700 on its Rose Bowl appearance in 1998 because it took a small army, a traveling party of 832, to Pasadena.

If the Michigans and Ohio States of the world don’t make money, it can’t be done.

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One Comment

  1. dave says:

    Oh, it can be done, but very few colleges manage to pull it off. A great example is LSU– one of the few self-sufficient college althletic programs in the country. LSU only pulls about 90,000 for its football games, but the athletic program overall still manages to not only sustain itself financially but actually turn a “profit”, which goes into the university’s general fund.

    I’ll tell you why it’s so hard for collegiate athletic programs to stay afloat financially now days in two words: Title Nine.