Here's the question du jour: Are the vast majority of male college athletes who play major college football and basketball, aka the 'performers,' (1) student athletes, (2) unpaid professionals, or simply (3) misguided and misled youngsters?
Although opinions will differ, my view is that the correct answer to the above question is #3.
And it appears that the new President of the University of Michigan and the long time head football coach at Kansas State agree with me.
But we know that big time college sports is very profitable for those heralded institutions of higher learning, don't we? Well, as a matter of fact, no. So here's another shocker. Most programs under the top level lose money, and even many top athletic powerhouses lose money as well.
While Football Ticket Prices Soar, Auburn Struggles to Profit says the following:
"At major football schools like Auburn—which played in last season’s national-championship game and won the 2010 title—ticket sales and contributions are the lifeblood of the athletic department. The $53 million Auburn that collected in 2013 accounted for more than half of its total athletic revenue, according to a school financial report. Still, these millions failed to cover its expenses. Auburn ran an athletic-department deficit of $866,000 in 2013, records show, making it one of only two public schools in the Southeastern Conference (besides Georgia) that didn’t turn a profit."
And if even huge sports programs like Auburn operate at a loss, imagine what happens at most schools. College athletic programs on the whole don't make money for their schools. They lose money.
But can't we at least be satisfied that these institutions are doing good work at educating and graduating these deserving young student athletes along the way? No, that's not happening either.
For the most part, the term student athlete is an oxymoron and outright fiction. And if you doubt this, then please pay attention to what the head football coach at Kansas State and the president of the University of Michigan have to say.
When Colleges Tell the Truth is subtitled 'Michigan's President Speaks Frankly About the Craziness of College Sports -- a Rarity in Today's World:'
"Who believes in the myth of big-time college sports anymore? The polite fantasy of the student-athlete playing gratefully for pride and tuition has been stripped away . . . . Still, college sports remain mostly disinterested in pulling back the curtain. The show remains the thing, and most of us remain intrigued by the show, even if it requires a certain, artful reality distortion. . . .
But every so often, the truth can’t help but slip out.
It happened in August, when longtime Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder observed the money-soaked atmosphere that surrounds the game and basically declared the college game to be toast. “I think we’ve sold out,” said Snyder, who, it should be added, will make more than $2.7 million this season. “The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of students. It’s no longer about education . . . We’ve sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don’t fault TV. . . .
But another dose of truth arrived this week, when Mark Schlissel, . . . who assumed Michigan’s presidency in July after arriving from Brown University sounded ready to hit or at least tap the brakes. To his fresh eyes, priorities were misshapen.
(He said) “If we had won Nobel Prizes this year, we wouldn’t have gotten as much attention . . . “It’s sad but it’s really true.”. . . Schlissel was troubled by the might of the athletic department and its independence from the school—“diminishing connectedness,” was the term he used—as well as relaxed admission standards for student-athletes. . . .
“I’ve really learned that this whole athletic sphere and the usual way you approach things just doesn’t work,” Schlissel said. “It’s just a crazed or irrational approach that the world and the media takes to athletics decisions.”
Translation: Just because big-time college sports have lost their collective minds doesn’t mean everybody at my school has to lose their minds, too. . . .
This blast of fresh air was another reminder of how jaded we’ve become to modern college sports. Even staggering revelations—like rampant academic fraud at North Carolina—are just kindling atop the fire. Hirings, firings, multimillion-dollar deals rewarded…what do people expect? This is what happens when schools abandon principles for a piece of the action. It’s been happening for years."
The emphasis on major college sports (football and basketball) is just plain nuts. Sadly, it's nothing new and has been that way for a long time.
So here's an idea. Let's just call it what it is, make the 'performers' professionals, and pay them free market based salaries.
Then if the colleges make money, good for them. And if they lose money, that will just be the market working.
Today the coaches and athletic directors make lots of TV money while the 'performers' essentially receive nothing. Meanwhile, we all pretend that the 'performers' are also students. Let's stop subsidizing these 'student athletes' and athletic programs with taxpayer money and compulsory fees paid by real students, and give that money to those students willing to work hard and earn a first class education.
The expenses associated with attending college today are needlessly excessive, and it's crazy to spend taxpayer funds and mandatory student fees on money losing college athletic programs. It's time to stop subsidizing college sports programs and let them sink or swim in the marketplace.
And let's also stop pretending that these 'student athletes' are getting a good deal when they receive grants-in-aid to play ball for dear old State U. Playing ball in college is not going to prepare them to do anything marketable when their playing days are over, and they try to enter the job market. In fact, only then will most of them learn that they have wasted lots of time by neither getting a solid education nor properly preparing to join the real world.
That's a shame, but that's my take.