A stacked deck? Well, there’s nothing they can do about it.

This Dan Wetzel piece is good.  A taste:

In 2011, the University of Michigan athletic department employed 253 people, according to state records. Four years later, in 2015, it was 334, up 32 percent.

During that period, the average salary grew 22.4 percent, to $89,851. Over a seven-year span, the number of athletic department employees making six figures went from 30 to 81.

Michigan is hardly unique. It’s on par with its peers. Critics point to the salaries of big-name coaches, but it’s everything that is growing in college sports.

It’s the National Collegiate Industrial Complex.

Soaring media rights and vast new revenue streams continue to flood department coffers. Like any good non-profit bureaucracy, they have deftly figured out how to spend … mostly on themselves.

Michigan didn’t add 32 percent more sports in those four years, or 32 percent more scholarship athletes, requiring 32 percent more staffing.

It just made about $30 million more dollars per year, from $122.7 million in 2011 to $152.5 million in 2015. Most of the increase came courtesy of the Big Ten Network.

So it spent the money: on new workers and new raises and more assistant directors and more construction and additional private plane flight hours and the gold plating of everything…

All of this money – namely all of this brand-new money that isn’t even needed – ratchets up cries to share it with the student-athletes.

That’s the exact kind of black/white wedge issue however that college sports executives’ love. It’s so complicated, so all or nothing, so emotionally charged that they can use it to stall any progress or let the entire debate get bogged down in nonsense.  [Emphasis added.]

They can turn Marxist and note wrestlers work just as hard as football players. They can throw up their hands at Title IX. They can form another subcommittee and stage February meetings somewhere warm.

And they can hire another 100 people and refurbish their corner office. Or build an entirely new one, because, you know, it’s good for recruiting or something. They can spend every penny so they don’t actually have any left and then cry poverty (generally less than 20 athletic departments nationally turn a “profit” each year).

A lot of them still hit actual students up for athletic fees, because college isn’t expensive enough.

You can make all the excuses in the world for inaction, but the bottom line is that this is how a cartel behaves.  Because it can.  After all, that money isn’t going to spend itself.

If your objection to this is simply that players don’t deserve to be paid, Wetzel’s got a response for that, too.

The NCAA is vehemently opposed to paying the players or even allowing them to profit off their own image and likeness. (It’s worked well for the Olympics.) Doing so might chip into the revenue coming in, after all.

Why do the schools limit the number of scholarships handed out though? Why do they not provide additional educational opportunities for athletes? Not just in football and basketball, but all sports. Non-revenue teams exist essentially as a form of welfare from what football and men’s basketball brings in, a questionable practice but one that isn’t reasonably going to change.

So go with it. Why does women’s gymnastics have an average roster of 19, according to scholarshipstats.com, yet can only offer 12 scholarships, which they often divvy up? Why not all 19? The money is there. Or coming. Men’s gymnastics is capped at just 6.5 scholarships. That, leadership says, is because of Title IX. Fine, so add seven to each side.

That’s 14 more kids getting a full ride. Then move on to soccer and softball and swimming and everything else.

Or they can add a hundred new jobs and dole out bigger raises and construct bigger facilities that no one rightfully needs. They can put the kids paying their own way in a nicer locker room or hire Ludacris to 15 minutes. Before long, it’s all spent and there is nothing left for the players.

Then they can keep dropping draconian rulings and say any solution is simply impossible while they stand around and argue about real dangerous, pressing issues such as where Jim Harbaugh wants to stage a practice.

It’s a corrupt system, plain and simple.  If it’s really supposed to be about the student-athletes, big time college athletics sure has a funny way of showing it.

44 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness

44 responses to “A stacked deck? Well, there’s nothing they can do about it.

  1. gastr1

    Have to admit, I’d really like to know if similar numbers exist for non-power 5 schools, because I suspect the gold-plating is mostly a rich-getting- richer-type activity.

    • Gaskilldawg

      Savannah State gets the same share of the $741,000,000 per year March Madness broadcast rights payment as UGA does. The payment goes to $1,100,000,000 per year in 2025.

      It has fewer ADs and executive staff sucking six figure salaries and lower overhead than UGA, but it makes enough from being a Division 1 school to make funding Division 1 programs worthwhile.

  2. charlottedawg

    If you support amatuerism you support a system where todd Grantham, Greg McGarity, & Mark Emmert make bank but it’s somehow morally reprehensible that Todd Gurley or AJ green make some spending money signing autographs. And no the fact that the latter two are students doesn’t make it magically ok.

    I honestly do not understand how any objective observer can call this anything but what it is: a cartel.

  3. I agree with your sentiments, Senator. Should we all stop giving money, buying tickets, or watching games on TV in response? These guys make it harder everyday to be a college sports fan.

    • They don’t care. Or worse, they cynically manipulate our passion for it.

      • The TV contracts, the contributions, and the ticket prices wouldn’t be where they are except for the “passion” of the people that support college sports. The powers that be know they have a product where at the highest level demand outstrips supply (although I think the schools have another thing coming to them if they believe the TV money will go up in perpetuity) and a cost structure (in particular for labor) they can manage.

        • W Cobb Dawg

          Student fees, no opt-out on cable TV, and unpaid players are the most detestable aspects of cfb. Change a couple of these conditions and it’ll cripple the gravy train.

          • WCD, not sure I agree about athletic fee but totally understand where you’re coming from. That fee does give a student the ability to attend almost any athletic event on campus and subsidizes the cost of a student ticket for the revenue sports (although I think it should be optional). The fee is a relic from the days before wall to wall college sports on TV. The market will handle the cable TV issue as the industry gets disrupted. The unpaid players while everyone else makes bank seem to be the big problem to me. Of course, it took the NCAA’s hypocrisy regarding Todd Gurley to change my mind on that as I was in the “scholarship is enough” camp. I don’t want to see pay for play and instead would prefer name and likeness and the ability to work in addition to the COA stipend, but we all know athletes as employees is coming at the highest level of college athletics.

  4. JCDAWG83

    The best idea in the article is the idea of expanding the number and amount of scholarships for athletes who are not football or basketball players. I have no problem with the players not being paid, but I do have a problem with the schools not letting the extra revenue fund more scholarships. The “full ride” is pretty well limited to basketball and football, other sports are generally giving out partial scholarships, sometimes in very small amounts to try and get the most bang for their buck from the limited number of scholarships they are allowed.

    • KershDawg

      Exactly. Wetzel’s argument is another example of one based on two wrongs. Just because it’s wrong for these schools to turn massive profits off the players doesn’t make it any more okay for the amateur players to then begin turning a profit also. It’s such flawed logic. Appropriating those funds back into the system, however, makes so much more sense. It’s the same as the transfer eligibility rules; just because a coach can and shouldn’t be able to doesn’t mean we should then begin allowing student athletes to move about freely as well. Just fix the wrong; don’t add another one on top of it to justify the first one.

  5. sniffer

    Senator, you used the term “corrupt”. I couldn’t agree more. Pray tell, how does one separate their beloved alma mater from the voluntary organization it belongs to? I don’t see UGA as corrupt but need bathing every time I read a post or article like this one. It seems immoral to support this yet, I don’t want to give it up. Long ago I stopped living vicariously through my football heroes and don’t derive my self worth or image through the colors that I wear. I don’t care anymore, but I care about Georgia.

    Signed,
    Baffled in Birmingham

    • @sniffer:over the years, I have reached the point where I pretty much do not give a damn about NCAA 1 football. Even reached that point about UGA and UW(Seattle). Have become a pro football fan. Never thought I would reach that point. For the first time in many years, I will not be attending any college football games this fall. Going to be doing other things, like travel. Most of this has to do with what Div. 1 has become and just getting older and not really caring who wins or loses on Saturday.

  6. I don’t know that there is a an answer that is going to satisfy anyone for this issue. If the NCAA allows players to make money by selling autographs or selling jerseys, sure as hell, someone is going to bitch about it not being fair that superstar player X is making bank while the long snapper, holder & kicker aren’t making squat. A strong argument can be made that the long snapper, holder & kicker has helped more in winning games than the superstar. And if they’re just as important in winning as the superstar, they should be making just as much as the superstar. How’re you going to fix that? What about the o-line? If they don’t do their job, no one gets to be a superstar. Nobody would be talking about Jacob Eason today if the o-line didn’t give him time to make those throws on Saturday. How come they can’t make bank like superstar X? What about all the other athletes attending school, they put in just as much work and are just as important to their team as superstar X. Where would UGA’s softball team be without Alex Hugo? You think it’s fair that superstar X is getting all this extra money when she can’t get the time of day? Don’t say this can’t or won’t happen, because if that was the case, neither Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton would have a snowball’s chance in hell at being elected dogcatcher much less POTUS!

    I totally agree that the NCAA & most athletic departments are more concerned about the almighty dollar than the health & welfare of the athletes. But until you can get folks with a different set of values to be in leadership positions within both organizations, nothing worth mentioning is ever going to be accomplished and all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is going to change it.

  7. T-Dog

    Unfortunately, if it weren’t for football would this blog even exist?

    I don’t recall seeing many posts about wrestling, swimming, or the equestrian team. Again, unfortunately, we focus on football and football brings in the money. I agree we could award more full scholarships in more areas – in fact we should.

    However, if UGA, or any other major university, just quit “keeping up with the Jones” they would be left behind – they would not get the recruits they once did, their facilities (bathrooms and big-ass-fans) would not live up to the demands of the ticket holders, their attendance would drop off – they would not WIN. So they keep looking for ways to bring in cash and ways to spend it. NCAA football doesn’t seem to be much different than the “not-for-profit” hospitals that must keep building to keep from being non-profit.

    Of course, we could go back to the days of 60,000 seats and an occasional game on TV – remember, back before the internet and bloggery but I don’t think the 33,000 ticket holders who wouldn’t get to see the game or the countless TV viewers who also would have to listen to the radio (sans Munson) would like it either. Its a vicious cycle – spend, grow, spend some more…

  8. T-Dog

    …to keep being non-profit

  9. Russ

    Is Auburn still “losing money” on football? Maybe they need to build another big-ass scoreboard.

  10. Lrgk9

    The real culprits are the University Presidents. Plain and simple.

    Why they haven’t been named in a lawsuit or multiple lawsuits beats me.

    • JCDAWG83

      You’ll have to explain that one. Almost all college athletic programs come under the umbrella of a separate corporation like the University of Georgia Athletic Association. The university president can hire and fire the AD and has a voice in the hiring of coaches, but the AAs are the organizations that take in the money and spend it.

      • Gaskilldawg

        He is correct for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the NCAA policy and rules are set by the member universities. It is not a republic. It is a democracy. The university presidents have the power to vote for different policies and rules.

        Another reason he is correct requires correcting your statement of fact that “almost all college athletic programs come under the umbrella of a separate corporation.” Georgia law prohibits direct public university funding of sports. Therefore, UGA formed its nonprofit AA years ago. Not all states prohibit their state universities from direct spending on sports.

        As for universe presidents having influence on separate corporate AAs, I know the UGA president is a director of the UGAAA and the University selects the board. your post implies that Greg McGarity can do what he want and Jere Morehead be damned. McGarity has public ally referred to Morehead as his “boss” and that is accurate.

        I cannot imagine that there is a university anywhere in the NCAA in which the university has no ability to direct its AA.

  11. Ant123

    They student athletes are much better off today than they were 30 years ago. Better facilities, private tutors, much better healthcare, ten times more media exposure, as well as COA for some mean they are far, far ahead of where they were in the 80’s. How can someone argue with that?

    • DawgPhan

      and the admins that over see the explotation of their labor have enriched themselves far more than they have the students they exploit. How can someone argue with that.

      I wonder how many of the 50+ new $100k+ jobs that michigan added actually deal with student athletes. My guess would be very few.

      • If you look at the things I listed plus the increase in the value of the scholarship the athletes are getting 5 to 7 times more than they were. Kirby Smart’s check has not increased by more than that as compared to Vince Dooley’s final years.

        • Gaskilldawg

          What was Vince making in 1988? My memory is that it was in the $250,000 range. So, yeah, kirby’s starting income is about 5 times what a hall of fame coached earned in his 25th season.

          Let’s contrast a coach in this 15th year, specifically Mark Richt in 2015. He made 16 to 17 times more than Vince.

          • DawgPhan

            these are people who can be swayed by math, logic, reason, morals, or really anything. College athletes are property and you can treat property like dirt. That is the only thing that matters to them.

    • ten times more media exposure…

      It could be a thousand times, and it still wouldn’t be worth a penny more, thanks to NCAA amateurism rules.

    • Gaskilldawg

      Can’t speak to 30 years ago but I know that in the 1970s when I was a UGA student players had the ability to go home during the summer and get summer jobs. I worked summer jobs with some Tech and UGA players every year. My first few years at UGA the scholarship provided players cash for school supplies and “laundry money.” Those monthly cash play nets plus savings from summer jobs gave players a chance to take a date to dinner and a movie, or buy meals after the dining hall closed, or things such as that.

      If today’s players can take their dates to dinner and a movie and pay for it with their media exposure or by showing the restaurant pictures of their weight room then yeah, they are better off.

      By analogy, imagine you work for a company and as a result of your work and the work of your fellow production employees the company increases its revenues by a factor of a hundred, the management gives itself raises of 1000% and gives you not a dime more, but buys the world’s greatest desktop computers for use at work only and Mont Blanc pens for office use only, hey, no one could argue you are not better off banging the keyboard of that sweet, sweet office computer and taking notes with the Mont Blanc.

    • Martha Machado

      This isn’t about athletes being better off or not than they used to be. There is a lot more money in the game today. How is that money used? The small % of administrators can be paid anything in a free market. However, the large % of people in the market, the players, cannot be paid.

      If they don’t want to pay the players that’s fine, then give the money to the universities to fund more scholarships, eliminate athletic fees, lower tuition, etc. These are tax-exempt organizations and it’s disgusting that the people running them take the tax savings and pay themselves more. At least get rid of the tax exemption.

      • Ant123

        The fact that there is more money in the game doesn’t mean equate to the athletes being treated unfairly. Those two things are not at all related.

        • Gaskilldawg

          Depends how you define “being treated unfairly.” Go back to my hypothetical about your employer increasing revenues and profits by factor of a thousand, salaries for everyone but production people such as you increasing 1000% percent and your income does not increase a dime but you get to use the world’s most luxurious office products went on the job. You call that being treated fairly. I call it being exploited.

          The “fairness” issue is all about how the “more money in the game” is distributed.

          • Ant123

            That is my point. The players have always used their athletic abilities in exchange for a free education (which is worth more now by the way). Plus all of them are receiving much more notoriety to help the in whatever is their next endeavor. The fact that the money in the sport has increased doesn’t mean someone other than the rightful owners are entitled to it.

            In your example above you mention an employer prospering that doesn’t share his prosperity with his employees. While that may not be the best pattern of how to share, or of being generous. It is certainly not being exploitative, They are working for exactly what they agreed to work for. While it may be nice for someone to voluntarily share what they have with others. They are not being unfair because they don’t.

            • They are working for exactly what they agreed to work for.

              What exactly is this “agreement” you speak of?

              You pretend that there is some sort of negotiated, open arrangement between players and schools when the reality is that the players aren’t even permitted to consult with professional advisors by NCAA regulation.

              If the NCAA weren’t an illegal cartel, we would be discussing a very different type of agreement.

              • Ant123

                The problem with that argument is that it’s the same arrangement the athletes have had since I’ve been alive and 30 years ago no one thought it was a bad deal. I;ll say it again… the fact that the money in the sport has increased doesn’t mean someone other than the rightful owners are entitled to it.

                • No one thought it was a bad deal? Have you missed the litigation going on for the past few years?

                  You can say it as many times as you like. It doesn’t make any difference.

  12. Ant123

    That is my point. There is litigation going on now….only because the money is so big. But before everyone was happy even though the athletes had the same deal then (30 years ago) as they have now. I’ll say it again… the fact that the money in the sport has increased doesn’t mean someone other than the rightful owners are entitled to it.

    • There’s been stuff going on longer than you suggest. Go back and learn the origin of the term “student-athlete”. Hint: it had nothing to do with academics.

      • Ant123

        I know about the Ray Dennison case (not sure of the spelling) and the term. The question is this. If the money in College football was the same as it was in the 1960’s-1980’s do you really think we would be hearing about players being treated unfairly or paying players and the such? I don’t think so. I’ll say it again… the fact that the money in the sport has increased doesn’t mean someone other than the rightful owners are entitled to it.

        • They’ve been paying players since the dawn of the sport. How do you think Georgia got players down from out of state in the ’40s?

          You are confusing lack of power with consent.

          And why does your “rightful owners” shtick only apply to college football? Don’t people own MLB and NFL franchises, too? By your reasoning, why should the pros be allowed to bargain collectively for more money?

          I understand you’re vehemently against college athletes being paid and that’s fine. But the arguments you throw out in support are nothing but personal aesthetics. You can repeat your conclusion as many times as you’d like, but it remains unconvincing unless you’re predisposed to that position.

          • Ant123

            Senator:
            “And why does your “rightful owners” shtick only apply to college football?”
            It doesn’t. However there is a difference in someone paying professional sports for a fee versus someone excepting a scholarship from an educational institution because of their athletic abilities. One must also consider that most the educational institutions have largely farmed out (except for the AD position) the management of their athletic departments to other organizations. So the ones with the money are not the ones the students are even affiliated with directly. Not to mention that the majority of these educational institution’s are tax supported. So how do you have an actual negotiation when only one party (which is why I think government employee unions are unconscionable) is at the table?
            Much as the court found as you stated:
            “Since the evidence does not disclose any contractual obligation to play football, then the employer-employee relationship does not exist,” the court said.

            The court explained that Fort Lewis “was not in the football business.”

            “In fact, the state-conducted institution, supported by taxpayers, could not as a matter of business enter into the maintenance of a football team for the purpose of making a profit directly or indirectly out of the taxpayers’ money,” the court said.
            It seems exactly correct to me.

            As far:
            “One last thing: since you find rightful ownership to be the controlling point here, can you explain why that doesn’t extend to a student-athlete’s rights to his name, likeness and image?”

            It does. However the athletes willfully sign away that right for the time they are on scholarship.

            • So you’re saying there’s a contractual arrangement? If so, how do you reconcile that with the court’s position that colleges aren’t in the football business?

            • One must also consider that most the educational institutions have largely farmed out (except for the AD position) the management of their athletic departments to other organizations. So the ones with the money are not the ones the students are even affiliated with directly.

              Students at Georgia and many other academic institutions pay millions each year in mandatory athletic fees.

              Athletic associations enjoy the same tax exemption their affiliated schools do.

              Greg McGarity’s boss is the president of the university.

            • So how do you have an actual negotiation when only one party (which is why I think government employee unions are unconscionable) is at the table?

              I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make here. Are you saying student-athletes are employees?

              There’s no actual negotiation between recruits and schools on the terms of hire because the NCAA doesn’t permit one.

        • By the way, from the Dennison case:

          After Dennison died, his widow, Billie, filed a claim for death benefits with the Colorado Industrial Commission under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. The commission approved the claim, and on appeal, a district court affirmed the decision.

          But Fort Lewis, along with the State Compensation Insurance Fund, fought the case to the Colorado Supreme Court. The court finally ruled in 1957 that Billie was not entitled to death benefits. The justices’ reasoning: Football players are “student athletes” and not college employees.

          “Since the evidence does not disclose any contractual obligation to play football, then the employer-employee relationship does not exist,” the court said.

          The court explained that Fort Lewis “was not in the football business.”

          “In fact, the state-conducted institution, supported by taxpayers, could not as a matter of business enter into the maintenance of a football team for the purpose of making a profit directly or indirectly out of the taxpayers’ money,” the court said.

          What you’re glossing over here isn’t just that there’s more money in college athletics. It’s also that the myth of college athletics not being big business has been exposed.

        • One last thing: since you find rightful ownership to be the controlling point here, can you explain why that doesn’t extend to a student-athlete’s rights to his name, likeness and image?