To sum up the current state of affairs at the University of Arkansas:
- Jeff Long has been fired. The school owes him a buyout of $4.8 million.
- Bert is not long for this world there, either. I’ve seen various numbers tossed out for his buyout, ranging from $6+ million to (gulp) $15 million.
- Bruce Feldman, who’s tapped into this kind of stuff, now reports that “Big-money boosters at Arkansas and members of the university’s board of trustees have been pushing for the Razorbacks to go after Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to be their next head coach.” Aside from the salary they’d have to pay Gus to get him to jump, there’s also the little matter of his buyout, something in the neighborhood of a mere $7 million.
That’s a shitload of bucks to lay out for a program that’s still in the same division as Alabama. And yet nobody is batting an eye. Cost of doing bidness in the SEC, y’all.
So I have to chuckle a little when I see “how did we get here, anyway?” articles like this one.
How did we get to this point? It boils down to some combination of revenue going through the roof especially from television rights, powerful agents wielding tremendous leverage and university leaders giving in to increasingly one-sided contracts amid growing desperation to find a winner.
Notice anything missing there? Oh yeah, that whole cheap labor thing. There’s all that extra money out there as a by-product and it ain’t gonna spend itself. The result is inevitable when you consider the basic ingredients: stupid and desperate athletic departments with more money than sense waiting to be fleeced by agents who know how to play on that stupidity and desperation like a finely tuned instrument. Which they do, again and again.
There’s so much money coming in with no place to go that it essentially becomes a cushion against irrational management. Arkansas can afford to behave senselessly, so who really cares?
Welp, maybe Congress does. The tax bill just passed by the House does away with the deduction associated with charitable contributions for tickets. Honestly, it’s hard to argue with this kind of reasoning:
Going after the season-ticket donation deduction doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Many in political circles believed the deduction was unfair because the donation included the rights to get season tickets, which is something of significant value.
“I don’t believe the deduction was ever intended to apply to donations related to season tickets,” the bill’s author, Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas), told ESPN.
Brady said that the majority of season-ticket holders in college athletics don’t have to pay for the rights to their seats; they just pay the cost of the ticket. Since deductions technically cost the taxpayer at large, Brady reasons that the average fan is actually disadvantaged by the deduction at the hands of the wealthy, who deduct the price of their large donation for the right to sit in the best seats.
That, of course, won’t stop the schools.
“While we certainly do not know the exact repercussions, we expect that it would have a damaging effect,” said Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne. “The philanthropic support of donors is instrumental, and although the amount of contributions from institution to institution varies, it is of equal importance across the board when you look at financial structures. Very few college athletics programs actually make a profit. Take that funding away, and it will be difficult to operate without making dramatic changes.”
The effect on not being able to deduct the donation might be more severe with the higher donations. NC State, for example, asks for a $25,000-per-seat donation for the best center-court seats for its basketball games for life. However, it comes with the promise of an additional donation of $7,200 per year, and that doesn’t even include the season tickets.
Duke’s White says that losing season-ticket donations could immediately affect scholarships in Olympic sports.
“We have over 500 student-athletes at Duke in 24 Olympic sports,” said White, who is a member of the United States Olympic Committee board of directors. “This would significantly compromise the opportunities for young people in those sports across the entire student athletics system.”
Or, for that matter, handing out obscene buyouts in contracts. Cry me a river, Mr. White.