The days of big-time college sports being “amateur” are long gone. The NCAA generates more than $1 billion a year in revenue. Athletic conferences and member schools negotiate multi-year, billion-dollar TV deals as well as lucrative merchandise, apparel and live streaming contracts. Some college coaches earn millions of dollars a year and take home more in pay than their universities’ highest-ranking officers. Meanwhile, the legal efforts of college athletes to be compensated for their labor and for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses continue without resolution. Yet the “professional” elements of their collegiate experience are undeniable: college athletes at major programs play and train in stadiums, arenas and other facilities that rival those of the major leagues.
By many measures, then, college sports are professional sports.
Still, should athletic departments of public universities be privatized from the rest of their schools? Is that a step too far from the romanticized ideal that collegiate athletics and academics ought to be inseparable?
In some ways this is already occurring in Florida. As detailed by Iliana Limón Romero in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida State University’s athletic department intends to become a so-called “direct support organization” (DSO) under Florida law.
By doing so, FSU would better coordinate its athletic department activities with Seminole Boosters Inc., which is also a DSO. The boosters’ entity raises money from the private sector and then uses those proceeds to fund intercollegiate athletics, specifically athletic scholarships. The Seminoles athletic department—which will be renamed the Florida State University Athletics Association—would join the University of Florida Gators and the University of Central Florida Knights athletic departments as DSO athletic departments. Final approval for FSU’s initiative is expected by the fall.
Hmmm. So what does that get you?
Although they operate for the betterment of their universities, DSOs are partly autonomous from those universities and to some degree function as separate entities. They are not like the university’s English Department or its School of Law or any another academic department school governed by detailed academic procedures and university policies—DSOs are their own corporations, with their own rules. DSO employees work for them, not the associated university. DSOs can thus rely on different systems for payroll and benefits that are used for university employees.
DSOs’ mission statements heed to industry issues and practical applications. They are less engaged in the types of theoretical studies and scholarly pursuits often found at universities and are more about real-world engagements. Further, DSOs can take advantage of public/private partnerships and similar entrepreneurial collaborations that are sometimes difficult to pursue in a public university setting….
DSOs are also beneficiaries of Chapter 768.28 of the Florida Statutes. It is the state law for sovereign immunity. As a general concept, sovereign immunity protects public entities, including state schools, from having to defend against lawsuits. There are a variety of exceptions and limitations to sovereign immunity, but overall it diminishes a public university’s exposure to litigation. This normally means lower legal fees and lower insurance rates for universities. It also means a lessened risk for pretrial discovery, which in the public university context involves the taking of sworn testimony from university officials and sharing of emails, texts and other evidence from those officials with the party that is suing.
All this needs is some timely General Assembly lobbying to make this happen. I mean, when you’re a legislator trying to pass whatever it takes to bring Georgia that elusive national championship, you gotta do what you gotta do. And surely we don’t want those Florida peckerwoods getting the jump on our fair state’s premier athletic department!
Now, to make sure Kirby has some free time next year…
UPDATE: Oops, I guess I should have looked. It appears the Georgia Code already recognizes direct-support organizations. Welp, get cracking… don’t want to lose this arms race, amirite?
UPDATE #2: More here.
The story was about Florida State creating a private nonprofit organization to oversee its athletic department, a move that will effectively shield athletic officials at one of Florida’s flagship public universities from having to comply with public records law. Once the transition is complete later this year, Florida State athletics officials — just like their colleagues at Florida and Central Florida, who made similar structural changes years ago — will no longer be required by law to turn over internal financial documents, emails, text messages and other records to inquiring journalists and citizens.
To Petersen and other advocates for government transparency, the announcement prompted concerns Florida State athletics officials are trying to avoid the public scrutiny and oversight that usually comes with working at a public university.
“It’s outrageous,” Petersen said. “It really doesn’t make much sense to me, except that they want to do everything secretly.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Florida State President John Thrasher said secrecy was not a motivation for the restructuring. Thrasher pledged that Florida State athletics officials will continue to fulfill records requests as if nothing has changed, even after state public records law no longer applies to them.
“The idea has never been to be not transparent. The athletic department’s going to be very transparent,” Thrasher said. “Nothing’s going to change in that regard as long as I’m here. I guarantee it.”
Oh, he guarantees it. Well, that changes everything.
17 responses to “Know what a DSO is?”
It sounds like they can be nonprofit but not charitable. I wonder if there’s enough relationship between the DSO and the university to keep those booster club/ticket purchase donations deductible?
Would obviously need to read the Florida statutory scheme in more detail, but I don’t think this is as cutting edge as anyone thinks it is, and I think it is probably just an anomaly related to Florida law.
As I read the Orlando Sentinel article, Florida State is simply setting up a separate non-profit corporation to run its athletics – we already have that (as does FU, apparently). In fact, the article indicates that one of the reasons Florida State is setting up its own, “in-house” non-profit corporation is to “take back control” from the Seminole Boosters group.
In sum, FSU appears to be moving towards the model we already use – i.e., a separate non-profit corporation controlled by the University.
I did not read the SI article, but your summary seems to indicate the author thinks this is some groundbreaking “privatization” thing, when it is the exact opposite – it is the University taking more control!
PS – I would add, your citation to Georgia law is not nearly as broad as you think. It authorizes the Georgia State Games Commission (not the Board of Regents) to establish DSOs to assist with Olympic-game type activities, such as international amateur athletic contests. The University of Georgia Athletic Association, Inc. predates this statute by decades…
This straw man couldn’t any taller or fatter:
“The days of big-time college sports being “amateur” are long gone. The NCAA generates more than $1 billion a year in revenue.”
Just because the public has an insatiable appetite for college football doesn’t alter the status of these athletes. They are still AMATEURS, regardless of how much external money is changing hands to cover them. If you think my argument has no merit then answer yourself a simple question. Are college LaCrosse players amateurs? Of course they are! The only difference is the level of interest between LaCrosse and Football.
They’re amateurs because the NCAA says so. Period. If there weren’t an illegal cartel in place, they wouldn’t be, precisely because, as you note, the public has an insatiable appetite for college football.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“illegal cartel” If the Cartel is illegal why was it not illegal in the early 70’s?
Besides to throw around the dollar amounts today without adjusting for inflation is disingenuous.
Who said it wasn’t illegal in the seventies? Nobody sued until now.
If you’re trying to claim that the money flood into college athletics can be explained by inflation, I don’t know what to say.
Wasn’t there a lawsuit back then by OU and another school to get money derived from televising games? Just can’t remember that other school.
Exactly. That ain’t inflation.
If it was illegal and so egregious why didn’t someone sue for another 40+ years?
“trying to claim that the money flood into college athletics can be explained by inflation” I did not say that. But not adjusting for inflation skew’s the numbers dramatically.
How would I know? Baseball’s reserve clause was a thing for half a century until it wasn’t. That’s how the law works.
As far as skewing “dramatically”, don’t use a qualifier like that without proof.
Here’s your proof.
See you and raise you, sport.
My stepdaughter plays soccer for a Big10 school on a scholarship. She’s told where to go, when to go there, what clothes to wear, hours for academic study hall, etc. and the athletic department exercises complete control over her schedule and activities as far as soccer is concerned (which is 11/12 months of the year with the off season conditioning program and spring practices). By the way, in addition to her scholarship, she also receives a payment from the school each semester for spending money. I realize it’s semantics and we can argue whether or not athletes should get paid (more), but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking they’re truly amateurs. If we’re talking club teams, then I would agree with you, but not NCAA sanctioned scholarship sports.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Fascinating. The de jure slowly catching up to the de facto; Men’s college football and basketball are not part of the university.
Head’s up to yall concerning an upcoming DSO. We are calling it the UGA Waterhole #1, a designation that will promote the right for everyone of legal age to drank in the stands during games. The “Drinking Song” from The Student Prince will carry the standard during breaks in field action and we will enlist The Redcoat Band as providing music when patrons wish to wax tonsillatory. Outside there will be a Dixieland Jazz band, a designated DSO welcoming committee that will be complete with free-beer promotional trucks from Budweiser until game time.
We will get our DSO nontaxed support money from the liquor industry and will sponsor “dranking contests” in observance of all nonsensical repetitious memes from announcers and on-air sports media during the games. We will host all recruiting parties held and will co-sponsor with Get Recruits Enticed with Ass and Tits! (GREAT!), a professional women’s DSO out of Nevada.
We will charge $50/game membership that will go to all personnel responsible for forming and administration of this DSO and that will be used wisely for self-enrichment. Membership dues will entitle organization members to walk within 50′ of the biergartens serving the UGA Idiots with Money and that will also entitle them to two smells of spilled beer. We are currently looking for teetotaler eunuchs as figureheads of the organization who will also contribute monies. Women are also sought to head the organization, preferably of political backgrounds.
I will be organizing another DSO group later that will sponsor cookie bakeoffs and sales of marshmallow sandwich cookies covered with chocolate and THC sprinkles to raise future monies for recruiting (“RCs and Moonpies”).
Meant to mention that the cookie DSO will be run by the LGBTQ people in our organization because they are just better at it.