Matt Hayes (yeah, I know) cites a report that claims 86 percent of college athletes live below the poverty line. Now before you go running off from that, note that Hayes manages the correct take in response:
However, a majority of students in college—those who play sports and those who don’t—fall well below the federal poverty line. Moreover, many current student athletes wouldn’t qualify academically under current freshman guidelines.
The NCAA sees this as a tradeoff: Athletes receive a free education, are trained by coaches and athletic trainers at the top of their profession, and receive free academic tutoring (among other things) to play and make millions for their schools. Athletes—and the NCPA—of course see it differently, and have a solid argument.
Still, by adding the “poverty” argument, the NCPA—a group that has been a strong advocate for student athletes—is confusing the narrative and looks desperate. Instead of talking poverty, the NCPA should continue to drive home these numbers:
— Texas football players were valued at $513,922.
— Duke basketball players were valued at $1,025,656.
That’s not all the NCPA should drive home, though. There’s plenty more to shout about, beginning with P5 athletic departments spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave.
Big-time college sports departments are making more money than ever before, thanks to skyrocketing television contracts, endorsement and licensing deals, and big-spending donors. But many departments also are losing more money than ever, as athletic directors choose to outspend rising income to compete in an arms race that is costing many of the nation’s largest publicly funded universities and students millions of dollars. Rich departments such as Auburn have built lavish facilities, invented dozens of new administrative positions and bought new jets, while poorer departments such as Rutgers have taken millions in mandatory fees from students and siphoned money away from academic budgets to try to keep up.
Auburn? Why, whatever would make you look at Auburn?
Jacobs’s pay has steadily risen since he started in 2005, from $407,300 to $648,700, and he’s been able to hire some help. In January 2014, Jacobs created a chief operating officer position, a No. 2 to take over the department’s day-to-day operations.
For that job, Jacobs chose Benedict, whom he lured away from Minnesota athletics with a salary of $310,000.
Benedict strongly disagreed with characterizing any Auburn spending as bloated.
“I don’t think it’s any different than any other competitive industry,” Benedict said. “As college athletics has generated more money, we’re going to invest more.”
It’s not accurate, Benedict said, to analyze college athletics in terms of profits or losses.
“There’s no for-profit company that would operate the way college athletics do,” he said. “We don’t make decisions based on the bottom line. If we did, things would operate very differently.”
Er, um… nevermind.
These guys aren’t strapped for cash. They just operate in a world with different rules. Which is why you have to laugh at this:
There are athletic departments that profit without a perennially great football team, and without taking millions away from students. Indiana University routinely does it, despite being in the middle of the pack of the Power Five in earnings, with $84.7 million in 2014.
How do they do it?
“Hoosier tightwadness,” Indiana Athletics Director Fred Glass said. “We don’t spend more than we take in.”
Glass expressed puzzlement when asked why so many departments struggle to turn a profit.
“If I knew the answer to that, maybe I’d be head of the NCAA or something,” he said.
Dude, with an approach like that, they wouldn’t let you near running the NCAA.
The money is there at major programs to treat student-athletes properly. The schools just aren’t going to spend it that way until they have to.