For decades now, the NCAA has done its best to convince all of us — the college football consuming public, and those who participate in the charade on a more micro level — that the amateur ideal is still alive and kicking. That football players — even those at Division I programs that are run like small businesses — are students first, and athletes second. That their studies and educational pursuits are a daily focus and football is an ancillary activity, meant to augment their overall college experience.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Now, the NCAA has concrete proof. The irony is, this proof comes via a study they conducted of their own system.
According to the study — which, coincidentally, was presented to representatives from major college athletic programs at the NCAA’s conference in Grapevine, Texas yesterday morning — suggests that spending per athlete in several of the nation’s largest conferences has passed the $100,000 mark. Yes, $100,00 per athlete.
In comparison, these same universities spend around six to 12 times less on each athlete on academic expenses. Not surprisingly, the SEC appears to be the primary offender, spending a median amount of $164,000 per “student-athlete”, 12 times more than the $13,390 on average spent on these same young men for academic expenses.
Because of this unsustainable arc, and the explosion of coaching and ancillary staff salaries which universities are forced to pay in order to stay competitive, the financial pressures on athletic departments are mounting — even in conferences once believed to be separate from the rat race of big-money college athletics.
The simple fact is, a university is now, at least in part, a reflection of the success of its athletic programs, not vice versa. Does anyone truly believe that a donor’s checkbook will open due to the success of the school’s debate team?
With the release of this study, the NCAA will promise us all sea changes, that put the focus back on the student in the term “student-athlete” and put the brakes on a million pound train that’s already left the tracks.
My reaction to that:
Save it for the gullible.
From now on, I’m calling them athlete-students. It’s time to call a spade a spade.