With lawmakers slashing school budgets, administrators forced to raze entire departments, college football and basketball programs are living large.
A recent New York Times article points to the work of Charles T. Clotfelter, a public policy professor at Duke and the author of “Big-Time Sports in American Universities,” who notes that from 1985 to 2010, the average salaries for football coaches rose 650 percent compared to 32 percent for full professors and 90 percent for presidents.
Meanwhile, spending on athletics has also shot through the roof. In 2009, the ten highest-spending athletic departments spent a median of $98 million compared with $69 million just four years earlier.
To put that into context, last month Ohio State hired a new football coach for $4 million a year with bonuses and personal use of a private jet. Meanwhile Gordon Aubrecht, a physics professor at Ohio State, does not have enough money to attend conferences.
More disturbingly, Big Ten colleges spent a median of $111,620 per athlete and only $18,406 per student on academics.
Defenders of big college sports programs argue that successful high-profile sports teams make millions of dollars, draw admissions, and raise the school’s stature, but upon closer inspection of the numbers that is not necessarily true.
According to the Department of Education, in 2010 Penn State spent $19.5 million on its football program and received nearly $73 million in return. But Penn State is an exception, only half of major Division I programs are profitable, while the rest are forced to rely on school funds and student fees to stay afloat.
Allen Sack, the president of the Drake Group, a network of college faculty that pushes for academic integrity in college sports, elegantly sums up the problem.
“In China and other parts of the world, there are no gigantic stadiums in the middle of campus. There is a laser focus on education as being the major thing. In the United States, we play football,” Sack said.
In light of the United States dropping precipitously in its ranking in terms of graduating its citizens from college, this is a pretty damning statement.
Aside from taking away from spending on academics, it seems that sports actually have a negative impact on students’ grades.
According to Glen R. Waddell, an associate professor of economics at the University of Oregon, for every three games won by the school’s football team, grade-point average for men dropped 0.02. Apparently women’s grades didn’t suffer at all.
While I was never a huge fan of sports in general, I recognize their importance in bringing the campus together and providing a welcome outlet to the pressures of college life, but not at the expense of academics – the sole reason why colleges exist.
For more of this interesting argument, head over to the New York Times.
Tags: Student Debt