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Monday, May 04, 2009

The worst idea I've heard in ages:

"Let's kick back money to the rich, scurrilous, labor-exploiting monopoly as a matter of 'fairness'."

I've heard a lot of bad ideas over the years, but this one goes right to the top of my short list.

Recall that the NCAA is a strong candidate for worst monopoly in America ... How its coaches and administrators receive multi-million dollar salaries and are increasingly often bid away from professional leagues ... And how they earn these riches from the labor of "amateur student athletes" who not only are unpaid, but are subject to all kinds of indentured servitude-type restrictions that apply to no other students: they can't take jobs, can't accept gifts, can't transfer to another school as other students can ... and on and on.

Well, over the weekend I was for the first time reading the Wall Street Journal's new sports pages, and spit my coffee reading an argument from one Allen Barra that professional sports leagues should actually reimburse NCAA college sports programs for the cost of developing players!
There are many reasons for the rise of the NFL and NBA over the past half-century, but one of the most important is seldom discussed: They don't pay for the development of their players ...
It's true. The NFL and NBA don't have minor leagues as Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League do. They draft their players right out of college, after they play on college teams. My gosh, the NFL and NBA are free riding on colleges! Exploiting the American higher education system. How awful!
between 70% and 75% of athletic departments lose money. Murray Sperber [an 'expert'] believes the number is higher than that. "Almost all athletic departments lose money if they do their books honestly."
Well, "70%" to "almost all" is totally irrelevant. Of the several hundred colleges with athletic departments, almost all NFL and NBA players come out of maybe 50, with the great bulk of them coming from maybe 25. If you think THOSE athletic departments lose money, well...

That must be why the University of Kentucky just gave John Calipari a $31.65 million dollar contract (plus considerable perks) to coach its basketball team -- because it loses money ...

And why the University of Arkansas and University of Alabama just lured coaches Bobby Petrino (with $14 million) and Nick Saban (with $32 million!) into breaking their contracts with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins, respectively, to coach their football teams -- because they are amateur programs ...

And why the University of Texas right now is adding $179 million of improvements to its 98,000 seat football stadium -- to lose more money on it ...

And the NCAA's $6 billion college basketball TV contract, which must cover the cost of a sport in which 10 guys basically run around in their underwear -- that must lose money.

Tell us another one, Allen!

But if these programs really all lose money, maybe the likes of Calipari, Petrino, Saban et. al. can kick back some of their salaries for the good of higher education? Or maybe their Athletic Directors (with their own million-dollar salaries) -- who make such money-losing hiring and stadium-building decisions -- should be fired like Wall Street bankers for throwing so much money away?
the total estimated cost for a full scholarship at a public school for four years (including tuition, room and board and books) is approximately $65,000. At a private school, it's around $140,000.

In other words, based on the approximately 361 athletes who will be drafted by professional leagues in 2009 it can be reasonably estimated that the total cost of putting those students through four years of college at the schools that produce most of the professional athletes is around $26 million.
This is a total crock, in more ways than one. In fact, let me count five of them:

[Or not. From here this turns into something of a long-winded rant. If the point has been made and you don't want to endure a rant, move on and have a pleasant day. If you want more, click on ... but you've been warned.]

1) The actual marginal cost to a college or university...