The Business of College Football

January 8, 2010

Congratulations to the University of Alabama’s football team for winning the National Championship game last night.  Had Colt McCoy been able to stay in the game for Texas, it might have made the difference for them.  His loss sure changed the dynamic of the game.  Still, the Crimson Tide won which made Nick Saban happy to say the least.

I think Alabama’s turnaround under Saban’s guidance in truly remarkable.  Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I remember Alabama under Bear Bryant always being a powerhouse.  It is good to see them regain some of that swagger; it means the world is again spinning in greased groves.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a UGA fan till the bitter end, I just am glad to have Alabama return to its proper place as one tough opponent.

As much as I like college football, it does have its problems.  It is more business now than sport.  Major university programs generate over $100 million a year in revenue.  No wonder Coach Saban made almost $4 million in compensation this year.  To be fair, he is not alone in receiving an ultra-high salary, about fifty colleges and universities pay their head coaches over $1 million a year.  While I see the value sports adds to school, I don’t think a coach should make so much while tuition continues to rise.

According to the University’s website, the total cost (tuition, fees, boarding, books, transportation, and miscellaneous charges) per year for an in-state student is about $22,000 a year, while an out-of-state student pays about $35,000.  Look at it this way, what they pay the football coach equals the cost to educate 181 in-state or 114 out-of-state students.  Does this level of compensation follow the schools core mission, to educate?

Colleges and universities engage in something akin to the nuclear arm race of the Cold War, each trying to out-spend the other by building ever more expensive sports complexes to attract coaches and players.  The net effect is a huge upward spiral in money the programs cost with little improvement in graduation rates.  The NCAA is quick to point out the rate has improved to around 79% overall, the key word being overall.  That rate does not hold in the marquee sports that generate all the revenue.  For instance, the Alabama football team touts a graduation rate of only 55% in recent years.

If the goal of attending college is to graduate with a degree, college football gets a failing grade.  Maybe it’s time to adjust a coach’s pay to the graduation rate of their players.  Sorry Nick, that means you have to give back $1,800,000 this year.


    • Thanks William, your blog is right on point.

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