Thursday, September 02, 2010

More Evidence of the Regressive Athletics Tax

by: Matthew Denhart

The much anticipated college football season begins this week, and surprise, the opening games will be on a weeknight.

Yesterday's Insidehighered featured a revealing article by David Moltz detailing the increasing prevalence of weeknight football games. As his article points out, schools in lesser conferences play much more frequently on weeknights than schools in power conferences. In fact, the Mid American Conference (MAC) has 8 teams with multiple weeknight games scheduled this season, while the geographically similar Big 1o conference only has 3.

Why do they do it? As Moltz asserts, the reason is a quest to appear on national television, and the smaller schools find they can generally only do this on weeknights. While this may provide some national exposure, the athletic departments may lose out on money from lost ticket sales since fewer people are able to attend weeknight games.This lost income contributes (admittedly the effect is very small) to the larger subsidies required for these smaller programs.

In June, CCAP released "Intercollegiate Athletic Subsidies: A Regressive Tax." In this white-paper report, we argued that the subsidies required to fund the growing intercollegiate athletics (ICA) complex, hit schools disproportionately and in a regressive nature. However, it is important to note that the subsidies reported in the CCAP report are a conservative estimate of the true cost of ICA on the host school. Another type of cost associated with ICA that does not appear in financial reports (and thus our calculations), is the distraction such games impose on the campus, and especially its student athletes.

It is clear that weeknight games are a distraction, and thus more costly. Since lesser conferences are much more prone to schedule these games, this cost likely hits them disproportionately.

Yet it does even affect the larger schools.We criticized the University of Alabama previously when they canceled classes due to their participation in last season's National Championship game. This seems to be becoming a pattern. They're at it again, only this time for a Thursday night home game against Georgia State University. Provost Judy Bonner claimed that with thousands of fans pouring onto campus, it would not be "logistically possible for the campus to continue to operate in a 'business as usual' manner." It seems that at Alabama, football is king, academics be damned.

It is a shame that schools willingly sign contracts that jeopardize the academic integrity of their students, and especially "student" athletes. This is more evidence of the growing commercialization of college athletics and the exploitation of college kids. What's more, it's another indication of ICA's regressive nature.


Milo said...

More Evidence of the Regressive Snow Tax.

What happens more frequently, National Championships and days off for football at the University of Alabama or snow days at Ohio University?

RWW said...

When I attended OU, I do not recall any "snow days". Although professors sometimes cancelled class.

I live in Montana and snow days are rare unless there happens to be a blizzard in the morning and they close the roads.

But I don't think the two are comparable. Days off for people who move a ball around a field and their fans is a concious decision.

The latter is not controlled by a person, or persons making a concious decision to make it snow. It can also be considered a safety issue.