Time Out with Mark Russell

Photo by Austin Foote

The 2013 college football season is just around the corner and controversy is the major theme of the offseason. As most of you know, football is the most popular sports in the United States and college football is a multi-billion dollar industry. The NCAA is the governing body of all college sports and saying the NCAA is under scrutiny for how they are handling college sports, specifically college football, would be the understatement of the new decade. Every year, the NCAA makes billions of dollars off student athletes and every student-athlete is “owned” by the NCAA. If student-athletes sell songs on iTunes they are ineligible to play NCAA sanctioned sports. To me, that sounds like the most ridiculous thing in the world. Americans are used to having personal freedoms and being able to take advantage of living in a capitalistic country, but the NCAA is basically a totalitarian government and its ruler is Mark Emmert.

Money is a huge factor in college sports and that is obvious by all of this conference realignment. Super conferences have been formed specifically for college football and they are trying to maximize on revenue and TV contracts. There are now five super conferences that have the future of football and all NCAA sports in the palm of their hands. These 5 conferences are the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and the SEC. There are currently 126 schools that play Division I football and 62 of them are members of the proposed “Power 5.” As of next year, there will be 64 members in the Power 5, including Notre Dame, who will be a part -time member in the ACC. There have been a lot of rumors circulating that the Power 5 conferences will someday leave the NCAA for football and have its own governing body with new rules and leaders. In the proposed Power 5, football players will be able to get paid to play football and will have more flexibility to be able to make money off of their name.

Football is by far the biggest money maker for athletic departments and some schools make up to $100 million dollars a year. The University of Texas made $103.8 million last season off of football and profited $77.9 million dollars, more than $16 million more than the next closest school. However, none of that money goes to the players. There are 85 football players on scholarship at Texas. Depending on if you live out of state that could be up to a $50,000 value. Their athletic scholarship includes tuition, housing, a meal plan, and some athletic clothing. A $10,000 stipend has been thrown around for each scholarship player, but is $10,000 really fair for the players when the University of Texas would still have over a $77 million dollar profit off of football with the stipend being paid? However, as an athletic department, Texas only had a profit of $25 million.

Tech’s athletic department had a profit of just two million dollars last year. Can Tech realistically spend almost a million dollars on player stipends? Also, keep in mind that some athletic departments in the Power 5 lose money each year. I’m currently in favor of paying players, but I think it would have a bad effect on the schools left out like BYU, Boise State, Cincinnati and South Florida. Recently, Georgia State just joined Division 1A football. They have aspirations of one day being able to compete with the likes of Georgia and Georgia Tech. The schools left outside of the new Power 5 division would have a hard time being able to reach those goals and you may see a halt of schools trying to jump divisions. How will these schools be able to compete against teams with players that are getting paid? You would never see a kid choose to go play football at South Florida over Georgia Tech.

70% of the NCAA’s revenue last year came from the NCAA tournament. The TV ratings for the NCAA tournament were better than the NBA Finals and World Series. What happens to the NCAA basketball tournament and the non-profitable sports if the Power 5 football conferences leave the NCAA? Millions of Americans fill out a bracket and it would be a shame if the tournament doesn’t keep the same level of excitement. Would Title IX get repealed for schools to be able to afford to pay football players? Title IX is a federal law that says a school must have an equal number of sports for each gender. Schools have already begun to cut out sports to keep from going in debt.

A lot of the money the NCAA makes goes to pay for all of the NCAA championships for each division. If the NCAA loses out on the big-time football revenue it would be even harder to afford to pay for the championships for Division 2 and 3 sports. I think football players deserve to be paid, but the presidents of the schools and conferences are going to have to be very careful on how they handle this situation because college sports will never be the same again.