Top Two College Sports Should Turn Pro Men's Football and Basketball Generate Money for Other Programs

Article excerpt

The 25th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education and requires gender equity in sports programs, spawned considerable comment on progress made under the law. Most articles tended toward the same vein: Title IX has done much to improve gender equity in college sports, but men's sports programs still receive far more money; and much more needs to be done.

Commentary of this type indicates shallow knowledge of the true financial picture and other realities of college sports and, worse, diverts attention from the genuine inequities that have become standard. The primary scandal plaguing college sports today is the shameless exploitation of major college football and men's basketball players.

Let me make it clear that I oppose discrimination based on sex, race, religion, national origin. That said, let us look at the true state of college sports in 1997. Virtually all college sports programs - except Division 1 football and men's basketball - lose money. In most cases, these programs lose a lot of money. Indeed, statistics cited recently in the Post-Dispatch showed that the women's programs at the University of Missouri at Columbia and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana generated only 5.1 percent and 3.3 percent respectively of their needed operating revenues. Meanwhile the men's football and basketball programs were quite profitable. By and large, the public is not willing to pay to watch any college sport except football and men's basketball. The second key point is that it is entirely inappropriate when discussing gender equity to lump all colleges together under the heading "college sports." There is an enormous chasm between sports at big-time 1-A schools such as University of Missouri at Columbia and Washington University. For practical purposes, there are three types of "college" sports programs. * Big-Time Division 1-A. These schools operate 1-A football and men's basketball programs. There are about 100 of these and their average athletic budgets are on the order of $16 million a year. Generally their football and men's basketball teams turn a hefty profit. These profits subsidize all other programs, both men's and women's. * Big-Time Men's Basketball/Small Time Football. About 200 additional schools play Division 1-A men's basketball and either 1-AA football or no football. They operate on a much smaller scale than big-time football schools. They depend on men's basketball and football for most revenue. Some programs break even after subsidizing all other sports, some probably require revenue from general university funds or student athletic fees. Examples of these include St. Louis University and Southeast Missouri State. * Division II/Division III and All Other. These small-time programs may or may not field football teams. In most cases, these programs are financed by university funds, student athletic fees and generate very little revenue on their own. Examples of these include the University of Missouri at St. Louis. There is no good reason for schools with big-time football and men's basketball programs to operate with the same rules and goals as other college sports programs. Big-time college football and men's basketball programs are primarily engaged in the commercial entertainment business and often have little or no financial relationship with the academic side of the university. …

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