Are We Trying To Play College Football Because Of The Money? Yes...And?


College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - LSU v Oklahoma

If you think no conference or team should even be thinking about playing college football this season because of the virus, that is fine. You can easily find plenty of data to back up that position. It's also ok to think there is nothing wrong in trying to play safely for those leagues and schools who are doing so.

But lately there is no shortage of people screaming that the only reason some are trying to play college football is because of the money involved. And? What is your point? College football is about the money. It has been for decades and will be for decades to come. And this is not breaking news. Football programs have been about making money and covering the costs for all other sports in a college athletics department forever. So why are you shocked that it's about money now?

Look, the debate over the model of one sport paying the bills for all other teams and staffing is a fair discussion to have. But many critics love to focus on the pay of head coaches and their assistants. You may not like how much top coaches make, but the free market has set that market for salaries. Do programs need so many assistants and analysts? Probably not but schools invest in football because of the potential returns. A winning program means more money. It means more donations. It means more season tickets. It means more merchandise is sold. It means an increase in student applications. So don't expect spending to decrease when we come out of the pandemic.

But one hot button these days from many in the media is questioning why universities continue to allow football to be as big as it is. It is easy to say "how can they possibly think of playing college football in the middle of a pandemic?". Then tell us that colleges exist to advance the education of its students. That's nice. But do you know what athletic departments and football programs have in common with colleges? To make money. Lots and lots of money. Don't buy the "non-profit" label. Universities are money making machines and have been for decades and decades.

Here's a number for you. The Michigan athletic department budget last year was almost $190 million. The general budget for the University of Michigan? $9 billion. That's not for a decade. That's one year.

And if you have a problem with football programs making money, then you certainly have to have a problem with how colleges make some of their money.

Let's take a simple example that has been going on for decades. Two students sit in a large lecture hall in Gainesville at the University of Florida. The class is American History. Both take this 3-credit course and sit next to each other every class. One student is from Orlando, Florida. He pays $212.71 per credit or $638.13 for that class for that semester. The other student is from Atlanta, Georgia. He pays $707.21 per credit or $2,121.63 for that class for that semester. All because one student lives outside of the state. Welcome to the business of out-of-state tuition. It happens all over the country. Why does out-of-state tuition exist? The basic reason is not just to give in-state students a chance to go to college at an affordable rate, but because out-of-state students' parents don't pay taxes in the state of that university. And that's not trying to make more money? What state has a 200-300% tax?

And the cost for in-state vs out-of-state tuition are all over:

Michigan $631 vs $2,083(per credit)

Texas $488 vs $1,645

Alabama $586 vs $1,390

In fact, do you know what happened when Nick Saban started building a dynasty at Alabama? Applications soared from students out of the state. And out-of-state enrollment took off. Now, less than 40% of Alabama's enrollment is from the state and over 56% come from outside the state. You can do the math from the numbers above and guess what kind of money Alabama is making on those students from outside the state borders.

So, yes- college football has been and still is and will be about making money. Some will always make more than others. And colleges will continue to find ways to make money because it's what they do. And now, during this virus, the economic model for schools and athletic departments are challenged. Perhaps industry corrections are happening. How future students attend college and how fans engage with college football are changing. But don't think the money aspect of all this is changing any time soon...

Final note: There are 52 cards in a deck of cards. One of several accepted origins are the four suits represent the four seasons. The 52 cards represent the 52 weeks in a year. And the 13 cards per suit represents the 13 lunar cycles.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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