A recent article caught my attention because of how grounded in reality it was while discussing the pros and cons of college football at a non-BCS school. The gist of the argument made by the author (Mark Zeigler) is that trying to play big-time college football when the institution is not a member of a BCS conference is a very bad idea.
At San Diego State, the athletics deficit has increased substantially in recent years from $750,000 (late 90’s) to $3.3 million (2007-08). Yet, during the same year when a $3.3 million deficit was realized the school reported $2.45 million in football revenue. How is this possible? The same way many schools claim that football is profitable. By using the generally accepted and allowed special accounting of athletic expenses. Although the article is about one school, the same arguments could be made for many of the non-BCS school.
When reporting expenses to the NCAA and even to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education for EADA data, institutions have some interesting reporting categories such as “unallocated by gender” and “non-program specific.” Both of these categories are handy when trying to minimize the visual impact of the expense of football. So, when a ticket manager salary shows up under “non-program specific” it basically shows that the cost is a departmental cost. However, if you were to really look at the time/effort allocation of that person I am guessing that it would be 95% football/basketball and 5% the other 15-20 sports.
The other interesting financial hiding place for programs is booster clubs. Many institutions couldn’t exist without the private support they receive from boosters. However, institutions are not required to disclose financial info from booster clubs with respect to sport/gender allocation. So, if a football stadium renovation and a football coach performance bonus are paid out of a booster club, it generally will not show up as a football expense item. Some States do require this type of disclosure, but neither the NCAA nor the EADA does.
In an e-mail to me, my attorney friend, Kristen pointed out the following “If colleges allocated facilities construction, maintenance, training, med, insurance, tutors, & other costs to the teams that actually create them, even BCS teams would show a loss. I really would like to see a genuine accounting audit of a big time football program to see what the real numbers are.”
I have to agree that it would be really really interesting to have the finances of all schools reported and published in a consistent manner so it could be compared apples to apples.
I know I said that my next post would be about recruiting, but I need to switch gears a bit because I have yet to hear a good answer to one simple college football question.
Why does Division I FBS have 85 football scholarships?
Someone PLEASE explain it to me.
Just for the record, the Division IFCS scholarship limit is 63 and the Division II scholarship limit is 36. Teams are limited to 105 on the roster in FBS and 90 in FCS (NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 2 and 184.108.40.206.3).
Here are the NFL rules as I understand them. Rosters are limited to 53. Of the 53, 47 are dressed for any given game, which means six don’t play. Expansion teams are sometimes given exceptions as they get their team going.
I am a huge college football fan, but I have never ever been able to understand why there is a need for 85 scholarships. I can argue that teams need depth to allow for injuries, but players in the NFL get hurt at a greater rate than college players right? What about opportunities to compete? Well, with 105 players, many do not get to play. What about revenue generation? Would schools make less money (even though most are running in the red currently) with a few less scholarships?
This question is important to me in a time where many college sport programs (men’s track and field, men’s swimming, wrestling) are facing elimination due to the huge cost to run athletic programs (especially football costs). So, I’m hoping someone can clue me in as to why 85 scholarships?
Here is a chart on the average scholarship awarded by sport compiled by the New York Times, but be careful when interpreting it because it combines DI and DII and does not take into account average cost of the schools offering the sport.
As the title indicates, I felt like a holiday post was kind of required given that the blog was up prior to Christmas.
Most of you reading this are either currently working in sport or in school hoping to work in sport soon. If you are in either of those categories, your life has probably been non-stop craziness since at least August. My holiday wish for all of you is that you take advantage of the next week to enjoy some down time.
I know it is hard to be away from work/school and get the brain to switch gears to vacation. But, it has got to be done and this is one of your few chances to do it all year. Don’t worry: school and work will be back in full swing before you know it. So, please please please take advantage of this time to decompress because it will make you better at everything you do moving forward.
To help you get in the holiday/rest mode, I came up with a top 10 list of things to do that are not work/school related over the next week.
- Enjoy all of the bowl games. * If you need to be competitive, then challenge yourself to NOT have the BCS/Playoff debate while watching one game.
- Cheer for your favorite college basketball team as they get geared up for conference play.
- Attend a local H.S. basketball game (remember how much fun H.S. sports were).
- Bake! When else are you going to have time to do this?
- Reconnect with high school or college friends and/or ex-teammates just to say “hi”
- Catch up on the last six months of movies that you have missed. Burn After Reading? Madagascar 2? Four Christmases?
- Begin the exercise program that you have been thinking about. * Athens folks.. the Athens 1/2 and full marathon is about 17 weeks away.
- Read all of the leadership/sales/presenting/personal growth books you have bought because someone said you “had to read it” (O.K., this is kind of work/school related, but still a decent idea).
- Just sit on the couch and enjoy family with a nice cocktail in your hand.
- Make New Year’s resolutions (try to be realistic and only set those that you won’t break on Jan 1st or 2nd).
If you happen to be traveling to a game of any sort to support your team, I wish you the best of luck. I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on recruiting.
Let me start by quickly describing the structure of the graduate program at Ohio University in Sports Administration for those of you who may not be familiar with it. The vast majority of students are admitted as both MBA students and Master’s in Sports Administration (MSA) students. So, the first year is strictly MBA coursework (with one class exception), a summer internship follows, then a MSA year is next hopefully followed by a well paying job.
During the two weeks prior to this Christmas, I had the pleasure of meeting with some of our MBA graduate students thinking about working in college sports. Most of the students were questioning exactly where they wanted to be short term and long term with their career. Although all began their graduate work thinking they wanted to work in some aspect of college sports, many had started to question their professional path. The pressure to begin looking for a summer internship (preferably paid in this horrible economy), deciding what aspect of college athletics is appealing, and the reality that they don’t have much practical experience at this point was starting to cause a bit of stress.
So, I thought an appropriate starting point for my blog would be to start a discussion on the reality of working in Division I college athletics. As a quick re-cap, I worked at the University of Florida (compliance undergrad intern, compliance GA, administrative assistant, and event/facility coordinator) and Southeastern Louisiana University (Asst. A.D/SWA, Assoc. A.D./SWA). I’ll start with responding to some of the common themes that came out of my meetings with students and then insert my opinion based on my personal experiences working as an administrator in college athletics. I’m sure there will be more posts along these lines in the future.
A few of the common themes of student meetings included
Theme #1 – I’m not sure college athletics is 100% for me, how will I really know?
My Thoughts – You won’t know until you try it and you’ll probably have to try a few different areas in college sports before figuring where the best fit is. Not only are there a variety of areas within institutions, but there are also conference offices, national offices, and agency work (i.e. ISP). The other thing to realize is that volunteering/interning is very different from the responsibility you will have as a full-time employee. A lot of people drawn to working in sport are confident, passionate, and like to be in charge. So, just because an internship (where you did not have much autonomy) was not a good fit does not necessarily mean that as a full-time employee you would feel the same way. Just as in any life decision, a lot of it comes down to your “gut”.
Theme #2 – What is the best career path to being an A.D.?
My Thoughts- The current school of thought is that development is a great route to being an A.D. because of the financial challenges A.D.’s are facing today. However, there have always been financial challenges and many of the great A.D.’s in college sports right now did not begin in development. So, if you are someone who is interested in development, that is great – GO FOR IT! However, if you are not a development person, don’t worry because you can still be an A.D. Every job in college athletics is what you make it. If you are an academic advisor and never go to games, don’t reach out to the coaches, and don’t initiate new programs and ideas then you probably will be an academic advisor for a long time. That is fantastic if that is where you want to be. But, if you have aspirations of being an Asst. A.D. for academics or even moving to a different area of administration and eventually to an A.D. position, it is up to you to prove you can do it. Figure out a way to get noticed and build a strong network of coaches, administrators, boosters, and student-athletes. If you are an academic advisor, take it upon yourself to set up a career development program for student-athletes by reaching out to alumni and setting up a career fair or mentor ship program. You need to prove that you can do the job of being an A.D. which means that you get budget experience (even if it is only related to small areas of operations), you can excite the alumni and booster base, you can hire well, and you understand the rules. To move up in college sports it is common that you have to be willing to move. So, deciding wheere stand with respect to moving to climb the ladder is also important.
Theme #3 – I want to work directly with student-athletes, but I also want to be a high level administrator. Can those two objectives co-exist?
My Thoughts- YES. See above. It is up to you to make it work. There are A.D.’s who know the names of all 300-400 of their student-athletes and there are others who barely know their star student-athletes. Some A.D.’s make it a priority to attend practices and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Meetings while others barely know what the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is. Neither is right or wrong, it is about your personal and institutional priorities. As much as we would all like to be all things to all people, there is a limit to how much can be done in 24-hrs so you need your own personal philosophy on management. This is something that will develop throughout your career, but now is a great time to start to determine the type of work environment and priorities that might be a good fit for you. Then, finding an institution that is a good match with your philosophy is the next step.
As a sidenote, check out a day in the life of Todd Turner, the former Athletic Director at the University of Washington for an examle of the daily life of an athletic director at a big school.
I like to think of myself as a fairly agreeable, friendly person. However, there are a few things that I hate to my core. They include sanctimony, intolerance and the college Bowl system.
I’m only a sports guy to the extent that I’m a fan. So all you MSAs can show off your big brains and poke holes in my logic. But as a fan, I HAAAAAAATE the college Bowl system. It’s fascist and unAmerican on every level. Since only one game counts for anything, I only really watch one game. I might stumble upon the Fiesta Bowl for 30 minutes to watch Texas beat the snot out of OSU, but I’m certainly not going to plan my day around it. And every 38th year when OU gets a bid, I’ll watch a 2nd bowl game. (Yay 2044!) But I have a hard time even getting very excited about that. Our season’s over whether we win or lose.
By contrast, I try to watch every second of every game that I can during March Madness. It doesn’t matter who’s playing. Yesterday (12.18.08), I asked that a meeting not be scheduled for 03.19.09 because I know that the tournament starts at noon that day. Now, I’m willing to acknowledge that I may be at the end of the bell curve re: my devotion to the tournament and this might be a good time to note that my office is located in the former state mental asylum on The Ridges, but I am absolutely convinced that there are millions of people like me who’d watch a heck of a lot more college football in December and January if it was part of a tournament. More viewers = more money.
Others can argue the entrenched interests of the BCS and the distribution of proceeds to the power conferences as reasons there will never be a tournament. I’m not going to challenge that. That’s a money coming out the bottom of the funnel argument. I’m arguing the money going in the top of the funnel. The total economic activity around post-season college football would be much greater in a tournament than it is in the current arrangement.
I’m also not going to argue for the complete dissolution of the bowls. You love the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? Fine! Keep it. Make it an early round game in the tournament.
So, we are up and running now thanks to Paul’s first post.
Stay tuned for more soon… topics such as why work in college sports, academics, student-athlete likeness, and much much more.
Feel free to propose ideas for future topics or suggestions for what you want to see here by leaving a comment. If you are not familiar with blogging, just click on the title of the post for a comment box to magically appear.