Is college athletics a free market
I was struck by a comment by my good friend Bob Boland at the College Sports Research Institute Conference in Chapel Hill, NC last week. I moderated a panel that included Craig Esherick, the former head men’s basketball coach at Georgetown, Boland, a former collegiate administrator, lawyer, sports agent, and now professor at NYU, Matt Denhart, an Ohio University undergrad representing the Center for College Affordability and Accountability, and Dr. Kadie Otto of Western Carolina, the current Executive Director of The Drake Group.
Bob made a comment regarding coaching salaries and athletic budgets in these tough economic times. He stated that he did not have a problem with coaches earning as much as they can because it is a free market. Bob is one of the smartest people I know and I certainly understand his rationale, and currently without an anti trust exemption coaches salaries cannot be capped. In a perfect capitalistic economic system this makes sense–but in my opinion intercollegiate athletics (primarily at the D One level) does not exist in a logical economic system given that the generators of the income do not share equitably, or in many cases not at all, in the profits of the enterprise that create the market salaries for coaches.
So a question for budding economists–can it truly be a free market if the employees (atheltes) do not share in the profit/loss of the enterprise? Shouldn’t the athletes be allowed to get more in that free market too. I have a couple thoughts but I want to throw it out as a topic and see what sparks discussion. Economics is not a strong point for me, so I look forward to a lively discussion.
Tomorrow I will speak on some of the points made by noted economist Andrew Zimbalist at the conference. He states that there are no stockholders in intercollegiate athletics–only stakeholders. His is an interesting take that is hard to argue with–but of course we want to try.
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