Academic priorities

John Wilkins just had to ruin my morning.

Waaaaaaaa

The bad news is that those of us who teach at small liberal arts institutions have significantly smaller bars than the averages there. The good news is that our football coaches also get nowhere near that amount of money.

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Can the football coaches bar actually be the median? That doesn't seem possible among all Doctoral degree granting universities. I do notice the title says "average and median". Is he mixing means and medians in the same plot?

I don't think it's just football coaches that make more money than educators. Nearly every other profession on the planet makes more money.

Grad students get $17k? Jeeezus. I got nowt. I'm clearly in the wrong country/ field.

It's still so sad how little important people like teachers and professors bring in compared to things that should be considered less important. That's what happens when you trade intelligent goals for purely economic ones I suppose.
-A

Just for the sake of argument....

I wonder how much revenue the Football program at a major Div 1 school brings in compared to the biology department?

All that means is people care more about sports than they do about academics, which is what the disparity in the salaries is pointing out anyway.

Reading the footnote I see the administrators are medians and the rest are means. I think the median football coach salary has to be a lot lower. Still higher than the others, but probably about half of the mean.

Tell me something I don't know. This is sad but not shocking.

The "coaches bring in more money" argument is the ENTIRE FUCKING PROBLEM. Why should having students bash into each other on a Saturday afternoon be more profitable than having students demonstrate knowledge and expertise?

If we offered gladiatorial games or live sex shows, those would also make a great deal more money than even football games. Shall we start offering blood&dismemberment scholarships, or better yet, prostitution scholarships?

All that means is people care more about sports than they do about academics, which is what the disparity in the salaries is pointing out anyway.

Well obviously. But schools do need money and you sell what sells.

I'm not saying it's right, just asking the question.

The "coaches bring in more money" argument is the ENTIRE FUCKING PROBLEM. Why should having students bash into each other on a Saturday afternoon be more profitable than having students demonstrate knowledge and expertise?

Like I said, I understand that and agree it is ludicrous. I'm just curious.

PZ,
If I could drive up to see you speak AND catch a live sex show on campus, I'd be there for sure! I think you're on to something.

It's clear a societal preference issue. I think universities should definitely offer athletics. If athletics make buckets of money for the university, then universities should definitely invest in them to make more money. The universities are only being rational. The problem is that we as a society are willing to spend billions on college athletics instead of on academics. But, that is a much harder problem to fix.

Just for the sake of argument....

I wonder how much revenue the Football program at a major Div 1 school brings in compared to the biology department?

And therein lies a major problem with capitalism. Even things that ought to exist for the good of the public (schools, hospitals, resources like water, electricity, and the internet) serve profits first and the people second. It infuriates me that teachers (who do such important life changing work in the classroom and research in labs, libraries, and the field) get paid so little compared to people who coach. I'm not saying that coaching isn't important (okay... maybe I am) but seriously, it's not hard to see that education is more important in almost every area, save the checkbook.

By spgreenlaw (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

We clearly need rides that go past the labs, like in Jurassic Park.

*ducks*

"prostitution scholarships"

I think there is a campaign that needs spearheading.

Disgusting.

But I've always been sportually challenged.

Does anyone have any numbers on how much unis and the state spends on sports per year? I'd love to have some statistics to compare to NASA and the LHC. I feel pretty damn sure that the profitable spinoffs from foottie are a lot less than either of those two.

True, the injured sportians can be the first to test our improved scanners, but ...

The numbers have improved significantly over the past few years. In 1994 I got $6k as a grad student in England, and my starting post-doc salary back in 1998 was $26k. Grad students are now getting $25k at my institution (private univ. in the northeast). As a P.I. you'd be lucky to employ a starting post-doc these days for under $35k (unless you're a slave-driver with a lab' in a big city that the kids want to live in, in which case you can pay them $25k).

I'd be interested to see the M/F split at the Dean/President level, and across the board, rather than just for professors. Heck, why not show the split for coaches too - do female football coaches earn less?

I see my tags have been misplaced. Oh dear.

Just for the sake of argument....

I wonder how much revenue the Football program at a major Div 1 school brings in compared to the biology department?

That is how it should be.

By spgreenlaw (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

prostitution scholarships? would that entail any lab work?

OK. That one was definitely not my fault. I double checked that the close tag followed the entire quote. Ugh.

By spgreenlaw (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

I wonder how much revenue the Football program at a major Div 1 school brings in compared to the biology department?

What's it matter when the expenses for most of them exceed the revenues?

By freelunch (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Rev. BDC and Dr. Myers:

The question of football coaches' salaries is this: how much of that revenue goes to the school in general? It's my understanding most of it goes back into the athletic department. So football and men's basketball are the sports that bankroll the rest of the athletic departments, which are really just little fiefdoms unto themselves.

And if you REALLY want to get depressed, think of this: The highest-paid employee of your government is a football coach. Or at least, Bobby Ross was until he retired after last season. We don't know how much his successor, Stan Brock, is making because they're keeping it secret.

Have a lovely day, and enjoy the bologna sandwich.

No wonder american education is going down hill. You people spend all your time bashing your skulls into each other on a grassy field instead of, you know, getting an education.

Here's an idea: seperate football from school. If kids want to play football, let them join a local football club outside of school, instead of waisting precious time and money on the dime of the educational system.

small liberal arts institutions may have smaller bars, but they have better bars.

seriously, when's the last time you went to a bar near a major college?

By arachnophilia (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Oh, thanks Rev. HTML is not my forte (as you could probably tell).

By spgreenlaw (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Virgil, there are no female American football coaches at the college level.

My undergraduate university is also a football factory. They do so well, it funds the whole athletic department and all the other sports, so athletics are not a drain on the general fund.

Still, professorial salaries run behind industrial salaries for the same years of experience. I'm willing to increase my taxes to bring salaries up to parity, but many other people aren't.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

What's it matter when the expenses for most of them exceed the revenues?

Is that actually the case?

I think that Paul L. probably has it right that most of the money stays in the "family" and is spent on the same athletic department.

The issue that is, at least in my no-data wild guess, that the majority of the money coming from alumni is for the pigskin and not the beaker.

But what other benefits does that have for the rest of the school? Notoriety to prospective students? Name recognition?

Does the fact that people recognize NC State for it's basketball team in the early 80's do anything for its fantastic science departments?

Why on earth is sport even mixed with universities like this?

I mean, yes, Waikato University has a rowing team that sometimes competes with Oxford, but basically all sport in uni here is at the amateur level.

Your education system already gets far too little money to be throwing it away on an uninteresting collection of homoerotic* pileups like American Football.

*Not that there's anything wrong with homoerotic pileups, but unless there is a female and mixed-gender version too, the government shouldn't be sponsoring it. Equal opportunity, and all.

If I could get 50K people pay $50 a pop to watch me teach 6 lectures a year, I'd certainly expect a lot more than what I am getting now.

I'm good, but not that good.

Shall we start offering blood&dismemberment scholarships, or better yet, prostitution scholarships?

What'd you expect for $1,000 a week?

/Bill Murray reference

Just because the guy coaches "kids bashing into each other" doesn't mean you have to be jealous of him.

School sports are important. Yea, it's a bit quite much very overpaid, but it's a SPORT. All damn sports have high salaries.

every morning when i wake up i thank the lord for 3 things:

1) that i'm still alive
2) that it's still as stiff as it was yesterday morning
3) that i dont live in the USA

"I wonder how much revenue the Football program at a major Div 1 school brings in compared to the biology department?"

There is the rub. Reports indicate that only (at most) the top 10% of athletic programs make money, the rest run at a deficit and sponge of the general fund of the university. There are cases where the deficit has been so large that the money from BCS game has still left the departments in the hole. The idea that sterling athletic programs are a plus monetarily for schools is now false (it isn't clear that it ever was true).

The interesting thing about this disparity is how the students fare. Exactly what is the rate of college sports players that go into the big leagues again? I can bet good money that most of them do not go anywhere after their college days, meaning that they wasted their time playing for some lotteryesque dream instead of preparing for their future doing something worthwhile.

We can complain about the money and the education system, but look at this: college athletes are basically selling their body for some coach to get richer, some university to make a few bucks, and some sports team to save some cash by using our university system as their makeshift training grounds. And what do most of the athletes get? A substandard education that prepares them for nothing but menial grunt work after sports teams get done wrecking their bodies for money.

And universities allow this. That's disgraceful.

wazza, women are allowed to play on football teams. A few have, mostly as kickers I believe. That's how they get around equal opportunity by claiming football is somehow a co-rec sport.

Its cute, but misleading. The football coaches salary is taken, according to the footnotes, from a survey of Division I coaches, which is a significantly different pool than the average of all doctoral granting universities. I attended two doctoral granting universities, neither was Div-I, and both had football coaches with significantly lower salaries.

@Zbu

The interesting thing about this disparity is how the students fare. Exactly what is the rate of college sports players that go into the big leagues again? I can bet good money that most of them do not go anywhere after their college days, meaning that they wasted their time playing for some lotteryesque dream instead of preparing for their future doing something worthwhile.

While there are players banking on the next step in the sport, it's not 100% accurate that it doesn't have benefits in the "real world" after the college career is over. I'm sure that the majority of players know this.

Again, I'm not saying this is right but it just is what it is.

I know that there are plenty of people who get jobs because of their athletic connections. Not because being a student athlete carries the (not always correct) distinction of being disciplined, but people will hire a former Georgia Bulldog player if they are UGA fans. It just is what it is.

@ dean

There is the rub. Reports indicate that only (at most) the top 10% of athletic programs make money, the rest run at a deficit and sponge of the general fund of the university. There are cases where the deficit has been so large that the money from BCS game has still left the departments in the hole. The idea that sterling athletic programs are a plus monetarily for schools is now false (it isn't clear that it ever was true).

I'd still like to see numbers on this. I'm sure it's probably true but I've never actually looked at the numbers. Might have to poke around just for kicks.

Dave make a fair, although minor, point. It means, for example, that the football salaries do not include the coach from CalTech, or MIT, or the University of Chicago, for example.

I thought diversity was good?

By Quiet_Desperation (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Pablo, Im not sure its minor, quick googling seems to indicate that there are 120 Div-I football schools, compared with over 11,000 doctoral granting institutions in the US.

These disparities come from the failure of Economists to accurately determine the value of research, knowledge and competent teaching to our economy. It is easy to count heads coming into a stadium. Harder to figure out the value of studies involving species diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates in three Minnesota streams, for example. If science could better put a $ number on contributions made, salaries would go up.

By Steve Courtright (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

James Michener wrote a book in the 1980's called Sports in America. It's very interesting, and completely out of the norm for his usual writing.

It's been a long time since I read it, but I recall one of his proposals was to turn the major college football programs into minor leagues operations for the NFL. In other words, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, et al, would have their football operations funded by one of the NFL clubs. Each NFL team would have more than one college to support, and he suggested making it regional, so the Lions are affiliated with the Wolverines, the Cowboys with the Longhorns, etc. The schools would get a certain amount of money each year and the NFL club would get to appoint the coach and have first pick of the players who finish at that school. Players would have to complete their 4 years and receive a degree from the school before being eligible for an NFL contract.

His point was, such schools are essentially NFL feeder programs anyway, why not make it official. Pro clubs would have more control over who goes where, but the school's fans would still have good, competitive teams to root for and the schools would have a guaranteed source of income that would go to the general fund, without the attendant expense of coaches, paying for road trips and so on.

It sounds weird, I know, there are problems, but it's an interesting idea.

Ya know? This chart rather resembles one I saw showing what the country spends on that OTHER sport...

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

moother - You lucky bastard. ;o)

Precisely why I left academia. I was in the middle of a PhD in rhetoric and decided 8K a year just wasn't cutting it. My first year out I made 42K, now with three promotions, I'm just under 80. I'm not bragging, I'd rather work harder and teach but that's not how this system works right now.

I've always abdicated spinning off the football teams from college sports. Rent them the college's name, and give the 'student' players a discount on tuition.

College football and collegiate sports have almost nothing in common anymore. It's become the NFL minor league, and should resemble the baseball minors, not academia.

By Bart Mitchell (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

My apologies, my google-fu seems to have been off this morning: There appear to be 413 doctoral granting universities, not the 11,000 I mentioned earlier. I still think thats a significant difference, but clearly much less so.

Yeah, well, look at the bars for students. If you're slaving away at science and scholarship, generally you're shelling out 10s of thousands of dollars per year, while the jocks are getting (pretty much) a free ride.

I mean, if that doesn't teach you something, what wil?

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

"And therein lies a major problem with capitalism."

Kinda OT, but I've always felt that ANOTHER major problem with the Big C is that if people will PAY for something, someone else will find a way to SELL it to them -- whether it's good for people to have that thing or not.

I think of Hummers. I think, in a lot of cases, of cell phones (sorry - I just do. These things ruined my commute back when I had a long one, and the conversations were dispensible at best). I think of those GODDAMNED CAR HEADLIGHTS THAT ARE SO BRIGHT THEY ALL BUT BLIND DRIVERS IN ONCOMING CARS.

But I'm an elitist SOB into the bargain. :)

By bernard quatermass (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Yeah, well, look at the bars for students. If you're slaving away at science and scholarship, generally you're shelling out 10s of thousands of dollars per year, while the jocks are getting (pretty much) a free ride.

I mean, if that doesn't teach you something, what wil?

Again that comes back to whether or not the students are actually making money for the School. If they are then their "free ride" is in reality compensation for their time as athletes.

If they aren't generating revenue, then .....

Why should having students bash into each other on a Saturday afternoon be more profitable than having students demonstrate knowledge and expertise?

Because Joe Plumber will pay $75 to see pretend-students bash each other on a saturday afternoon, but isn't interested in paying a dime to see some nerds growing slime in a Petri dish.

A better question might be "Why would an academic institution have a sports program?" The answer, I've always assumed, is "for the money, of course."

If they aren't generating revenue, then .....

They're contributing to knowledge, society, and civilization. A bunch of self-righteous liberal alumni ought to appreciate that, or did you forget that supposedly the colleges are turning out enlightened people (easy mistake, I know)?

But hell, the gladiators bring in revenue. Screw improvement, we'll stoke our thirst for power over others.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

I wonder how much revenue the Football program at a major Div 1 school brings in compared to the biology department?

The "coaches bring in more money" argument is the ENTIRE FUCKING PROBLEM.

Not in the least because the argument may be entirely false. It is my understanding that even within Div 1 schools, athletics is subsidized by the universities, not the other way around. In other words, even with the TV and ad revenues and ticket sales, the costs of the programs exceed their income. But, over the decades it has been traditional for athletic directors to claim university subsidies as athletic dept. income, thus grossly inflating their value. As a result, there are only a handful of programs nationwide that are genuinely profitable, while all of them claim to be profitable. The Chronicle had a large article on this not too long ago.

The one factor that is difficult to calculate is the effect of a successful sports program on enrollment and extramural funding. However, my impression is that donors that give because of sports programs tend to give to sports programs via earmarking their donations.

Even if we accept the capitalist argument that they make money for the university, (a completely fallacious argument for a public university and questionable for a private one) there are serious ethical dilemmas, mainly as a consequence of the amount of money that passes through the program regardless of the source.

By c-serpent (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Do any other countries have the bizarre set-up for sports that the USA has?

In Europe, universities and colleges have sports teams, but these are social clubs for ordinary students to play games, not a breeding ground for professional leagues.

If a lad or lass is good at sport and wants to have a go at becoming a professional, s/he joins a local club or the development side of a professional team. It's completely separate from the national education system.

Surely that's the issue? Why the crazy mixture of highly-paid professional sport and under-paid education at one institution?

They're contributing to knowledge, society, and civilization. A bunch of self-righteous liberal alumni ought to appreciate that, or did you forget that supposedly the colleges are turning out enlightened people (easy mistake, I know)?

But hell, the gladiators bring in revenue. Screw improvement, we'll stoke our thirst for power over others.

Actually Glen I was referring to if the football players aren't actually generating positive revenue.

I know the benefit of the non athletes.

@Pablo:

Way back when I went to undergrad, I calculated that lectures were on the order of $100 each at my school, based on what they were charging per credit hour.

I'm sure this is how things have been for a very long time. I know my profs were grumbling about it in the mid 90's.

Funny how I never shared any science/math/music/literature/etc. classes with football players. They must have all been remedial general ed. majors. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I never saw them (the kicker doesn't count).

Actually Glen I was referring to if the football players aren't actually generating positive revenue.

I tend to think that they are, though, largely due to increases in (or lack of decreases in) enrollment. I know that Gonzaga University (I went there a short time) claims to have boosted its enrollment significantly once their Bulldogs were doing well.

I still think it's a pathetic reason for anyone to go to their school. Perhaps excellence in academia would also have a positive effect, on both school and society.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Makes me glad to be a Penn State fan. JoePa donated a million bucks to the university a few years ago and it went towards... a library!
I live in Big Orange Tennessee country now and if they lose two games in a row the public is calling for the coach to resign.

Science departments at R1 universities actually bring in a pretty good amount of money. The university takes some overhead out of every grant awarded---basically a "tax" of anywhere from 45-60% of the total budget depending on university. So if they have a department of 40 professors each bringing in an average of $250,000 per year in grant money, the university is making around $5 million off that department per year just in grant money. These numbers are sort of made up but more or less within a realistic range of a top computer science department. Some departments bring in more per faculty, some less.

In 1999, for instance, Yale's income from grants was $316 million (25% of its total income that year, and the largest single source) link (pdf). Though details are lacking, you can probably assume that the university took at least $150 million of that (the rest went mostly to paying for grad students, postdocs, and faculty summer support, buying equipment, and travel and supplies).

Wow. I knew that when I was an undergrad that there was much discussion about how much the coaches made vs. the professors, but the money for the coaches came from an entirely different fund (they really did make in the million dollar range) so it was "okay".

Now, I'm just a poor grad student...

I'm pretty sure that Stanford gets a lot of money out of its science grads...

ever heard of the Stanford Research Institute?

Credit where it's due: the graph comes from the excellent grad-student web comic PhD Comics.

Saw it here right after I posted it to my own blog. Heh. Yeah, I knew no one is in academia to get rich, but this is just ridiculous. Politicians from both parties all say they value education, though, and they wouldn't be lying to us, right? So obviously, it'll get better.

... must. keep. straight. face.

I guess as a grad student I shouldn't feel too bad since I'm making almost exactly the average (according to the chart). But let me tell you, that 17K doesn't get you anywhere in a place as absurdly expensive as Long Island, NY.

Murray Sperber wrote a book on the subject of athletic budgets a while ago. His conclusion was that at most big sports universities, it was a loss. He found only a couple of football programs made a profit and those didn't consistently do so. He also examined the claim that alumni contributed more if the programs were successful (and hence required high levels of funding). He concluded that they did not consistently do so. In fact, the largest endowments are in universities who will never compete nationally. I am at a university in the mid-level of competition and our football coach is paid less than the figure cited, but at least three times the university president.

By Tom Southern (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

One thing that is missing is that tenured faculty have a position regardless of performance. Coaches on the other hand, the higher the profile, the greater the demand for exceptional performance.
Oh and since 2003, my tuition/fees have increased 400%. I finished my B.A. in 5 semesters and made the foolish mistake of going for an M.A.. Students are viewed by the university as nothing more than cash cows. We are given bogus information (sign up for the thesis course as soon as you complete 9 units) with the specific intent of taking more money from our pockets. (Oh you have to complete that thesis within a year - couldn't do it? oh so sorry, $1800 please if you want to finish your degree.)
I previously believed that politicians and lawyers were the most dishonorable people on the planet. I have since added university administration to the list and they are ahead by a mile.

By Onkel Bob (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Hey, I never knew they paid grad students, or is that in only some disciplines?

Grad students in some disciplines get paid. I love art, but a physics grad student working on a microchip design has something considerably more valuable to sell than interpretive pasta by an art grad student.

Anybody have specific links to the Chronicle articles on the matter? I'm going to borrow the Beer And Circus book from my university library, but I'd like to see some of the articles, too. My google-fu has been fairly weak so far.

Well that's free market capitalism for you. A person is worth what the market will pay. Period. Any one who complains is clearly a socialist or worse, un American, not a problem for me because like most people on this planet I am what many Americans frequently refer to as an Alien. Though I gather these days furrunur or similar is more popular.

Well to be fair, the large football programs are very profitable and do bring in large dollars to the universities they are a part of, not to mention those all important alumni dollars. This of course allows for the funds to be diverted to research. Without such programs, it would be more difficult to acquire such funds since they either have to come through more taxes (good luck with that) or raising already ridiculously high tuition.

This is also true of many of the other sports programs in the NCAA.

Stoic, they pay grad students who are working for the university in some capacity. Teaching undergraduate classes and working in a lab as a research assitant are the only two common jobs I can think of for grad students, but I imagine there are others.

I would like to note that on that graphic, the "untenured" blocks appear to belong to untenured, but full-time professors.

Adjunct, or contingent faculty, which makes up a huge proportion of teaching staff at most universities and colleges, seem to be unrepresented on that graph.

If they were, they would appear right above "grad student" by a very small margin.

After my nephew's experience with "big-time" college athletics, after which he was deluded into thinking he was a pro prospect (he was waived from an American Basketball League team), I'm just so angry at college athletics.

For most campuses, it's a drain on their budgets. Sure, if you're at Michigan or Ohio or Florida, your university probably experiences a net gain, but for most universities, it just doesn't work out. Many universities have dropped their football programs for just this reason.

Ongoing discussions of all these issues can be found at www.fieldofschemes.com and www.thesportseconomist.com.

Sadly, this even extends beyond universities. Municipalities around the country (world, even) continue to fund sports facilities... San Antonio, Dallas, New York (read up on the new Yankees stadium if you really want to make your blood boil), Portland, Seattle, Sacramento... Just a few examples.

Instead of draining budgets for universities, projects like the ones listed above drain the general fund of money that should be used for transportation, health care, housing for the homeless, and so forth.

I partake in individual sports, and I pay for it myself.

There's nothing wrong with being an NBA or NFL fan, you should just be willing to pay for it. That's all. If that means tickets on the third deck cost $200 each, then so be it.

Not sure what the divisions in revenue are for all universities, but for Notre Dame in 2007, the football program was worth $91 million with the income being distributed as so:

$23.5 million for non-football athletics
$23.2 million for general academic use for the university.

It may vary widely though how profits are divided for the other universities.

My dad got his degree at Ohio State, and once told me a possibly apocryphal story about a sign in the president's office there:

"Our goal is to build a university our football team can be proud of."

By noncarborundum (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

It looks like there's some good news in that graph too: the gender gap for untenured professors is less than the gender gap for tenured professors. Hopefully, as the untenured professors gain tenure and new professors are hired, the gap will continue to decrease.

I believe the grad student salaries are for students in Ph.D science programs; there's a huge difference between $17K and $5,500, which is what I make as a MA history student.

At a few places, including my a.m., Kansas, the basketball coach makes more than the football coach. (Of course he usually has a better year.) I suspect the same is true at Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina,and perhaps UCLA, which normally does better in football than the others. At least at Kansas, ticket revenue is only part of the AD income. If yuou don't donate BIG bucks to the AD you won't be getting a seat in Allen Fieldhouse. (The grandson of the man the fieldhouse is named for apparently lost his longtime season tickets a few years back for that reason. At the same time, the programs there DO pay the way for revenue-poor sports such as volleyball, crew, baseball, etc., and nearly all womens' programs. Good or bad? Who knows? But while longtime statistics may not bear it out, when a school has an unusually good year (as Kansas had last year with an Orange Bowl win and a basketball national championship) alumni donations to the general fund do increase. Let's face it; big time sports is part of the entertainment industry, and while I would just as soon cheer for Hallmark Cards or Kansas City Power and Light as for the KC Chiefs, not all feel that way. Unfair and ill-suited to the purposes of a university? Probably so, but only at YOUR school. I, on the other hand, am lookign forward with anticipation to the start of the new basketball season. So there!

The only financial argument that seems to make sense is if the athletic program generates donations to other parts of the university, ones that they would not get otherwise. In Columbus, people are (overly) invested in the outcomes of our (OSU) football team, in a way they are unlikely to be in the other functions of the university. Lots of people, considering how much our school costs as a state university, the tuition and time to graduate, and their desire to be a state-funded business, are not entirely thrilled with them, so sports is likely a bigger attractant to get money than people experience or loyalty to the school will be.

I don't see any way to make sports less important other than to make sure that people have very little disposable income. People spend the money left on things they like, and sports are disproportionately so. I like DFW's comment in a TV essay that TV works (has its character) because, while people differ in their more refined tastes, they are very similar in their less refined tastes (and that's where the money is). If the money is there for people to spend, they do so one sports, and the investment connects them to the sport and invests them in it. There isn't a real reason (economic) for cities to spend lots of money to build low-cost stadiums for teams who should be able to afford them (and thus allow sports leagues in the US, particularly the NFL, to make a cottage industry of threatening to move their team unless cities and the teams' fans cough up lots of money for a stadium), but people are invested by their money and time in them and so see the team as part of their identities. Cities (or their people) aren't willing to say no, so the merry-go-round continues. Sports teams provide a way for people to tap into a group identity that they can't get in other ways, or rather can't get easily. (Many) people here are fragmented from one another and don't seem to have an investment in a common future, and sports provide that (or, rather, an illusion of one).

Rev BDC,

I'd still like to see numbers on this. I'm sure it's probably true but I've never actually looked at the numbers. Might have to poke around just for kicks.

Here's a discussion which alludes to some relevant studies:

"The NCAA commissioned a study (Litan, Orszag and Orszag 2003) to investigate the effects of increasing budgets for university athletic programs. The study found little evidence for several common explanations for increasing athletic budgets. Rather than contribute revenue to general university operations, high visibility athletic programs are revenue neutral. That is, big-time university athletic programs cost their universities about as much money as they generate."

And that's for the really successful athletics programs. As mentioned earlier, less successful programs are often a net financial drain on their institutions.

On the other hand, according to the link above, they may serve to increase the academic prestige of their institutions--more and better students apply for admission at schools with well-known athletics programs, and graduates of those schools get more respect. Which is silly, but humans are silly.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Anyone who thinks that athletic programs bring in money for non-athletic purposes in any but a handful of cases is grossly misinformed. Most athletic programs lose money and are subsidized by the university.

All athletic programs should be dismantled; if you want to play some sports, play on an intramural team. Universities are not minor leagues for professional teams, they are places for learning.

As c-serpent pointed out earlier, nearly all studies of the financial value of athletic programs focus on direct revenues and expenses, not on the effect of athletic programs on extramural giving. I think that more than 30 universities would be shown to have a positive financial effect of athletic programs.

Furthermore, even if there were not big money university sports, I'm guessing that most universities would have athletic programs for students, so that the ability of basketball and football to "pay for" other non-revenue generating sports is still a financial benefit.

I am pretty solidly against big money athletics, but I think that arguing from a purely financial cost-benefit perspective misses the important corrupting effects of these programs on the university's mission.

Seamyst: it could just be an average. It's pretty typical for a graduate student in the sciences to make around $20-25,000.

This makes me so glad that Canadian universities aren't as sports-centric as American ones. You can't get a scholarship here for being good at sports, you only get scholarships for being smart and/or helping out in your community-- as it should be in an academic institution.

Pro Baseball players regardless on how good they are make 3 million on average. It has the most players out of all sports that make over 90 million dollars. I believe baseball players are the most overpaid in of all of sports.

If teachers make over 90 million dollars, it would create a high burden of cost on the students or taxpayers. A little bit different in the pro game which gets it's revenue from TV and ticket sales, and other products.

As someone who loves college sports - can someone explain to me how this is any way a harmful thing? It makes college fun for a lot of people.

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

... prostitution scholarships?

Wasn't it Baylor that was exposed a few years back for lining up a squad of co-eds to "encourage" hot football recruitment prospects?

Meanwhile, even that may not be as depressing as missing a Nobel Prize by one grant - then ending up driving a courtesy van for a car rental agency for $10/hr.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

"The only financial argument that seems to make sense is if the athletic program generates donations to other parts of the university, ones that they would not get otherwise."

This isn't true - all thats needed is for the football to not drain funds. As long is its not taking away from other stuff, who the heck cares?

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

As someone who loves college sports - can someone explain to me how this is any way a harmful thing? It makes college fun for a lot of people.

It's really just a symptom of a much larger problem. Jenny McCarthy has a following about a medical condition despite that she has no medical training. People trust an actor that plays a doctor on TV over a real doctor. Gettting a celebrity to hawk a product is more effective than scientific studies that show it works. And people care more about what team Brett Favre is going to play for than they do about the latest scientific advances (unless, of course, it's the latest, misreported story about a correlation between something and health issues, which means it should be banned outright without even bothering to find out if there is a causal relationship).

PZ: If we offered gladiatorial games or live sex shows, those would also make a great deal more money than even football games. Shall we start offering blood&dismemberment scholarships, or better yet, prostitution scholarships?

Best comment ever! Isn't that the logical end of Libertarianism?

On top of that, notice what they "pay" the actual folks beating each other on the field - compared to their boss!

It's so corrupt I lost interest years ago.

"It's really just a symptom of a much larger problem. "

I could not disagree more, and you are really making a leap by pooling "sports fan" with "autism nut".

Your essential arguent, as I read it is if you care about and like things which aren't actively progressing humanities growth, you're a problem. Is that what you're trying to say? The way I see it, the whole point of science and medicine and rationalism is to make our lives better, and give us a chance to enjoy things we love to do? If someone loves sports, let them love sports - they aren't harming anyone. There's no false information which hurts kids. There's nothing irrational about it which has a negative effect.

Essentially, PZ seems pissed that people like sports more than science. Well...get over it. We don't all share hobbies. I love science and sports, but not everyone has to.

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

Hap: I don't see any way to make sports less important other than to make sure that people have very little disposable income.

Real simple. Either spin off the football teams as private enterprises owned by the university with labor agreements and all that --- or actually turn them into amateur teams where the players are held to the same standards as other students, where they don't practice more than they go to class.

The current setup is inherently corrupt.

DamnYankees, #103: If someone loves sports, let them love sports - they aren't harming anyone.

Sure. I agree. However, education resources should be used for, oh let's say education. If people love sports so much that they want to see a lot of resources used to get athletes to perform at the peak of their abilities, maybe we should have start something like professional sports leagues that will be devoted to the sports. Oh wait....

By Chiroptera (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

"However, education resources should be used for, oh let's say education."

And the moment I see evidence that football programs are a net drain on resources, I'll be happy to agree with you.

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

DamnYankees: If someone loves sports, let them love sports - they aren't harming anyone. There's no false information which hurts kids. There's nothing irrational about it which has a negative effect.

No one is saying to round them up. But there is something fundamentally sick with someone who spends their life watching other people do something. A small amount is reasonable, particularly if you do it yourself and are appreciating those who are more talented than yourself.

But what is the ratio of football playing time to football watching time for most fans? 100:1? 10000:1? That's screwed up and pathetic. In NZ once I had someone point out to me how weird they found Americans -- that we would spend the entire day watching the superbowl rather than going outside and actually playing ourselves.

Sure, you have the right to spend your life on your ass watching others, reading celebrity mags, watching reality TV, or even reading but never writing. But it's still pathetic.

What a pathetic comment - insulting someone else's hobby. I hope you give the same advice to people who love to read about science but don't do experiments.

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

The financial relationship of athletic programs to their colleges and universities varies quite a bit. There are about twenty schools (all D-IA) that turn a profit. About half of D-IA schools turn a profit on football and/or men's basketball but all except the ~twenty lose money overall because the other sports are either entirely non-revenue or big time money losers. The rest of D-IA lose money even on their major "revenue" sports. It is virtually universal among D-II and D-III schools to subsidize their programs significantly (in terms of the proportion of their cost) since their ticket, television and athletics donor revenue are low and won't begin to cover the expenses.

D-I coaches' salaries for football and men's basketball are not primarily a function of their being revenue producing. Vice presidents for development or advancement, or presidents for that matter, often raise far more money than any sport but get salaries nowhere near the coaches' salaries. Those salaries are primarily a function of the fact that the universities must compete with the NFL and the NBA.

Finally, the success of athletic programs do affect the academic side. It is well documented that, following a major sports championship such as football or basketball, there is a significant surge in the number of applications for admission and the school is able to be much more selective for a time. There is some indication that athletics success, because it can make people "feel good", has a spillover effect into non-athletic aspects of the university, such as alumni association membership and even sizeable donations for academic projects, and can affect the ability to recruit both students and faculty who want big time sports as part of their lifestyle. I know that, at my own alma mater, an alumnus who is a huge sports fan was successfully wooed for a donation to a fine arts related project, and part of that effort included a visit by a nationally prominent coach.

DamnYankees, for a college sports-team to be fund-neutral, it would have to pay for all its "students" (and not just tuition, but also the fact that sports-scholarships are taking spots that could have been otherwise taken by academic students), all its infrastructure (stadiums, gyms etc.), all its employees (scouts, coaches, etc), and probably a few more bureaucracy things I can't currently think of.

that doesn't seem to be the case in most instances. in most instances, the athletics department is a drain on the academic departments, so of course its a detriment

Also, I'd like to point out that European universities (including the big ones like Oxford) are doing peachy without wasting such a massive chunk of the budget on non-academic froo-froo.

not that I'm saying sports per-se are worthless, but merely that they don't really belong in academia.

Hap: What a pathetic comment - insulting someone else's hobby. I hope you give the same advice to people who love to read about science but don't do experiments.

hobby: a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation

Sitting on your ass and zoning out on someone else's activity isn't a hobby. Playing football is a hobby; building cabinets is a hobby; painting is a hobby; even running a rotisserie league is a hobby.

Watching TV is only a hobby inasmuch as shooting up heroin is a hobby, or gorging yourself on McD's is a hobby. Words have meaning --- even if you don't like it.

Shiit, even masturbating is more of a hobby than watching football if you never play it.

actually, in my last post, replace all instances of "academia" with "education". for clarification-sake.

#111: Dude, that wasn't me, but Damn Yankees in #106.

#100: The notes above make it clear that very few football programs break even. I don't know if that includes their scholarships, etc., but if that's true, then to be revenue generators), then they have to generate it somewhere (because most of the sources-concession, advertising, naming, etc.-are included in the break-even or in facilities costs). The only place left is alumnni donations. College sports have to generate more more in donations than in their absence for that to be true.

The problem, then, if college sports are revenue-neutral or worse, what is their point? The primary goals of a university are to educate and to generate new knowledge. Athletics presumbly stems from the desire to improve people physically and the belief that that would improve people in other ways. The desires of lots of people (most of whom aren't educated by the university) to see sports is ancillary to its primary purpose for the university, and if the facilities to provide sports viewing experiences for lots of other people cost money (and don't make it back), then they detract from the ability of the university to achieve its primary ends.

In addition, for many people sports seem to be replacements (bad ones at that) for real commitments, particularly for community and first-person athletic activities. Since the money that it requires makes the actual desires for which sport substitutes harder to achieve, and becomes a stumbling block rather than a means to those ends, criticism of the overeemphasis on sport is valid.

If it makes you feel any better...I'll be making the dreary trek to and through Toronto to hear YOU speak and not the U Min football coach...although you'd better be good.

Hap:

To go one point further, the goal of a university is the creation of knowledge and the education of students. Exploitation of the students is diametrical to those goals. Grad students may be exploited to a certain degree, but most of them do go on to apply what they learned to a large degree and produce knowledge as grad students.

Student-athletes in football are only exploited. A very small percentage of them ever become professional athletes; most of them get very little education; and they get paid very little as students while working extremely hard jobs -- often receiving injuries that are disabling for life. I can't see anyway to reconcile that with the mission of the university, unless the only mission of the university is to turn a profit --- in which case, it's not a university at all!

I could not disagree more, and you are really making a leap by pooling "sports fan" with "autism nut".

That was not my intent.

Your essential arguent, as I read it is if you care about and like things which aren't actively progressing humanities growth, you're a problem. Is that what you're trying to say?

No, I'm not.

The way I see it, the whole point of science and medicine and rationalism is to make our lives better, and give us a chance to enjoy things we love to do? If someone loves sports, let them love sports - they aren't harming anyone. There's no false information which hurts kids. There's nothing irrational about it which has a negative effect.

Look, I'm a hockey fanatic. I love watching it and I love playing it. And that's fine provided I keep my priorities straight. My kids don't go hungry and my mortgage gets paid and I don't miss work for what amounts to, in the end, nothing but entertainment.

Essentially, PZ seems pissed that people like sports more than science. Well...get over it. We don't all share hobbies. I love science and sports, but not everyone has to.

I'm not asking everyone to be "fans" of science and ignore sports. But the simple fact is that science in particular and academics in general benefit everyone far more than football could ever hope too. All I'm asking for is for people to realize that and maybe take some interest in it. I like sports, but some things are more important, if less emotionally interesting. And I can't help thinking that if people knew more they would think it was interesting.

I would like to see people care less about what pain reliever Dr. Bob from General Hospital uses and more about what clinical trials have shown to be more effective. I would like to see people care more about what research is being done in universities and less about how well their football team is doing. Maybe then, when Jenny McCarthy says that her son's autism was caused by vaccines, people ignore her instead of thinking she might be right. Maybe then, when Ken Ham builds a museum showing humans and dinosaurs walking together through the Garden of Eden, it goes broke in a month.

I'm not saying sports are bad. I'm saying there is way, way, way too much emphasis placed on them and way, way, way too little on learning.

In defense of football coaches, they do make the universities a hell of a lot of money when the team does well. I know Urban Meyer at my alma mater UF is paid an insanely ridiculous salary (I think his contract ended up being like $3mil/yr), but, well, he has more fans than any of my professors did... ;-)

Of course, if life was fair, fire fighters, police, EMTs, paramedics, et al, would be paid a hell of a lot more along with the teachers and professors. :-)

... And Network Engineers (shameless self plug)

The issue is not the disparity in salaries. The issue is should colleges/universities be in the football business. That is what it is, a business. BTW, this extends to basketball.

From there, the pay is purely what the market will pay. 80,000 seats, TV, bowl games, corporate sponsors and private donors all bring tons of money to the teams.

I feel that the players should be getting a better take.

Oh, look, how to lie with statistics!

According to salary.com, the median salary of a Head Coach (major sport) is $67k. Assistant coach median salary is less than $50k. Hey wait, that's less than a professor!

Big time, Saturday TV, I-A football is a teensy tiny subset (less than 100 schools) of college athletics that is clearly atypical. If you're going to put them in their own category, you should have a category for professors who own patents or do whatever you have to do as a prof to make this list:

http://www.sfgate.com/news/special/pages/2005/ucsalary/

99% of college sports (e.g., the UM Morris Cougars) is never on tv, the coaches make little money, the assistant coaches are basically volunteers, the athletes have no illusions of going pro, etc. etc. It's an extracurricular activity subsidized by the university just like the school paper, the student drama productions, yada yada.

Is I-A football overboard with the salaries and the exploitation of kids and the rest? Sure. Is this representative of anything? Not obviously.

Should I-A football head coach salaries be shown on the same graph as broad averages of salaries of other job categories? Only if you're cherry-picking unrepresentative data to make a point.

An article in a local newspaper a while ago

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/05/22/business/news/13_04_515_21_0…

states that the University of California, San Diego, got "$376.3 million in life sciences funding as of fiscal year 2003." This does not count all of the other funding on campus, which is not, by the way, a Division 1 school. It seems to me that good science trumps good football.

S. Scott (#3) wrote: "I don't think it's just football coaches that make more money than educators. Nearly every other profession on the planet makes more money."

Not compared to the salaries on that chart. In Phoenix, Arizona, where the average Arizona State University professor salary in 2005 was $102,500, the average household income was $46,111 and the average computer software engineer's salary was $71,580-$78,240. Based on that chart, computer software engineers are below tenured professors, and the median household is well below untenured professors.

Re: Rev. Big Dumb Chimp (#1): My understanding is that most college athletic programs lose money in years when their teams aren't in a big bowl game. Ah, here we go, this is more recent than what I read years ago (a review of Murray Sperber's _College Sports, Inc.: The Athletic Department vs. the University_):

http://ctsportslaw.com/2008/05/22/ncaa-study-shows-that-most-athletic-p…

Actually tracking the dollar flow for collegiate sports would entail a lot of economic detective work and some political decisions. If a school sports program brings enough visitors to town that it helps sustain the local economy, does that constitute a positive contribution to the town/gown relationship or another subsidy of private sector by public sector? What influences might, say, the local Chamber of Commerce have on athletic departments, and how should these be indicated on the balance sheet?

A friend who used to work in the housing department of a U with a major sports program told me that they provided a big subsidy to "athletics" just in the repairs and overtime required to deal with extreme damages from summer "sports camps" held to recruit high schoolers. (The football jocks, of course, invariably destroyed more of the facilities than those of all other sports combined.)

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

The "coaches bring in more money" argument is the ENTIRE FUCKING PROBLEM

It may be a problem for you, but it's not a problem for the University administration. I have no interest in football, there are nevertheless quite a lot of people who do, and they pay for it. If a school can add to its income by sanctioning a quasi-pro sports franchise, why shouldn't they?

If they're losing money on sports, then you can make a strong argument that they should abandon sports.

In either case, what they pay professors has little if anything to do with what they pay any other employees. Obviously, at the prices they're paying, they're not seeing any shortage of applicants for the available positions.

Let's imagine for a moment that a university discovers that they're losing a couple million bucks a year on a sports program, and they decide to give it up, and so they have that couple of million bucks available for other purposes. Should they increase professors' salaries, or should they hire more professors and reduce their class sizes? Maybe they should use that money to fund more scholarships.

In any case, the salaries paid for any given job are a result of the interaction of the supply and the demand for those skills. A University, like any other employer, has a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate salaries, keeping many factors in mind. If they pay too little, they have to cope with attrition, and if they pay too much, then they can't use that money for any of the other costs they have to account for.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

If a school can add to its income by sanctioning a quasi-pro sports franchise, why shouldn't they?

Turn the question around: if schools want to operate pro-sports farm teams as revenue generators, why in the world should they engage in the absurd pretense that the players are "students", their salaries are "scholarships", and the time they spend playing constitutes an "education"?

If the money managers decide that investing part of the endowment in a sports franchise makes economic sense, then fine; let them go out and buy one on the open market. And if there comes a point where it doesn't pencil anymore, they can divest, as they would any other bad investment. But none of that should have anything whatever to do with the process of educating students.

By Gregory Kusnick (not verified) on 21 Oct 2008 #permalink

if schools want to operate pro-sports farm teams as revenue generators, why in the world should they engage in the absurd pretense that the players are "students", their salaries are "scholarships", and the time they spend playing constitutes an "education"? If the money managers decide that investing part of the endowment in a sports franchise makes economic sense, then fine; let them go out and buy one on the open market. And if there comes a point where it doesn't pencil anymore, they can divest, as they would any other bad investment.

Of course, it is possible for a university to do this - soccer teams (for example) are publicly listed companies on the stock exchanges, and if the manager of a university endowment fund wants to put money into Manchester United stock he can. The fact that no university has taken over a soccer team outright might mean that they know - as many foreign billionaires have found to their cost - that sports teams are great prestige purchases but generally terrible at generating return.

The graph is just sad. I teach middle school science and this year I have to TELL my students about pH, I cannot SHOW them. Because of screwed up budgeting and priorities, we cannot buy supplies this year, including pH strips. Sad, sad, sad.

The highest paid state employee in the state of Rhode Island is the University of Rhode Island's basketball coach... no lie.

By potterbro (not verified) on 22 Oct 2008 #permalink

Oh, gee. More complaints about Other People's Money. The solution is clearly socialism. Take that money. Give it to professors!

How can anybody so smart be so dumb? Professors outnumber football head coaches - the example - hundreds to one. What about the players? You can have, actually, this many scholarships and no more.

Your argument is really with the university chancellors, not with the public, looking to be entertained. Ask them where gate money goes. That's logical.

In the meantime, many of us know that despite this apparent - and non-existent - pay problem, MIT is determined that any technical wizardry will come from their school - as is Princeton, Cal Berkeley, the USNA, etc., and they have international, not just American, reputations.

The richest university there is, is Harvard.

Hmm.

Madonna's made more $$ than Mother Teresa. Take her earnings too. I'm sure it ticks you off, but you don't get to say what somebody's fair wage is, no matter how many times you put "ought to" in a sentence. Period. Take pride in what you know and how you learn, and how you act, with reason and grace, so that you might be an example to the legions of people who will NOT be the millionaire you're looking at today, head coach or not.

It's easy to value football highly if you're valuing it with someone else's money. If the major sports programs at universities lose money, some of the alumni might make up the difference, but probably a chunk of the money will have to come from either other sports or other programs. So valuing coaches at D1A would be more reasonable if sports fans ante'd up their own money, but they aren't really - they're paying with yours. (The only significant caveat is for big programs, much of the coaches' money comes from sponsorships, radio and TV shows, etc. which are part of what a coach does but aren't paid for by the school. The salary numbers in the media usually refer to the bundled contracts, much of which is not actually salary.)

The NFL, in particular, is notorious for holding up cities for taxpayer-funded stadiums that are not paid for by the teams. Season ticket holders wll pay seat licenses (some of which will pay for part of the stadium but most of which will go into the owner's pocket - see Cincinnati for the example), but much of the money will come from taxes.

So, you can drop "fair wage" and "socialist" smack all you want, but you are playing a game that isn't consistent with your assertions. Sports at the university level are paid for with someone else's money - not the fans, but the schools and the states from which their money (mostly) comes (a few private schools such as USC, UCLA, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech compete at D1A) and thus the taxpayers. If you want an estimate of how much sports are worth, then you need to evaluate what people would pay with their own money, rather than how much of my money they would pay.

Hap, the issue is still with the chancellors, not the head coaches. The market determines what a job is worth until it is interfered with. Socialism interferes with the markets by government redistribution of wealth; if you wish to call it something else, go ahead, but salary issues aren't going to be solved without government intervention - though they may change venue.

Now, if you want government intervention, go ask the Soviets and Chinese how well directed markets worked.

Tax abuse occurs with professional sports clear down to the local level. This has nothing to do with how much a head coach is paid, being a "two wrongs" scenario; the salary issue is a subset of the entire sports-values one.

Want a cheaper head coach? Go get one. See what you get, and happy losing season in direct competition. See, it's not enough to pretend that being a scientist requires more skill than being a head coach (which hasn't been shown, BTW). You have to go demonstrate that in the marketplace. Even though a Shula or Bowden will never cure cancer, make possible the tracking of criminals via DNA or find a new pulsar, they are part of a spectacle found in modern coliseums to which the masses are drawn, and those masses bring their money and allow it to be spent from public coffers because they wish to be associated with winning, even vicariously. The social impact is felt in every bar in America every day.

Why anyone should complain about sports when pharmaceutical companies make money as Paharoah could only dream, I have no idea.

OK, look around. If anybody wants to spread the whine from sour grapes around, Valentino Rossi just made another $19+ million this year for riding a 200+ HP motorcycle in MotoGP; Formula 1 and NASCAR drivers are routinely paid millions; worldwide, for some crazy reason, people who play with a ball are called "heroes". You can go on and on about why any sporting series has a "Champion"; you can even make the case that they glamorize truly nasty personal behavior, too, as sports figures end up in jail and rehab.

But this whole thread has nothing to do with justice. It's a whine about ordinary people being able to spend their earnings where they see fit, and the consequences of such a market.

Did you read anything that I wrote?

If you want the people who the market determines are worth high salaries to get them, that would be fine. This, however, is not that market. University sports, and the large institutions that surround them, are funded by universities, and, thus in most cases, by the states (since the larger and more successful college sports franchises are state universities, for the most part - I forgot Duke before because I was thinking of football). NFL franchises are, in significant part, funded by cities and states through taxes (since those stadiums have to be paid for by someone). Professional baseball, hockey, and basketball are less significantly but somewhat funded by cities as well (through the same mechanisms).

If people were paying their own way, then their right to spend their money on what they wish would be irrelevant. In this case, however, college sports are spending money that would otherwise have ended up going into education (you know, the stated purpose of universities). The ordinary people you point out are spending someone else's money. The outcomes of the market they are influencing are no longer an accurate reflection of what anyone thinks their real value is, because people value someone else's money very differently than they value their own. Your ritual invocation of market economics only works if you ignore what makes the market work - in this case, the contributions of money from states and local governments, and the distortion that imposes on the outcome as a result. Not surprisingly, the people on the other end of the funding pipeline (and who might otherwise get the money to do their jobs) figure that their money (in part, since it's really everyone's money) might be used for better ends. I am failing to understand exactly why their annoyance is misplaced.

actually, if people were spending their own money on college sports, our complaints would be irrelevant (not their right to spend their money how they wish, which would still be relevant).

If anybody is still reading this thread, and cares about what Beer and Circus had to report on this issue, I have what amounts to a book report up at my own blog.

http://saber-rider.livejournal.com/335528.html

If it's tl;dr, the basic results are:

Only the top winning teams come even close to paying for what they cost. The vast majority of athletic programs lose tons of money on it.

As a side effect, big sports programs (basically most NCAA Div I athletics) draw students away from studies and towards drinking their way through college.

As if it weren't bad enough for the university to be tossing money away on football and basketball, their students are told to "screw learning, suds it up!"