The business that is college football
In the world of sports, everything has a value. Players, coaches, equipment and facilities all come at a cost, especially in the college arena. Each of these things is highly valued, and can make a big difference in the success of a college athletic program. Particularly in college football, players and coaches are chosen to produce a winning team, often at the expense of others. In this way, both college football and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are no different from businesses in terms of how they conduct their affairs.
The most obvious example of the business side of college sports is seen through the athletic scholarships awarded to exceptional high school athletes. These scholarships are offered to convince athletes to attend certain schools and, depending on the capability of the athlete, can be worth a large sum of money. But where does the money for these scholarships come from? The truth is, college athletic budgets are supplied in part by the tuition fees of regular students. And although some schools make it clear that a portion of their tuition will be going to their athletic departments, others simply attach unspecified hidden fees.
This is a major problem, as a USA Today study found that as much as 23 percent of a student’s annual in-state tuition can go towards athletic funding. Therefore, athletic costs are a major factor behind the rapidly increasing price of college tuition. As teams become more and more competitive and seek to improve their programs, their athletic bills increase dramatically. Not only does this augment the price of attending college, but since sports have developed into a major part of campus life, the expenses to build these teams seem unlikely to decrease anytime soon.
However, college football itself could be considered a business based on much more than just tuition prices. By simply looking back at the 2010 season, one can draw a number of comparisons between college football and the business it is steadily becoming.
A major example of this development can be seen through the actions of Cecil Newton, who requested money from Mississippi State during the college’s recruitment of his son. Though it is still unclear whether or not Newton received any money from Auburn, his actions illustrate a number of problems with the current system. Though NCAA rules do not make it clear that such actions are illegal, just the fact that an athlete’s father would try to solicit money for his son’s services is harrowing. Such negotiations between colleges and the athletes they recruit are immoral, and despite not being specifically prohibited, show how college football has become a business in itself.
Another example from this season deals with the controversy over conference extension and the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Since only six of the 11 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conferences receive an automatic BCS bid, a number of schools took part in negotiations to switch conferences earlier this year. One significant discussion that took place was between Texas Christian University (TCU) and the Big East, which sent the University of Connecticut to the Fiesta Bowl this season. As only an eight-win team, many believed Connecticut undeserving of a BCS bid, which is in part why TCU signed a deal to join the weak Big East Conference in 2012. This again illustrates the business side of college football, as competitive teams have been encouraged to switch conferences in order to increase their own opportunity of playing in a BCS game.
Once dependent on competition and the spirit of the game, college football has evolved into a business. Now revolving around negotiations and monetary exchange, the game itself is slowly being overshadowed by behind-the-scenes discussions between teams, coaches and players. It is a development that needs to be reversed, allowing the sport to return to its days of fierce competition free of business worries.