Fact. College athletics does not contribute directly to the education enterprise. All the money that goes in stays in. It's either paid to coaches in salary or goes into facilities.
For kids, college athletics is a money sink. As more schools find they have to play the political game of college athletics, kids are charged for it.
My own son, now at Georgia State, is having to pay $85 per semester this year so GSU can field a football team. Why? Because football makes them a player in the legislature. It means they're no longer just a "commuter school" but a big-time competitor for funding alongside Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and the University of Georgia.
That's what college athletics is about. It's about winning the loyalty of legislatures for the rest of a school's agenda. When the big state school dominates the headlines, it dominates funding. That's the money sportswriters should be following, not the TV contracts but the appropriations.
The current hullaballoo over conferences is entirely political, although money is a convenient pretext. The Big 10 and SEC have their own networks, and now bring in billions of dollars, which they have used to dominate even minor sports, putting smaller conferences like Conference USA into the shade. The Big 12 had no such deal, and was becoming less-and-less competitive in those areas. So the Pac 10 decides to create a network, and when you're talking networks you're talking markets. Basically you're talking cable markets. How many people can you make pay a monthly fee to the cable company for the privilege of (if they want) watching the dominant local league?
The middle of the country has few big markets. It has Houston and Dallas, and that's about it -- although Kansas City and St. Louis aren't chopped liver. Still, compare the number of cable boxes that could be taxed in the Big 12 region to those in the southeast, on the west coast, or in the midwest, and you see the problem.
At the end of the dance there are going to be only 64 colleges left standing. Everyone else -- including Georgia State -- will be permanently minor league, unable to grab those cable dollars. The NCAA will be replaced by a new BCS consisting of only the top leagues. Which means despite its ambitions the big bucks will flow here to Tech and Georgia -- assuming a 16-team cable league can be formed by either the ACC or Big East.
Just remember as the dance continues it's not about you. It's not about education. It's not really about money -- not directly. It's about politics, about control of state legislatures through the power of publicity attendant to having a big name brand.
Personally, I'm glad my own school is well out of it. It makes a lot more sense, from an education and research perspective, to invest directly in education and research. Emory is a great school. Rice is too. Georgia State could be.
But they'd rather play football. And that's the tragedy here. Rather than hiring professors or building labs, schools have to try and get governments to fund these things through the magical power of having their kids destroyed on football fields. Have we really progressed much from those ritualistic Aztec blood sacrifices? I don't think so.
My wife is a Georgia State alum but she won't give the school a dime. When my son graduates, he'll say he gave in the form of his student activity fee. If you want these idiot policies to change you should do the same. Don't give money to your local football school. Don't vote their alumni into office. Make an issue out of it.
Because right now those college "president" asshats aren't listening to you.