So, Johnny Football gets in trouble with the NCAA for presumably autographing merchandise for pay and what is the response? We need to pay those poor abused college football players. With the exception of a few more level heads in the "sporting press", most vocally Colin Cowherd, that seems to be the consensus lesson learned from the recent episode involving Johnny Manziel. One thing that is noticeably absent from the general conversation about the economics of college football is that with the exception of about 15 schools no one makes money and most schools can only balance the budget by taxing the students in the form of an athletic fee and subsidizing the physical facilities used for athletics from university money under the guise that these facilities are used by all of the students. Yet football not only persists, but like a cancer which metastasizes even after you think you've surgically removed it, it grows even as it costs the patient valuable resources. The case study below the design being a case in point.
About 10 years ago East Tennessee State made the decision to drop its FCS level football program because it was losing $1.5 million per year. This decision held until a new president came on board. The pro-football forces mounted an offensive and, guess what, IT'S BACK! Of course ETSU doesn't have any football coaches, equipment or even a stadium and doesn't know where to put one. No problem. They hired Phil Fulmer to consult and he found them a head coach who is now hiring staff. The university closed its 2012-2013fiscal year the end of June with a $3 million dollar deficit. No problem. They'll have a hiring freeze (except as noted for football) and hit the students with an additional $125 in taxes (oops I meant to write fees). The president feels good about that because the student senate approved it. Of course when that fee went to the whole student body for a vote 6 years ago it lost. So what if the program in Mass Communication just lost accreditation? So what if the Masters in Elementary Teaching was ranked 163rd out of 163 program nationwide by the National Council on Teacher Quality and US News and World Report? ETSU's going to have football and renew the glorious tradition of perpetual losing teams established from 1970 to the end of the program. After all, in response to the Tennessee State Building Commission's approval of planning for a new football stadium Lt. Governor and Senate leader Ron Ramsey (R-Kingsport) stated “The return of football to the ETSU campus will enrich university life in so many ways. But the first step to building a great football program is building a high-quality facility. I’m excited that the commission has approved this outstanding project.” (Of course the fact that he chairs the SBC probably didn't have any influence.) So what if the cost will be north of $18 million and student taxes will only cover $7.5 million. Senator Ramsey has the solution. “I’d say some of it’ll be through private fundraising and some through some state funds. And that’ll be my next project; to make sure we can come up with that money to make sure this happens.”