Sports are a meritocracy. They aren't polluted by politics. You climb based on your greatness. On merit. And that feels fair. But it is odd that the governing body for all of college sports would feel so far from that.
The University of Connecticut is the symbol for women's basketball, right? Championships. Ten thousand fans in the seats. Millionaire coach. It is the standard in female sports and one shining moment for Title IX. But Connecticut's program lost money last year, spending $723,900 more than it made. This while paying its coach more than that in his $8 million deal.
Funny that the person who would make out best in this particular Title IX transaction would be the man.
The most successful female program in sports, mind you, can't support itself. Needs welfare. And, according to data obtained by Bloomberg through the Freedom of Information Act, women's basketball bleeds money all over America. Bloomberg reports that the 53 public schools in the six largest conferences lost $109.7 million in 2010. This while the men's teams at those same schools in those same conferences had operating profits of $240 million, according to Bloomberg.
You see what's happening there, right? Football and men's basketball are paying for everything in college sports -- which is part of why the athletes making the most money aren't allowed to be compensated for it. Instead, part of those earnings go to fund the broken model and another part of it goes to make sure Kentucky coach John Calipari gets $31.65 million, two cars, a country club membership and bonuses.
And you wonder why Cam Newton's father is creeping around in the shadows with his hand out. When government rules are wrong, the only choice is anarchy. And by not allowing athletes to work like all the other students, you beg athletes to break your rules, thus stigmatizing them. What does the NCAA do to fix this? Punishes some Ohio State kids for getting free tattoos, dictator style. Off with their helmets! Make a symbolic statement of fear that echoes throughout the land, so the helpless peasant labor knows to behave. But not before letting him play in the bowl game that brings everyone else millions.
Why is our government spending seven years chasing Barry Bonds with torches and pitchforks instead of pouring that kind of money, time and zeal into prosecuting the fraud CEOs who wrecked America's economy? Because the government and CEOs were linked by the system, in business together, and so, too, it is with the NCAA. The authority figures all around this broken system are profiting off it, so there's no incentive to fix it.
The NFL and NBA aren't going to object. They get free minor leagues out of the deal, which is kind of amazing. The school presidents aren't going to object. They've got rich boosters giving them money to be near football and basketball. The coaches aren't going to object. They get fame, glory, promotions and millions off the back of free labor. Why would Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker want to fix anything when the BCS system was allowing him to allegedly spend 33,000 Fiesta Bowl dollars on his birthday party, 13,000 Fiesta Bowl dollars on an assistant's wedding and 1,200 Fiesta Bowl dollars in a strip club before being fired last week?
The kids get free education . . . that's always the argument on the other end. Free education is priceless and utopian. Who doesn't want to believe in that? But you might believe in it far less if you saw that it was something between a mask and a lie. First of all, it isn't free. The kids are working for it, paying with their time and bodies. Second of all, the inner cities are being mined for talent and the flabbergasting TV money for basketball and football more than covers the cost of school. So what you get instead is the NCAA becoming royalty so disconnected from the starving masses it is meant to serve that it says, "Let them eat free education" instead of "Let them eat cake."
HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel reports that if Duke basketball players had gotten to share revenue the way the NBA and NFL do, each player would have been worth $1.2 million last year.
But back to UConn -- the Duke of the women's game. Title IX legislates equality? Yes and no. It isn't equal, in a capitalist model, that North Carolina on average charges fans $45 to watch the men and $9 to see the women. It isn't equal, in a capitalist model, that men's basketball signed a $10.8 billion TV deal whereas the women's basketball deal is worth $163 million (when packaged with 21 other championships, including men's lacrosse). It isn't equal, as sports economist Andrew Zimbalist told Bloomberg, that the male coach of the shining tribute to Title IX would get an $8 million extension through 2013 while his program bleeds money.
"It's insane," Zimbalist told Bloomberg. "You show me a Fortune 500 company that would be profitable if the CEO got 75 percent of the revenue."
Ah, but there's the hiding place . . . be a business while pretending not to be. The NCAA claims to not be a business. It claims to not be a business while Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz makes more than $3 million a year. It claims to not be a business while Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops gets 35 hours a year, contractually, of a private jet's use. It claims to not be a business while Alabama coach Nick Saban gets all those Calipari and Stoops perks (country club memberships, cars for family, private jet, bonuses), and the average Alabama professor makes $116,000 a year. There isn't a business class on any campus from here to China that can teach you how to not be a business like that.
And you know what happens when you tax-claim to not be a business while funding the losses in women's sports and filing it under equity?
You not only avoid a Title IX lawsuit, but you also get the $771 million in TV money for just this year's men's basketball tournament and you get the millions and millions of dollars in federal aid appropriated to state-run schools.
The NCAA is right, of course.
It isn't a business.
It's a sports-sanctioned and government-funded scam.