Comment of the Day: “Is Buzz Bissenger Right? Should College Football Be Banned?….”

You’ve read the Comment of the Day….now read the book!

In his Comment of the Day, Michael elaborates on the ethics of college sports generally, going beyond the original topic of major football programs. The expenditures on student athletes is an ethics scandal all by itself, as Michael makes clear. When the headlines in the D.C. area were all about Maryland cutting eight varsity sports, I was stunned to learn 1) that the university spent a whopping $67, 390 per student athlete, and that this was the lowest amount in the the ACC (as opposed to Florida State’s $118, 813).  What possible justification could there be for this, when tuition costs are already crushingly high? Michael’s post makes the answer clear: none.

Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day, on Is Buzz Bissenger Right? Should College Football Be Banned? Is He KIDDING? Of Course It Should…:

“What is shocking is how big an impact this has on college student lives and how little anyone actually cares about learning and how little people actually care about the college students.

“If you have seen the news recently, there is a debate going on about college loans. There are also stories every few days about the high costs of college and skyrocketing college loan amounts that are the next big bubble to burst in the economy. It is obvious that this is going to end badly, with devastating consequences for the students, the education system, and the whole of US, but no one wants to actually do anything about it. Everyone wants to just stick their fingers in their ears and hope it will all turn out OK like that mortgage-backed-securities thing did. If you want to get to the bottom of the problem, you first need to start looking at where the money goes.

“How much does college actually cost?”

“I have been teaching at colleges for over 10 years now. I go to meetings and they briefly flash the budgets on screens from time to time. They also show us budget breakdowns and show us what percentage of the cost goes to different units. What I have pieced together is that it costs about $14,000/year to educate a student at the small liberal arts college where I currently teach. Our tuition, however, is about $22,000. We don’t turn a profit. Where does the rest of the money go? It goes to sports! That’s right, fully 1/3 of the tuition dollars spent by EVERY SINGLE student goes to sports. It gets worse, students take out loans to cover the part they can’t pay for. They pay as much as they can, then they take out loans to cover the rest. This means that well over 1/3 of their student loan debt is to cover the cost of sports. I wouldn’t be surprised if well over 1/2 of the student loans on my campus were purely to cover the cost of our athletics programs.

“So what does this have to do with my state school?

“Well, a small, liberal arts college is probably the most inefficient way to educate people (costwise). I teach classes with 2-3 students every semester. My big classes have 40. At a large state university, a professor may teach a class with 600 students. They teach fewer classes, but they teach more students, so it is a cheaper way to teach. My state funds the state colleges and university by $18,000 per student (on average). The large state schools then charge an additional $10,000/year in tuition and fees. That works out to $28,000/year, but the actual cost of the education is less than $14,000. That means over half the cost is going to ‘extras’ like sports (remember, the football coach at Big State U. here makes more money than 150 faculty at my institution).

“The take-home message:

  • Education costs significantly less than college.
  • Sports are a major portion of the ‘extra’ costs of college.
  • College loans are used disproportionally to pay for these ‘extra’ costs.
  • The college loan burden and the availability of a college education can be vastly improved by cutting down on the ‘extra’ costs such as athletics.

“Oh…for the “But what about the students helped by athletic scholarships?”, here is something to think about. At my school, every student is paying about $8000/year for athletics (including the athletes). Few athletes get full scholarships, most are less than $5000/year. School is more expensive for them with an athletic scholarship than without athletics! In addition, the costs of the fields, travel, staffing, etc sucks up more than the tuition they pay. Without the sports, my school could either cut tuition or give away an extra $8000/student in academic and need based scholarships each year! Most of our students’ financial aid problems would disappear!”


Graphic: MacMillan

7 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Is Buzz Bissenger Right? Should College Football Be Banned?….”

  1. We need more stories like this. More charts and graphs showing the hidden costs of sports in Universities. When I bring this subjuect up to my friends who support college sports they always shut me down. Here in Ohio it is especially bad. Where I work there are banners, and logos, and Ohio State this, and Ohio State that, Ohio State the other thing……….and the college graduates who pander all this crap are working in a FACTORY!
    Sorry for the rant.
    The bottom line is that they all complain about the cost of college, and they turn a blind deaf eye to the reality of the situation. None of them consider the larger question of why, or is the right thing to do.
    From an ethical standpoint, (I’m a lay person) I’ll venture a guess that the way college sports are being financed is unethical. It should not take much to see that.
    I just don’t understand how people in general let it happen.
    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  2. I don’t see where either need-based or academic based scholarships are factored into Michael’s calculations.

    I don’t see why Michael thinks the $8000 difference goes to sports and not something else. He’s pieced this together from briefly flashed slides? I find the 8000 difference in budget and cost extremely suspect, but Michael’s assumption that sports are the only thing not covered is these budgets is worthless.

    Since all the conclusions are based on the numbers Michael uses, his post doesn’t seem to be worth highlighting, unless it’s to point out the silliness of his assumptions.

    • Isn’t Michael’s calculation consistent with the ACC figures? Seems so to me, and even if his figures are inflated, why should any substantial funds be devoted to athletics when tuition is so crushing?

      • Unfortunately, this topic will not ever get media exposure due to the fact that people such as myself that are against sports in school are in the minority.
        I don’t think I would be so against it if the NFL and the NBA did not use the colleges as minor league farm teams. Why not disclose to every student trying to enroll in a university how much of the tuition burden is going towards sport? Why not disclose the percentage of dollars that the university takes in on tuition that goes towards maintaining that new arena or stadium?
        If you want to be part of a sport university….fine. Go for it.
        It’s not right that the rest of use have to pay for it.

    • Thank you for implying that I don’t know how to do math. My $8000 figure comes from the fact that the cost of sports works out to $19,000/student on our campus. A little over 40% of our students are athletes. This works out to ~$8000/student.

      • For clarity, are you saying that $19,000 is the cost per “Division 1* athlete” therefore distributed across all students, the cost is $8,000 per “full-time undergrad”?

        (*I’m not sure if your school is Div 1, 2, 3 etc…)

        Also, does the $19,000 cost account for non-division level sport facilities, such as intramural or exercise related facilities? Do you have any opinion on such facilities or programs that may be fostered by the Athletic program? (example: Colorado State University has a Health and Exercise Science program.)

      • Ah, so you found $8000 a student the other way, and then rigged your numbers to match. Well done. I’m not implying that you’re bad at math, I’m saying that your assumptions looked like crap, and are now known to be pulled out of your ass.

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