The argument as laid out in Sports Illustrated:
1. There’s a lot of money flowing into big-time college sports.
2. They should give some of that money away toward charitable causes.
3. But wait, many athletic departments are actually losing money. So …
“The first obligation is to restore fiscal sanity by using [the savings in salary] to plug that hole,” says Zimbalist, who also proposes reducing the number of football scholarships, having FBS schools cut spending on nonrevenue sports and instituting an NCAA football playoff.
The Zimbalist here is Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor who has done pretty much all there is to do in sports economics, from research on Ken Burns’s odes to baseball to a Title IX analysis with advocate Nancy Hogshead-Makar.
(I do have to mention that Zimbalist appears in Long-Range Goals, testifying on behalf of MLS players in their lawsuit against the league, much to the bemusement of Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner:
The players called sports economist Andrew Zimbalist to show how Division I competition could have driven up salaries. (Rhett) Harty’s 1996 salary, to give one example, would’ve been $115,275 instead of $41,356. Gardner was unimpressed: “For an entire session, this totally fictitious exercise dragged on, as the good Professor Zimbalist revealed charts and calculations to ‘prove’ what must have happened had a whole series of improbable conditions existed. They never did exist.”)
In the case of college sports, Zimbalist certainly understands the issue. It’s just curious to see him and SI‘s Alexander Wolff tossing aside nonrevenue sports as collateral damage.
But that’s not the first time we’ve seen such a suggestion from SI. Or elsewhere.
So if you believe in college soccer, swimming, track, volleyball, wrestling, lacrosse, tennis, golf, etc., you might want to start speaking up.
(The first “war on nonrevenue sports” post is here. I’ll start tagging them from now on. Not that I’m hoping for more.)