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Let's be honest: D-I sports are a business nobody calls a business

By RICK WOODSON
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
January 25, 2013

If you're not sitting down, you should be. And brace yourself, for I'm about to give you some shocking news. Ready or not, here it comes: The best college football conference in the country, the Southeastern Conference, spent $13,390 per regular student in 2010 and $163,931 per student athlete.
 
OK, so that isn't shocking news, given how important big-time college athletics are in our lives.
 
And to the surprise of no one--at least not me!--the SEC is No. 1 on the list for the biggest gap between academic spending per student and athletic spending per athlete. At the bottom is the Football Championship Subdivision, also known as Division I-AA, with $11,769 per student and $36,665 per athlete. Oh, and guess what? Alabama coach Nick Saban is the highest-paid coach on the planet at $5.5 million a year, which is only about $5 million more than the university president is paid.
 
Those numbers on how much more universities spend on athletes than on students come from the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes of Research, and although the big gap has been obvious for years now, I didn't know any of the details until I saw something about it on the USA Today website. From 2005 to 2010, spending per athlete by athletic departments increased twice as much as universities' academic spending per student. In 2010, the median for the Football Bowl Subdivision-Division I schools with football-was athletic spending per athlete 6.7 times greater than academic spending per student.
 
Those numbers didn't surprise me or anyone else who knows anything about D-I sports. It's a business nobody calls a business, because they won't admit that winning football games at that level is more important than a football star's grade-point average and infinitely more important than a "nobody's" GPA.
 
As I have said many times, a perfect example was Dexter Manley, who spent four years at Oklahoma State before going to the Washington Redskins. I'll never forget him saying during a Super Bowl interview that he couldn't read or write while he was in college--he was illiterate.
 
So if the head football coach wants to add a coach to his staff and the science department wants, or even needs, another professor, where's the money going to be spent?
 
Back in 2004, I came across a story on the Internet about a course at the University of Georgia called Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball. An example of a quiz given in the course included these questions: "How many halves in a college basketball game?" "How many goals are on a basketball court?" "How many points does a 3-point goal account for in a basketball game?"
 
It was not a joke--and I'm proud to say I aced that quiz!
 
I mentioned these spending numbers to a friend of mine, who suggested that much more is spent on sports because of travel expenses-games on the road-including lodging, meals, etc. And regarding that, another friend asked how much the debate team spent. How about the chess team? Too bad there's no Debate Bowl with 80,000 people paying to see it.
 
Stan "The Man" Musial died last weekend at age 92, but he will live in my memory forever. He was one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game and probably the greatest person ever to play the game.
 
I was an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan when I was in high school. At night down in north Louisiana we could get KMOX-AM, a 50,000-watt station in St. Louis, as clear as a local radio station. And I listened to the Cardinals, game after game after game, with Harry Caray, Jack Buck and Joe Garagiola.
 
If I had a date and the Redbirds were playing, I always told her, "If you don't want to listen to the Cardinals, then stay home." Yeah, I was sort of kidding, but not entirely.
 
Later, when I was in college at Northwestern State U., a couple of friends and I drove down to Houston one weekend to see the Cardinals play the Astros. It was Musial's next-to-last season, and in the first game he went 2-for-4, at least one of those hits a double.
 
Musial was never ejected from a game for arguing with an umpire about a pitch, a tag or anything else in his 22-year career. I think it was Garagiola who said on the air once, "If Musial ever questioned a call, the umpire would change it."
 
Musial would've played 23 seasons, but he was in the military in 1945. His career batting average was .331, and he led the National League in hitting seven times. Some pitcher once said the best way to pitch to Musial was to throw four pitches behind him, then try to pick him off first base.
 
Stan will always be remembered for what he was: The Man.

Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.1/25/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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