Tag: University of Texas

Sports ‘Donations’ a Flagrant College Foul

I love me some Georgetown University basketball, and am happy to pay for the privilege of possessing season tickets. (Well, that is when the Hoyas win pretty regularly and don’t deliver too many abominations like this one.) I’m also more than willing to make the hoops club “donation” that’s required to secure my seats. But it’s high time to end the ludicrous college sports scam—especially in light of our fast-approaching rendezvous with the “fiscal cliff”—that is the tax deduction for ticket-securing “charitable” donations.

My forced giving, to be honest, is pretty small: $100 per seat for some decent, lower bowl (though not center court) seats. But it’s not like I’m spending the dough to support, say, a new science center, or endow a professorship. No, it’s going to support big-time, constantly televised, money-making sports entertainment. And, of course, it is the fun of being an in-person fan—not my selfless desire to, say, engineer mitochondria to better serve humanity—that is animating my “charity.” Nonetheless, 80 percent of my donation is tax deductible.

At many big-time sports schools, and for better seats than mine, such forced philanthropy can be much pricier. At some institutions, such as the University of Texas and the University of North Carolina, it is impossible to nail down just how much people have to donate per seat beyond sticker prices because one accumulates donation points over time. Just to make it onto the UT benefits chart, however, you have to donate at least $150, and the top-line is $25,000. Texas A&M lets you know that for “priority” football tickets you’ll have to give between $45 and $3,900 per seat. And for most of the lower-bowl seats at the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, basketball season tickets require donations of between $850 and $5,000. But don’t worry—part of the price can be handled by corporate matching funds!

If people want to donate generously to college sports programs—including cash-cow football and basketball—that’s fine. And I don’t want government getting any more money than it already has … and flushes down noble-sounding toilets. But giving favored tax status to forced donations for season tickets, as if one were donating to famine relief or cancer research? Even without the nation facing a $16 trillion—and growing—debt, that’s ridiculous.

Cross-posted from SeeThruEdu.com

State Schools Kill Big East, Private Hoops in Critical Condition

A couple of years ago I predicted it (though I was hardly the only one): Darwinian conference predation, driven by football and the quest for television markets and money, would kill the Big East, and at least seriously hamstring the small, basketball-centric private colleges that made up so much of it. Huge, flagship public universities would consolidate power in service of football, I and others foresaw, and relatively small schools like Georgetown, Villanova, and St. John’s – which could never produce enough alums to regularly fill even close to 80,000-seat football stadiums – would be orphaned.

With the departure of the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference, that now seems almost unavoidable.

But this isn’t the fault of Pitt and Syracuse, or even the ACC (though perhaps the ACC deserves scorn for its 2003 raid of the Big East, and Pitt for its possible duplicity about its move). No, ultimately it’s the fault of a higher education system that gives flagship state schools massive size advantages over private institutions both physically and in terms of enrollment. (Though all of higher ed, of course, is awash in taxpayer dough.) This advantage is primarily thanks to taxpayer subsidies, which underwrite the schools’ gigantic enrollments and, too often, their athletics programs directly. So the ACC was largely reacting to moves by what’s now the PAC-12, the so-called Big 10 (which also has twelve members), and the impending destruction of the Big 12 thanks to the inability of two behemoths – the University of Texas and Texas A&M – to get along.

Indeed, in the grand scheme of big-time college sports, the ACC is the most friendly of the emerging ”superconferences” to private schools; with the addition of Syracuse it will have five of them, the others being Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College, and the University of Miami.  But it will almost certainly be considered the weakest of the superconferences in football, and if you look at the latest Sagarin ratings of the ACC schools, note the cellar-dwellers: Wake, Duke and Boston College.

This is depressing if you enjoy high-level, private school hoops. Of course, a few football-free private schools do enjoy regular success – Xavier, Gonzaga, and most recently Butler – but their resources are significantly smaller than the members of the current Bowl Championship Series conference schools, with lucrative BCS television contracts tied, first and foremost, to football.  So with the likely demise of the Big East, the going is likely about to get much tougher for the likes of Seton Hall, Providence, and other Big East, hoops-only schools, even if they are able to hang on to relevance.

Is federal anti-trust action needed to deal with this, as some have suggested? I’m no anti-trust expert, but I’d say absolutely not. For one thing, when this has been threatened before it has had little to do with fair competition, and much to do with federal legislators trying to get the flagships in their states in on the BCS. That will do private schools little good, and hardly seems motivated by a real desire for fair competition or justice. We should also hope that Congress will focus on other, more important things, like, say, getting Washington back to its proper constitutional size. And most important, attacking the BCS will do little to address the fundamental problem: As long as states furnish huge subsidies to public universities, those institutions will always have a massive size advantage is the world of college sports.

So good-bye, Big East. Government schools have killed you.