SALT LAKE CITY —
Ours is a world of entitlement and assistance. People increasingly expect someone else to pay for their food, housing, child care, birth control and monuments in the park.
So why not have someone pay for college football, too?
Forget Obamacare, it's time for a little Goodellcare.
Much has been made of the deficits incurred by major college football programs. The offshoot is that longstanding conferences are being overturned in the name of money. Colleges formerly bound by tradition and proximity can't always afford to play the team down the street. There's a mad rush to join the conferences with big television revenue, in order to meet the staggering costs of keeping a major program alive.
The answer, though, isn't continued buildup. Rather, it's the concept of getting a helping hand. In this case, that would be commissioner Roger Goodell and the wealthy NFL, which for decades has been using the colleges as a farm system. Universities field football teams, which are partly funded by student fees and taxpayer money. The players get scholarships and the community gets a sense of unity and pride. But the NFL eventually gets the biggest prize: the best talent.
Then it goes on to make boatloads of money.
Meanwhile, a 2010 NCAA study showed nearly half (43 percent) of all college football programs are losing money, which raises the question of whether sports are worth the cost. That has been the subject of a lot of soul-searching and has included such radical solutions as storing college sports away with the raccoon coat and straw hat.
Reality is that teams don't get to big bowl games by being frugal. Sometimes the big spenders are the big borrowers, too. But in most cases, the NFL is getting rich while the colleges act like, well, research institutions, trying to rework formulas to find a cure.
The NFL, though, could be subsidizing a lot of the costs. Estimates are that the league earned $9.5 billion last season. A 2010 Forbes magazine story listed six NFL teams among the 10 most valuable sports franchises in the world. The league certainly seems rich, if it can maintain teams in small markets like Jacksonville, Charlotte, New Orleans and Green Bay, yet live without a team in Los Angeles. There's so much money that it reached a lockout agreement without missing a game.
The work stoppage wasn't based on survival as much as just deciding who got the house in the Hamptons and who got the property in Palm Beach.
If just a tenth of the NFL's estimated revenues were applied to the 120 big football colleges, it would amount to roughly $8 million per school — enough to put almost everyone in the black. That way taxpayers could sleep with the assurance their dollars were going toward biology, science and drama programs, not shoulder pads.
It's true that colleges also provide talent to the NBA. But basketball costs a fraction of football. If the NFL paid for football, the universities could handle the rest.
Football is both the bane and blessing of college sports. As expensive as it is, it keeps other sports afloat at many schools. If college athletics were limited to those that made money, there wouldn't be much of anything to watch except basketball and football, and only at certain schools. Just 14 universities, according to the aforementioned NCAA study, reported an overall athletic profit in 2009.
But dropping all college sports isn't the answer. Loyalty to schools not named Harvard is largely based on pride in the athletic programs. Remove that and what do you have? The University of Phoenix.
A place to get a degree, period.
At the same time, college sports shouldn't be so expensive they're bankrupting themselves.
The NFL can fix that by sending along some overdue assistance.
Getting the NFL to agree to such a plan wouldn't be easy. Nobody gets something for free, then happily starts paying. (Remember when air for your tires was free?)
Still, it would keep the best players coming. That is no guarantee if the colleges can't afford to field teams.
As they say in the commercials, investing in the future is always a good plan.
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1.Should the NFL subsidize college football? (Y/N)
2.Should universities do away with athletics? (Y/N)
3.Should college athletes be paid? (Y/N)