Is There Too Much Emphasis on College Football Programs?

In a July 31, 2009, article in Newsday, columnist John Jeansonne inquires about how long athletic departments can sustain the exorbitant spending for elaborate facilities, travel, large rosters sizes, and other costs in support of college football. Jeansonne prsents the argument that with less money to go around these days, but no less demand for diversified athletic opportunity by both male and female students, something has got to give.

Penn State University professor and researcher John Cheslock, who is leading the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics’ efforts to study the finances of college athletics, is quoted as stating: “One thing I can say with some confidence is that we see really substantial growth in the percentage of expenditures [on football], year-to-year, and because of that, you won’t have as much subsidy for the other sports. The pressures to succeed, to win, are so high, and you have alumni with really strong feelings, these powerful interest groups, just like you see in politics. I think, sometimes, some benefits [of big-time college sports] are overstated, but the individual athletic director and president face severe pressure to compete and win. They don’t want to say there are negatives to doing this, and I think a lot of them would be fired quickly if they did.”

The article explains that the current economic climate is widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, with those college football programs that are not part of a significant television revenue contract, being forced to spend more money to compete at the expense of the needs of other sport teams, or potentially, other campus programs.