At the Mercy of Big-Time College Athletics

Inside Higher Ed passes along some interesting survey results:

College presidents recognize the need for major changes in big-time college athletics but doubt they can do anything to bring about reforms, according to a new survey of campus leaders released Monday by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics at a meeting to mark the group’s 20th anniversary.

Ninety-five college presidents whose institutions compete in the 119-member Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association were asked a set of qualitative and quantitative questions this past spring and summer about the costs and financing of intercollegiate athletics at their institutions.

Though two-thirds of the presidents expressed optimism that their athletics programs would remain financially sustainable in their current form, less than half expressed similar optimism for many of the other institutions in their conference. More telling of the presidents’ global concerns about big-time college athletics, less than a quarter thought athletics were sustainable at institutions that play in the bowl subdivision nationally.

A major issues was coaches’ pay:

Details from the qualitative portion of the survey suggest that presidents find skyrocketing coaches’ salaries to be “the greatest impediment to sustainability.” Eighty-five percent of the presidents believed that “compensation was excessive for football and basketball coaches.”

Good luck telling booster clubs and alumni organizations that coaches should make a lot less. I wouldn’t hold my breath when it comes to any major foundational changes in how college sports operate at the highest levels.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.