The University of Michigan is a great institution, probably the second or third best public university in the world.  I did not realize how great it is until today, when I found it has such a surplus of brilliant faculty, and such prosperous students who don’t need to borrow a penny to graduate right on time with a fine education, that it is going to pass up about nine fully-endowed chairs, or 40 ordinary full profs for six years each, or six thousand full-ride scholarships, to hire the ’49ers slightly used football coach.  Now that’s an academic program that knows its place, one that the football boosters can be proud of!

The athletic program claims to turn a profit (from experience, I am highly skeptical of cost accounting for college athletics financials) but things are so flush on campus that instead of wasting this money on students, classrooms, or teachers, Michigan seems to invest it all back into athletic facilities.

Michigan’s unemployment rate is almost down to 7%, and its population has stopped shrinking after seven years of flight.  There are those who think business seeks out places with a highly educated workforce and a great science establishment, but those people know nothing about economics: a winning college sports program is what grows a state’s economy; look at Alabama! In fact, all four states with playoff teams have median incomes in the top  (I hate it when the web doesn’t come up with the facts I’m expecting!) bottom half of states…never mind, those out-of-work Michiganders are proud to buy one, whatever it costs, and they deserve the best circuses the state can put on.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.