We’ve suspected that Title IX would have something to say about even a small stipend for student-athletes. Kristi Dosh over at The Business of College Sports fills in those details and explains why, as she puts it, “Title IX provides an enormous road block to paying college athletes.”
Her explanation of how Title IX applies to this discussion is interesting enough, but she brings up another point that doesn’t get mentioned often enough.
The simplest fault line currently in college sports is the divide between the AQ BCS schools and everyone else. It’s where the money is, where the TV contracts are, where access to football’s biggest payoffs is. But as Dosh explains, that divide isn’t as sharp as being on one side or the other of the AQ velvet rope. “There are plenty of programs in AQ conferences who rely on assistance,” she writes. Often that support comes from student fees or directly from the school. In either case, students or taxpayers are often subsidizing the athletic department.
That’s the case even at Georgia. In 2009-2010, student fees contributed over $3 million of the athletic department’s $86.7 million in revenue. What makes Georgia and a handful of schools unique is that they don’t need that money to break even. While student activity fees might be icing on the cake at Georgia and a few other AQ schools, that’s not the case for schools like Iowa State. The Cyclones budget in FY11 calls for a meager surplus of just over $8,000. That’s on the back of student fees and “university support” totaling more than $2.7 million.
In an earlier post, Dosh looked at the AQ schools who rely most on student activity fees. Six programs from major conferences including the ACC,Big East, and – yes, even the SEC rely on student activity fees for at least 10% of their athletics revenue. The list is dominated by the ACC and Big East, demonstrating that even the monolith that is the AQ conference has its own internal fault lines. As schools like Texas are able to negotiate their own TV and marketing rights, the gulf even within conferences and divisions will grow between a few certain schools and the rest, even if the rest are fellow AQ schools sharing their own bowl and TV money.
The hard number is 14. Only “14 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools made money from campus athletics in the 2009 fiscal year,” according to an NCAA report. That’s after you exclude student and institutional support. Proposals for stipends and even COA scholarships will work at Ohio State, Texas, Georgia, and a handful of other schools. That’s where the money is in college sports. They can afford it, even if you consider the Title IX requirements. Those proposals won’t just price out the bottom half of Divison I though. The fracture won’t be at the AQ/non-AQ line.
Of course it’s not a requirement that an athletic department make money. Many schools are glad to subsidize the bottom line in order to remain competitive and market the school through its athletics. That institutional support has to come from somewhere. For public schools, would taxpayers mind extra public money going to the state school’s athletes? For public and private schools, would students approve higher activities fees so that the football team can have a little more walking around money? Those answers aren’t necessarily “no,” but they are questions that will have to be asked if schools are asked to increase the money they give student-athletes.
Are there alternatives? The so-called “Olympic model” that would allow student-athletes to trade on their names for endorsements while remaining eligible removes the school from the picture. That model isn’t without its own problems, but it would at least address some of the legal hurdles that arise from Title IX while enabling student-athletes to realize some of the value they create.