So last week The Blade wrote an article and an editorial about athletic finances in the MAC. Here is the lede, which more or less tells you what you need to know.
The cost of athletics in the Mid-American Conference has risen more than 75 percent in the last 10 years — and students at the universities are footing much of the bill.This idea isn't new to anyone. I have written about it here many times. Essentially, college athletics only break even at a couple of schools in the whole country and the problem is much worse in the MAC. The losses are made up by student fees...so essentially students are subsidizing college athletics and MAC athletics.
Faced with these deficits, the article says that the MAC--rather than tightening its belt--went on a wild spending spree as part of an arms race with the P5 schools.
BG and UT are the least subsidized of any of the MAC programs, but even those programs are heavily subsidized by student fees.
BG and UT reps say that athletics are important to the University's enrollment. UT AD Mike O'Brien says athletics are "a big portion of the social life."
I'd feel better about that argument if I saw more students at the games. BG gets good crowds for football sometimes, but it dwindles as the game goes on. I don't see many students at basketball games and the student section is tiny, as if that was expected all along.
To be fair, BG is the lowest spending school in the MAC, and that includes supporting a D-1 hockey program. President Mazey justifiably expresses pride that BG has had the success it has while holding the line on spending.
But, you don't want to lose the larger point. Essentially, how long is it sustainable for college students to pay the salary of coaches?
The Blade wrote an editorial on this same point, and while it acknowledged that for students who love sports the fee might be fair, "maybe it is not for the student working two jobs to pay for college and watching tuition and fees rise." The editorial also called the spending "senseless" and "unjustifiable."
Even for students who are sports fans it is a steep bill. A BG graduate pays $3,200 to subsidize athletics...and would be better off buying tickets if they love the games that much.
Look, I love Falcon sports. I have loved them all my life. This blog is about my love of Falcon sports.
I just think the path this is heading on is obvious and unsustainable. (As a cautionary note, C-USA just signed a new TV contract that saw its revenue fall from over $15M to under $3M). There's a limit to how much you can force college students to pay for the salaries of football, basketball, and hockey coaches, particularly when you don't see more than 20% at a game. Either more non-student money is going to be needed (and all of it from people who have a choice), or you're going to have to start spending less. Like, a lot more of the first or a lot less of the second.