Joe Nocero, business columnist at the New York Times, had an interesting piece in Sunday’s Play magazine about a proposal to expand Michigan Stadium to include a bunch of luxury suites. Nocero uses the debate to highlight the “arms race” in college football, even among small programs, to build bigger and better facilities to attract the best players.
In the case of Michigan, whose athletic department generates $87 million a year in revenue, Nocero figures the luxury boxes are a worthy investment. Not so for most schools, however. Less than a third of Division I college football programs make money, noted Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist.
That doesn’t stop places like Florida Atlantic University from taking on millions in debt for a chance at the big time.
Big-time college football is now so divorced from what actually goes on at a university as to be a kind of subsidiary, not even tangentially related to education….
As Sheldon Steinbach, the former general counsel of American Council on Education, puts it, “The most basic question of all is, who decided to get higher education into the intercollegiate athletic business?” But at this point, major universities are not about to shut down a big-time football program, the way the University of Chicago did in 1939. There’s too much at stake.