Monday, November 15, 2010

Eighty Students Needed to Cover College Football Losses

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-15

Some things are really starting to tick me off.

I got three kids and am looking at college costs.

They all play sports, but not the holy game of football.

My oldest is going to a small liberal arts school in the Lehigh Valley. Part of the reason he chose the school was they had a lacrosse team with a lousy record and a great guy coaching it. Liberal arts are all about learning and participation (yeah, we bought that line).

Unfortunately, the school discontinued the program right before the opening of the lacrosse season last year. They allowed the kids to play the year and got their fannies whooped by the other teams. But their small squad compared to the other schools' made me realize that my freshman son was getting more field time in one year that the other school's players would be getting in four years.

When the parents group from the lacrosse program tried to find out what was going on, it was the head of the football boosters that was one of the ones appointed by the school to "calm us down." I went away with a low opinion of the school, a lower opinion of college athletics, and an even lower opinion of football programs (I really think football is afraid of lacrosse.)

In today's paper was this article about Villanova Football trying to go to the Big East. (Disclaimer: I am a Temple grad, so I cheer for the Owls and anyone playing Villanova.) But the following passage struck me hard as a parent who is looking at schools as my high schoolers are getting to that age.

The following is from the middle of the article:

Q: Can Villanova make money playing Big East football?

A: That's not the right question. Villanova loses money now playing football in the Colonial Athletic Association at the Football Championship Series level, even as the defending national champion. The school spends almost $5 million, while taking in just $1 million in revenues. Expect the school to try to hit roughly that same mark right off the bat in the Big East, allowing for about a $4 million hit. The difference is that the school's spending will triple, but the TV and bowl shares would make up for it.

Q: What is the biggest expenditure?
A: Right off the bat, Villanova knows it can't keep housing the football offices underneath the stands at Villanova Stadium. It will need to build a facility for football like it did the Davis Center for basketball. If the Davis Center cost roughly $20 million, think more than $30 million for a football center, with offices, locker room, weight room, etc. That's outside of the yearly expenses.

I was immediately drawn to the $4,000,000 number. I wrote it out for effect. I then decided to take a look at how much tuition was at Nova. If you go down to the middle of the page you will see the following:

Estimated Annual Freshman Cost 2010 - 2011

Tuition $39,350
Room - Average of Types 3, 4, and 5 $5,640
Board - "The Alternative" meal plan $5,000
General Fee $300
Health Fee $280
Freshmen - All Colleges (includes laptop) $50,570

I like math. I am glad they get a laptop.

To cover the costs of the football program right now, Villanova is looking at, in terms of per student:

$4,000,000 it loses in the football program / $50,000 (we'll round down) = 80 students.

As a parent who is looking to educate my child, it is taking 80 kids' tuition -- or, rather, their parents' -- to field a football team that loses money. Maybe some people need to look into a good business school (Hey, Nova has one! link). Hmm... tuition for 2010-2011 is $92,000? Maybe not.

I could depress you even more by doing the math for the $20,000,000 or $30,000,000 figures put up in the article.

Yes, I know I can do this exercise for Temple or Moravian or whatever school. But part of the point also to be made here is that Colleges cost a bundle to deal with. What are the values of the particular college? Where are they putting your cash once they get it, or get it from your kids' future earnings?

With all the data coming out on head injuries coming from the sport of football, isn't it ironic that a student athlete will be taking on a huge debt to have an education concussed right out of his head before he leaves the school?

Instead of expanding this sport, would it be more ethical from a financial and physical standpoint to start constricting it?

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