Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Just Stay Away From Jimmy. I Don't Want Him Coaching in Hickory When He’s Fifty.

College athletics is undoubtedly dirty and a complete cluster.  I’m sure the entire system will collapse for innumerable reasons and I can’t say I’ll miss it terribly when that happens.  But I am tiring of the “free market” arguments and incessant complaints that the athletes are indentured servants or worse. 

Through a Twitter back and forth with Sports on Earth writer (amongst other qualifications) PatrickHruby comes this post as a response to two of his articles. Also, this post from Andy Schwarz that talks about market collusion and provides a counterpoint to my primary premise. 

My belief… college bball and football are part of the “free market”… the entertainment market.  College football and bball are in competition with professional sports (including minor leagues) as well as any other entertainment venture that competes for consumer dollars. 

Athletes ARE a part of that market and the market has already set a value for their services.  They have options… they can become professional directly after high school (bball.. NBDL or Europe; football… CFL) or they can go to college.  Those individual athletes have ample opportunity to balance the pros/cons of each route and determine what the best deal is for them individually.  The vast majority of athletes choose to go to college because they’re making a rational decision that college sports is the best means to their preferred “end-point”.  If the player’s value was truly higher they’d be flocking in droves to minor leagues/Europe, which in turn would force universities to re-examine the price it pays for its athletes.  Isn’t that the definition of free market?  Why should colleges bid against themselves? 

From what I’ve gathered from Hruby’s previous tweeting and the two articles is that he believes strongly that college athletes are being taken advantage of and that they should be compensated more fairly.  Below are my thoughts on each article.

Red Herring #1 – Deloss Dodd’s $1 million+ salary and the comparison with all sorts of other important professions like the president.  Used to suggest that ADs aren’t worth their extravagant salaries. 

·         My take –   Drives me crazy when “market principles” are used to support the players value but then that same logic isn’t applied to other parts of the debate.  Universities pay LOTS for ADs not because they have to have someone to give all of those surplus dollars; they pay ADs lots of money because that’s what the market suggests a top-notch AD is worth.  And those ADs deliver a LOT of money back to the university… donors are often times the biggest funding source for university athletic departments. 

Red Herring #2 – “Drexel study estimated that if athletic departments shared their revenues in the same manner as professional sports the average fair market value of FBS college football and men's basketball players would be over $121,000 each, with Duke's basketball players each worth roughly $1 million and Texas' football players each worth $513,000.”

·         My take – “Markets” don’t exist in a vacuum (unlike academic studies).  A market price is determined by how much one entity is willing to pay for an asset/product/service.  The NCAA has a published price it’s willing to pay for an asset (re: player). European leagues, the NBDL, the CFL (and for upperclassmen, the NBA and NFL) are all part of the market also setting the price for those players.  If the players perceived value was higher, they’re free to go another route to achieve their full value. 

Red Herring #3 –“ Less money chasing the talent means more money chasing everything else.”

·         My take – Completely agree but it also points to a bigger question… would college athletics have the high TV ratings, packed stadiums, huge donor checks and sponsor dollars IF that “money wasn’t chasing everything else”.  Stadiums/facilities matter (yes, even Godzillatron). Having great coaches matter.  Great ADs and great conference commissioners matter (see Scott, Larry).  Conference TV networks matter.  You can’t say player X is worth a million while at the same time criticizing the investments that were necessary to make that player (supposedly) worth a million. 

Red Herring #4 - "It's like [the NCAA is arguing] that if we have to pay stipend to our quarterback, university intramurals is out the window," McEvoy says. "There's no way. Study a Division III athletic department for 10 minutes.”

·         My take – Comparing DIII athletic dept budgets, in which there aren’t any scholarships, with DI athletic depts. with $100 million budgets is a bit ridiculous. Perhaps the whole D1 house of cards won’t collapse but that money does have to come from somewhere.  Just suggesting that coaching costs and AD salaries are going to mysteriously go down is a bit pollyanish.  D1 schools are so heavily invested – Cal’s repercussions from its stadium renovation is a good example – that they’re all doubling-down.  Sinking a few million into upgrading a coach is a much less risky financial move then seeing your program lose relevance, lose ticket sales, lose booster donations, etc. 

Will the money come from cutting other sports?  Who knows but Temple’s recent announcement that it’s cutting 7 programs impacting 150 student athletes might be a window into the not-too-distant future to save football and basketball.  This follows similar cuts from Cal, UMass, Rutgers and Robert Morris. 

The 2nd article.  Perhaps I’ll dissect this on at some point.  But not today.

Headline Quote Movie of Origin: Hoosiers
Character: Myra Fleener
Setting: Female wet-blanket 1st ballot HOFer Myra Fleener doing her durndest to ensure Larry Bird doesn’t become Larry Legend.  (Jimmy Chitwood is based off the Hick from French Lick, right?)

The Quote is Relevant How? Jimmy’s only realistic escape from Hickory is playing college ball even though Myra Fleener thinks he can get an academic scholarship.  But she’s dumb.  

UPDATE: More color added to the conversation via Twitter.  Click to enlarge the image.  

Contact El Duderino at jaipf@hotmail.com.


JJH said...

Enjoyed your take. Regarding red herring no. 2 - if a Drexel study is used to estimate the value of a student-athlete, where is the counterbalancing study that estimates the marketing, publicity, training, health care, and more provided to the athlete? Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Horrible article. The players' market value is set by independent entities (here, the Universities) *bidding against each other* for talent. That doesn't happen because the Universities agree among each other to cap the value of what each one can offer players to the "reservation wage" (a GIA scholarship). If their market value wasn't higher than that, they wouldn't need the cap.

It really isn't more complicated than that. You are very, very wrong.