The Corner

Politics & Policy

Football Is a Luxury That Most Colleges Should Drop

Some years ago, I asked a professor who was from New Zealand what he thought about the obsession with intercollegiate sports here. He replied that he found it odd, since in his country, “College was for studying, not for sports.”

Maybe it’s time for American schools to rethink their costly commitment to big-time sports.

In today’s Martin Center article, Laurence Peterson, dean emeritus at Kennesaw State University, argues that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores what has been obvious for many years — that college football is a waste of resources and a distraction that schools should finally drop.

Peterson writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting universities to develop costly new teaching methodologies, require expensive campus protection strategies, and has caused severe revenue declines due to reduced enrollment. Consequently, universities expect to lose millions of dollars, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yet, surprisingly, no university administrators have canceled their high-cost, money-losing football programs to avoid academic cuts.”

Most schools lose lots of money on their football programs, requiring infusions of money from students and taxpayers. A good example is the University of Akron. About that institution, Peterson notes, “Now facing a $65 million budget shortfall, Akron’s administration cut its 2020-2021 budget by 19 percent. However, they are not planning more substantial reductions to their $34.6 million athletics budget, of which $12 million is football. Akron, other MAC schools, and most mid-majors are reluctant to drop football during a budget crisis, even as costs go up and student enrollments go down.”

Expensive football programs don’t benefit the students in general, nor do they provide long-run benefits for the players, few of whom ever play professionally and usually get a pathetic “college education” for their years of playing on the gridiron.

Peterson sticks the landing with his conclusion: “Even before the pandemic, the cost of college football and the buffet of other sports programs was an expensive luxury for most universities. Now is the time for higher education to critically assess the role of football, and all intercollegiate sports, on campus. At many schools, it may be better for leaders to cut their losses and refocus on their core mission.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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