Phi Beta Cons

NCAA: Tell Us Why

Bill Thomas, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has sent a marvelous letter to the NCAA seeking justification for their tax-exempt status.

It notes:

Corporate sponsorships, multimillion dollar television deals, highly paid coaches with no academic duties, and the dedication of inordinate amounts of time by athletes to training lead many to believe that major college football and men’s basketball more closely resemble professional sports than amateur sports.

Other excellent points and questions:

Some representatives from college athletic organizations have justified the tax-exempt status of college sports based on claims that high-visibility programs help sustain a large pool of student applicant and generous financial contributions. Neither of these arguments is valid from a Federal standpoint. Federal taxpayers have no interest in increasing applicant pools at one school opposed to another. Furthermore, if financial contributions to universities increase based on athletic success, contributions to other worthy charities may decline.

The committee additionally requests information on these program revenues and expenditures, which should reveal a running sham – that most football or basketball programs generate revenue. A majority of football programs, at least, do not, and a significant number otherwise merely run about even. Expect schools to resort to considerable legerdemain to conceal program expenses. And, as the letter states, even when they do run a profit, this is no concern to the taxpayer – or, in fact, perhaps even greater reason to end the activity’s tax exemption. The letter scores additional hits:

..From the standpoint of a Federal taxpayer, why should the Federal government subsidize the athletic activities of educational institutions when that subsidy is being used to help pay for escalating coaches salaries, costly chartered travel, and state-of-the art athletic facilities.

How does playing college football or basketball in a highly commercialized, profit-seeking, entertainment environment further the educational purpose of your member institutions?
According to NCAA expenditure reports, public universities spent as much as $600,000 per men’s basketball player during the 2004-5 school year.
How does spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on each men’s basketball player further the educational mission of universities?
The NCAA has entered into an agreement with CBS to televise the men’s baskeball tournament. According to the terms of the agreement, CBS will pay the NCAA an average of $545 million per year in tax-free money.
How does the transformation of the NCAA men’s basketball championship into commercialized entertainment further the educational purpose of the NCAA and its member institutions?

It’ll be interesting to see what sort of blather about athlete-scholars the NCAA can devise in response.
Wait, I have an easy response – this is a transparent Republican assault upon minorities in higher education!


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