SMU's Turner: College Football Doesn't Need Playoffs. It Needs "Sensible Fiscal Reform."

An op-ed, co-written by SMU President R. Gerald Turner, has been circulating through the nation's newspapers in recent days; here's yesterday's pit stop in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in which Turner and William Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland system, argue that college athletics' business model is "on a path toward meltdown." Why come? Athletics cost too much and return too little, simple as that, and it's only getting worse:

A recent NCAA report noted that even football-generated revenue does not cover the operating cost of the football team at 44 percent of the institutions playing major-college football. Such figures would be worse if the millions in debt for stadium improvements and other facility enhancements were included. These are hardly profit centers at most institutions.

Now, consider all this in an environment where athletics costs are escalating at all but a few institutions while academic budgets are being cut and student fees and tuition are being raised. NCAA data show that the rate of increase in athletics spending in Division I programs is three to four times greater than the rate of increase for academic budgets. That is neither acceptable nor sustainable.

Turner, who co-chairs the 20-year-old Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, has been saying the same thing for years. But his recent remarks come on the heels of an October report from the Knight Commission that documents the disparities in programs and predicts doom and gloom in the near future: "There is a concern among athletic administrators that costs will continue to rise, but there are no more pots of gold to find."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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