End Sports Cronyism

Florida editorial via the Crony Chronicles

The problem with [the theory that sports subsidies help the economy] is that there is scant evidence that such economic benefits actually occur. Numerous studies done over the last 25 years have found that professional sport teams have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy. Usually, a new team or a new stadium location doesn’t increase the amount of consumer spending, it merely shifts it away from other, already existing sources. Entertainment dollars will be spent one way or another whether a stadium exists or not. Plus, the increase in jobs is often modest at best — nowhere near enough to offset the millions invested in the projects.

It's amazing they got the local paper to print this.  Most local papers would be defunct without a sports page.  As a result, local newspapers generally bring to bear tremendous pressure in favor of subsidies to attract and keep new professional sports teams.   Our local paper the AZ Republic tends credulously publish every crazy, stupid benefit study of sports teams on the road to promoting more local subsidies for them.


  1. LarryGross:

    If the US is nothing else, we are a sports-centric country. It pervades our society form the pros to colleges to even K-12 ... I doubt the average person cares about this at all. Just look at March Madness right now. How many of those baseketball teams built their sports venues purely from non-student money and even then why would you have a for-profit activity as part of an academic institution?

  2. john mcginnis:

    Let me tell a tale. I lived in St. Pete, FL for about a decade. The city council decided to build a `multi-use sport complex` under the Field of Dreams theory. There was no sports expansion going on at the time so one would have to entice another team to the area. Problem is there was no need for baseball. From New Port Richey to Fort Myes most of the MLB teams wintered there. Each year the Florida series of inter team trials would start. You could get in for $2 and watch a decent game. Football the same only slightly less so.

    Well it got built. It took them 5 years to get a team -- The Devil Rays. It was a losing proposition from the beginning. Still is. Taxes escalated. City was nearly down graded by rating agencies. Well the voters had their vengance. Not a single councilman/woman who voted for that whale remained in office.

    If stadium building was a positive money maker the owners would be building the things themselves.

  3. LarryGross:

    well..exceptionally "profitable" - but not for taxpayers.. but happily supported by "sports fans" taxpayers.

  4. Matthew Slyfield:

    So you can claim the athletes are amateurs and there fore not have to pay them?

  5. LarryGross:

    huh? I'm saying that taxpaying "sports-lovers" gladly pay for the facilities whether they be pro or amateur. It's what the country is basically about for many folks these days.

  6. marque2:

    I always found it odd that a billion dollar facility that is used 9 - 18 times a year, and occupies 60 some acres is actually more beneficial than having the land used for some other purpose. Putting an industrial park down, for instance, would employ more people and probably cost much less, and enhance the economy to boot. .

  7. Florida is a big state:

    Could not agree more with the editorial, but there is a bunch of geography in play here. Panama City in the central time zone is 450 miles as the crow flies from Miami in the Eastern time zone. Los Angles and Phoenix are closer together so the good folks in north Florida have no interest in financing professional sports venues hundreds of miles away. In fact, many of them are Atlanta sports fans.

  8. Florida is a big state:

    Yes, close to home, but not hundreds of miles away.

  9. Matthew Slyfield:

    You asked why you would have a for-profit activity as part of an academic institution. The universities all claim that the students are amateurs so the athletes (the labor) are free or close to it. Quite frankly the athletes them selves in most university sports programs would probably be better off if they were playing for a semi-pro league.

  10. LarryGross:

    Are you saying that the Universities should get rid of their "amateur" sports programs that are funded from mandatory student fees and non-academic like sports business activities?

    I think it's the association with the school that attracts "customers" as much or more so than the caliber of the athletes especially in programs not at the top or in the top tier.

    I consider sports and the way sports is now done at academic institutions as corrosive to their basic mission. I was fine when they had an intra-mural framework and function but when they started to function more like the pros - including things like the stadium/indoor venues/facilities and overall marketing to the point where the Head Coach makes more than the President of the University - we've got the tail wagging the dog - in academia.

    And... I don't blame them - they are merely responding to a need - a demand from people who just love their sports even if Universities become weird academic/sports hybrids but all of this also carries over into the pros and semi-pros for many sports and in general local/regional taxpayers usually support the taxpayer-financed facilities. In a few celebrated cases, they balk when the purveyors of the sports venues get too greedy and/or the costs just get out of hand or ....sometimes.. enough taxpayers see what is really going on and rebel.

    but all in all - most folks love sports pro and academic and support the facilities that are built - even if with taxpayer and student fee money.

    POGO - "we have met the enemy...... "

  11. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Are you saying that the Universities should get rid of their "amateur"
    sports programs that are funded from mandatory student fees and
    non-academic like sports business activities?"

    No, but with the kind of money the mainline sports bring in they should stop insisting that the athletes are amateurs and pay them and let them do endorcements etc.

  12. DrTorch:

    Actually, the Arizona Republic printed something similar back in 1989, the results of a U of IL study (IIRC) that said essentially the same thing. This was even as they were trying to get the votes for a Phoenix publically funded baseball stadium. That vote failed, I believe. Then Scottsdale took over.

  13. marque2:

    Um I think as usual you are confusing things.

    There are sport programs which are open to all students that are lightly funded by student activity fees, and they can involve competition if the student chooses. These are things like ski club. Tae Kwan Do club, etc. Students generally have to pay their own transportation, and activity fees (eg purchasing a lift ticket) on their own. The varsity sports teams get their funding - rightfully from student tuition, alumni donation, and gate fees, from Football, baseball, and Basketball.

    If the student is not interested in sports they don't have to go to the games. If they are - usually the university has a discount pass for the students. Something like 80 bucks a year and you can see all games.

    Again we have no idea what you are talking about Larry, cuz you live in a parallel universe of your own making.

    I don't know why I am feeding the trolls today. Maybe I am in a good mood.

  14. marque2:

    Generally the sports programs from the Athletic department are self funding from sport student tuition, alumni donation, and gate fees.

    Student activity fees go to club sports which all students can participate in - however not much of these fees actually goes toward the club sport( students pay for their own uniform, transportation, and entry fees- and training). Student fees also go to maintain sport facilities for general exercise My college had a gym, pool, and track open to all students. I thought it was worth a small fee to have these facilities available to me. Sports had separate exercise facilities.

    Students interested in seeing sports events from the athletic department could purchase a sports activity pass, which was about 80 bucks (in year 2000) for the whole year - and included a "yearbook" of school events. I could see all the football/basketball/baseball games using this pass.

    As usual I am not sure what system they use in Larry's parallel universe, but it would be interesting to study.

  15. obloodyhell:

    Well, the hilarious thing is that it was in St. Pete, but they named them the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. So it was a long ways from Tampa but didn't even have the locality's name on it. The Tampa fans wouldn't drive that far, and the St. Pete people had nothing to self-identify with. Retarded. Utterly Retarded.

    That's at least part of the reason it was a losing prop.

  16. obloodyhell:


  17. obloodyhell:

    Well, actually BASKETBALL does tend to be moderately self-financing. In the case of any school with a major football team ("any team that goes to a bowl game more than once in 10 years", at a guess), in particular,

    THAT is the source of most of the sports money, and some of them even put more money into the system AFTER they pay for all the other team sports the school plays.

    Basketball is moderately inexpensive as sports go, and usually the venue serves other duties. At UF in Gainesville, FL, for example, the O-Dome houses the Olympic-grade swimming and diving facility, the volleyball and gymnastics facilities, an indoor track venue, and it also handles large music concerts attended by thousands. There also is, or was, a weight-training facility. Even for schools with only a "gym", they hold classes in related sports or sports needing room to move -- karate, fencing, and the like. The UF basketball team is pretty much self-financing, which isn't all that common, but they aren't a full drain, either. "Good" years ("sweet-16 years") they do have a positive balance.

  18. LarryGross:

    no confusion here Marque2 - there are many universities and colleges that have intramural sports that serve all students for their fees and they do not participate in big time sports and those that choose to go there think they are better off academically because of it. Say MIT or Cal Tech, etc...

    there are other Universities and Colleges that participate big time in sports - to the point where the varsity sports programs dominate the University and a single coach can get more compensation that the President does.

    there is no parallel universe nimrod ... these facts are known and published widely with questions about whether or not big time sports is the rightful mission of higher ed.

    you're unprincipled guy if you say you won't respond to trolls then do..but that's typical of those who lack principles to start with, eh? either do what you say guy or admit who you are.

  19. LarryGross:

    if the sports venue is truly multi-use and serves many sports beyond those that "make money" then that's fine. But how many big time football stadiums serve other uses also? And how good is it for any University to "hire" players who are academically not qualified to start with and do not participate academically like other students? Duke is one that does. Who else?

  20. obloodyhell:

    BTW, you guys don't GET how sports influences universities. I recall a *female* high school classmate (decades ago) who chose to go to FSU over UF, despite the fact that UF is and was a mostly better school, including in her major area.

    Her stated reason? FSU (at the time) had a better football team (yeah, I did say DECADES... LOL).

    This was no sports jock, here, I don't recall her ever mentioning sports around me, though we weren't close.

    Not saying all people make that decision so overtly, but it's something that gets factored into many peoples' choices. And a lot of "legacies" (i.e., people who choose a university because their parents went there) are often sports fans of that university... the parents are boosters (Booster fees at UF *start* at 1,000 a year -- and that means at least 40 million a year at a minimum just from seating **at least** 40k boosters -- the stadium holds 90k, btw -- the other half is student tickets), and have made college sports a large part of the students' growing up and self-identity.

    (Note: The basketball gym seats around 10k. Not sure how that works out for boosters, if there's overlap, or what)

    When you're not a sports jock, you don't tend to grasp the fervor of sports fans -- even those that are non-jocks.

  21. marque2:

    Larry I went to USC, a big time sports university. They have both, A gym/competitive intramural program(general student population can compete against other schools in sports they like to play), and an Athletic department which is self funded by Student tuition, Alumni donation, and Gate fees.

    When I was a student there, my tuition and fees did not go to the Athletic department, it went to the Engineering department. I was assessed a bit extra for the gym and student common areas - student government and VOLUNTARILY spent 80 bucks so I could get a game pass.

    You are flapping the lips (fingers) and have no idea what you are talking about.

    I suspect you just resent the fact that some folks would prefer to learn how to increase the athletic use of their body rather than get a Sociology degree.

  22. LarryGross:

    oh I'm familiar with sports "fervor" and yes..the fact that women also are enthused about it but sports is not academic and not every University/College finds the need to have it part of their mission. Others do and some do it to the extent that the mission of the academic institution is overshadowed by the sports aspect - in terms of salaries, academically unqualified players, facilities, etc.

  23. LarryGross:

    @margue2 - quite a few words besides mine have been written on the subject, nimrod. do you want links?

  24. marque2:

    Quite a lot has also been written how the tuition from students in the Business school end up subsidizing the arts and Humanities departments to a much greater degree. But that goes well with the liberal agenda. Screw those Business students, and hate the jocks because they have special skills.

  25. Matthew Slyfield:


    I am not talking about all the athletic programs. The mainline team sports football, basketball and baseball are run like a business from the management end of things but the Unis pretend that the athletes are amateurs and so they aren't (are actually prohibited from) receiving anything of significant value in exchange for their labor.

  26. LarryGross:

    but why are the universities involved in this non-academic activities in the first place?

    not all universities/colleges _are_ involved ... so it's not like it's universal and mandatory.

    it's basically something that people want ... not something that academics needs.

  27. Matthew Slyfield:

    I don't care why as long as the universities involved acknowledge that it IS a business and the athletes are NOT amateurs. My issue is with the exploitation of the athletes who usually get nothing out of it other than a degree that has no economic value.

  28. LarryGross:

    ha ha ha.. absolutely no question that jocks have special skills but how do they fit into an academic institution much less dominate it?

  29. marque2:

    I am feeding you well today. Universities are about learning to expand your innate skills. Studying how to throw a football is just as valid an educational pursuit as any other subject in college.

    And as far as ranking, I think throwing a football is probably a better use of college than learning to be a sociologist, or museum curator.

  30. obloodyhell:

    }}} But how many big time football stadiums serve other uses also?

    Why does this matter as long as it pays its own way and (usually) pays for other sports as well? I'm obviously not speaking for every program, but most football, at least the top 50+ teams, more than amply pays for itself, either directly or through donations.

    }}} And how good is it for any University to "hire" players who are academically not qualified to start with and do not participate academically like other students?

    This is less common than most people presume. There are players who need a lot of remedial work, but usually they're going to go pro early and have the kind of natural talent that pays millions in the pro arena just to start with. The ones who can't hack it academically are much less common than you think. Football is no longer a stupid-player sport. You have to understand key aspects of the game in terms of complex defenses and offenses and how to recognize what your opponent is doing and respond very quickly to it.

    They're not going to get in on their Math SATs, no, but even the football programs, if you exclude people who go pro early, aren't producing drains on society by any measure. Similarly for basketball and baseball programs. Can't speak for track, volleyball, gymnastics, or tennis, but I suspect those people have careers training and coaching, if nothing else.

    I personally think the universities SHOULD be allowed to provide a fixed, but reasonable stipend to football players while in school, based on typical living expenses and living wage in the locale of the school (not necessarily 100% of that, but some reasonable amount). The pure amateur crap is exactly that, crap.

  31. obloodyhell:

    Meh. They get a degree in something if their sports careers don't work out, it pays their bills through school. I don't see it as all that big an issue. Football usually pays its own way, is not a drain on the academic coffers in a lot of cases, and if not, happens to help pay for other sports and their scholarships.

  32. obloodyhell:

    }}} Others do and some do it to the extent that the mission of the academic institution is overshadowed by the sports aspect - in terms of salaries, academically unqualified players, facilities, etc.

    The only way it overshadows' the academics is if it brings in the big bucks. When the school is making tens of millions off the football program, it's paying for all the other sports programs, AND funnelling money back into the school, why the hell would you think that the coaches salaries should NOT be among the highest, if not the highest, at the university. Esp. given that lots of donations occur as a direct result of a winning program?

    The only objection I'd ever accept is if you have a culture of entitlement in the area around the school, where some jock can do something truly illegal and/or seriously immoral (rape a woman or beat a local) and get away with it. Happens, but not that much, not if the coach is worth a damn and/or the NCAA is paying attention. Just as common is a tension between the locals and the school officials.

  33. LarryGross:

    what pays their bills? would a college let other non-sports come there and get a scholarship if their academic credentials were as low as some sports players?

    it's not about academics. Not even everyone can take "football 101", right?

    why do some universities and colleges not offer competitive varsity sports and scholarships for them?

  34. drB:

    Marque2 is completely wrong and his assumptions about "light fees" are not correct. Here are the data for athletic program subsidies at schools:


    Only in about 7 schools there are no subsidies; in other schools, subsidies range from next to nothing (A&M) to over $30M (Nevada-Las Vegas). From what I can tell, the "subsidies" do not include student fees, so in reality they are larger. A typical school takes in $100-300M in tuition/fees; so in many cases, 10% or so of this income gets blown on something academically completely useless. Talk about rising school costs. The best way to decrease that would be to prohibit use of public money for any sports. Why would taxpayers have to pay for a "educating" someone how to throw a football?

  35. marque2:

    Yeah Larry an article about a few basket case schools males me completely wrong. If you are talking public schools just how Mich is the humanities department subsidized? Of course everything is subsidized to some extent in a public school. They combine low tuition with government inefficiency.

  36. LarryGross:

    there is the matter of land also.. and maintenance and operations.... infrastructure, etc.

    so Marque2 the "libertarian" is just fine with sports subsidies for schools?

  37. drB:

    The article is about not a few basketcase schools (most of them are basketcase, over half of them have sports subsidies over $8M), but about there being only few schools (SEVEN) which do not drain resources from academics by useless sports. And it is not expenses vs. gate receipts, it is SUBSIDIES, e.i. money athletics takes out of school budget thus increasing student tuition. I do not see how kicking football benefits society at large and why should TAXPAYERS subsidize that. I can see how good engineers would benefit society at large, but unfortunately money from their education is siphoned off by useless sports which is entertainment and not an academic program. Additionally, lets not shift the topic of discussion - we talk about sports and not humanities.
    Numbers are difficult to argue with, and they say that sports gets heavily subsidized.

  38. Jim Hodge:

    "Jim Hodge - Allied Home Mortgage have been attacked by lawyers and the liberal press. A self made man of humble means is working hard to restore the jobs lost by these baseless attacks"


  39. marque2:

    Not every student would be invited into the engineering college either. You not only need to meet the University entrance requirements but the college requirements to be allowed to take certain engineering classes beyond "Intro to ..."

    Well, unless your only college experience is a JC. I think they let students amble about even if they are not qualified for their educational choice.

  40. LarryGross:

    nice try but no cigar. The "entrance requirements" for sports is often not the same as academics and if the rest of the college admitted students on the same basis as the sports did - the academic side of the college would be a disaster.

    there are a few colleges and universities that hold the athletes to the same academic standards as the rest of the college but the vast majority are running a scam to admit those with athletic talent over those who lack academic qualifications.

    The fundamental purpose of college is not to train you to be a professional athlete unless the mission has been perverted.

    there are a few colleges and universities who have kept their scruples on this but many others who have sold their academic souls to the devil in the name of "branding " and marketing.

  41. marque2:

    There are other areas in college where you can not get in unless you have a pre-existing skill. It isn't just football.

    At MIT the entrance requirements for Computer science are that you have already learned several computer languages. Similar to already having developed a skill in sports.

    You just hate sports for some bizarre reason. There is no reason why a college should not allow a student with athletic skills to spend their time in college perfecting those skills. College is meant to take your innate skills and enhance them.

    If you think sports are a worthless pursuit, I can find you quite a few college pursuits which seem to be a waste of talent and waste of University, and taxpayer funds. should probably look at the sociology students as well - Oh yeah, they end up doing poor in life and end up in government jobs then vote for Democrats. That 'spains why that waste is OK.

  42. LarryGross:

    most colleges allow you to enter and take most courses. while there are some higher level academic courses - the focus is on academic not athletic.

    I don't hate sports. I LOVE sports (and have my whole life) but I love sports that is not corrupted into a money game by academic institutions.

    I LOVE colleges that offer a wide variety of sports to all students no matter their innate talent.

    I HATE the idea that colleges have been corrupted by sports and money in sports.

    it's a perversion of the fundamental purpose of college - and as I have said - there are a number of reputable colleges who have refused to let sports corrupt them and I highly respect them for sticking to their academic principles.