Small Schools Want Everyone To Be Small

Submitted by Brian on December 16th, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Two notable developments in the world of NCAA committee flerbydoo. One: schools without money say schools with money shouldn't give a small slice of that to their athletes.

The NCAA's plan to give athletes a $2,000 stipend may be in trouble.

The legislation, passed in October, now faces an override challenge at January's annual NCAA convention, a decision that could create an unusual discrepancy between recruits who have already signed national letters-of-intent and those who have not. …

Berst said 97 schools have signed onto the override measure, more than the 75 needed for the NCAA board to reconsider the stipend. If that number hits 125 by Dec. 26, the legislation would be suspended.

Two: schools without money say schools with money should give fewer scholarships out.

The NCAA's Resource Allocation Working Group, an offshoot of the summit conducted by NCAA president Mark Emmert last August, finalized a list of proposals that are designed to cut costs and to free up money for other areas within athletic departments.

The proposals include trimming the maximum number of scholarships for Football Bowl Subdivision programs from 85 to 80, for Football Championship Subdivision programs from 63 to 60, and women's basketball programs from 15 to 13.

What does Todd Graham think of this?


He likes it almost as much as he likes private jets, leaving schools after one year, and making his wife wear oriental rugs as blouses*.

Say what you want about the vast and overarching corruption of the NCAA and its conspiracy to alienate workers from the fruits of their labors, but at least the big schools, cognizant of that hypocrisy, tried to bridge a portion of the gap this year. The NJITs of the world are shooting it down despite the change being completely voluntary:

The board approved a measure allowing conferences to vote on providing up to $2,000 in spending money, or what the NCAA calls the full cost-of-attendance.

The legislation poses no financial burden on anyone who doesn't have the money. If that creates an unbalanced playing field, 1) no it doesn't since your training table is already rice and beans and 2) it damn well should.

Only someone as blinkered as USA Today's Christine Brennan—whose collected works should be entitled "TITLE IX TITLE IX TITLE IX"—could think voluntarily closing a gap between living expenses and scholarships is "unfair" because it doesn't let womens' athletics set more money on fire.


Title IX makes sense at institutions where no one is actually making money for the school. It ceases to do so at places where college athletics becomes a massive transfer scheme from statistically poor basketball and football players to statistically wealthy (and, in the case of women, increasingly overrepresented) non-revenue athletes who can afford tennis lessons and whatnot.

It is incoherent to have these two groups under one roof. There's a fundamental divide between schools that are unprofitable by choice and those that are inherently so, a fundamental divide between schools where mens' basketball and football players have economic value only the schools are realizing and those where every athlete is a net expense. Before you condemn the big ones, realize that it's the small ones and their futile attempt to maintain a "level playing field" that is preventing larger schools from making even token moves towards a fairer system.

It's probably time for another split, or at least serious saber-rattling from the schools that drive the revenue the NCAA subsists on. The remoras at the bottom of the D-I pool need to be reminded who the sharks are.

*[Congratulations, Arizona State. You've hired a guy who just displaced Bobby Petrino as the go-to-reference for skeezy mercenary coaches. I know you can't pass up a guy who took Pitt from 7-5 to 6-6 that quickly, but… actually, maybe you can.]



December 16th, 2011 at 11:53 AM ^

He's not taking a shot at the Title IX goal of giving women sports opportunities. He's saying that when it's prohibiting schools from actually returning a tiny fraction of the revenue generated by athletes, to the athletes that actually generated it, that's a problem. The fact that 47 women may get an additional $2,000 is only possible because of the revenue and unfairness in the men's sports. The women are, as Brian said, literally setting the money on fire as you'd be hard pressed to find any women's sport that comes close to breaking even.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:02 PM ^

To say that Title IX is expensive is to miss the point, or at least to not fully answer the question.  

All anti-discrimination legislation is expensive, whether it be the ADA, the ADEA, Title VII, or Title IX. In some cases, anti-discrimination legislation can be really expensive. But those programs aren't (or shouldn't be) evaluated solely on those terms, because the raw cost of the program isn't really the point. Anti-discrimination legislation, including Title IX, is addressed to concerns outside of economics, particularly to the idea that unequal treatment on the basis of certain characteristics is just plain wrong, even if trying to prevent that discrimination can be really freaking expensive.

Before Title IX was enacted, female athletes at the college and high school level were second-class citizens. They had to deal with bad equipment, bad facilities, and bad access. And it artificially depressed female participation in athletics far below what would have happened had the playing field been equal (since Title IX's enactment, female participation in athletics has gone through the roof, and it's not just because colleges are forcing women to take up rowing).

When you say "you'd be
hard pressed to find any women's sport that comes close to breaking even," I say "I don't care." College athletics weren't designed as profit centers. We have them because we think they add something meaningful to the life of a university that justifies their costs. If implementation of Title IX has led to some problems (and it has), the problems we have now are sure as hell better than the world before Title IX, when there were massive barriers to women who actually wanted to play college basketball even getting access to the hardwood.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

but what you have now is:

Let's have poor minority kids work for us for free and use the money to fund rich white kid sports.

If you attempted this in any other business beside college athletics, you would get yout tush sued off by the minority employees and the government.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^

If Michigan could unilaterally do away with Title IX, could you tell a star, female softball player or tennis player etc. that while we appreciate that you have devoted innumerable hours to your sport and are at the top of your game, we will not offer you a scholarship because we are devoting our resources to male sports that generate revenue?  I couldn't do it.

But I would have no problem telling a WNBA player that she will earn significantly less money than an NBA player because the market does not support equal salaries.  The difference being that one is in the context of school while the other is in the context of a profession.  Even at Michigan or UCLA or Stanford, very few of the athletes will become professionals.  We are a school with a different mission than a business and our paradigm should reflect that difference.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:31 PM ^

You make a good point when you say, "Even at Michigan or UCLA or Stanford, very few of the athletes will become professionals." 

This is why, though, I'm strongly in favor of some kind of compensation beyond what players get in the current scheme.  It's the Martavious Odomses of the world who are being exploited right now - he helps bring in a bunch of money but is compensated as if he was an athlete that did not. 


December 16th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

I received a research stipend and addtional money for teaching labs.

However, this was a fraction of the money the "professional" (fully degreed engineer or professor) would receive and what the department received for the research grant.

Other students that didn't have the grades or weren't in a major where research grants are plentiful were not allowed these monies and privileges.

I don't see why sports should be different.

By that logic, the money gained from male-dominated engineering research grants should be applied to creating research grants in female dominated departments, like education.


December 16th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

It's different because research, almost by definition, requires money.  Brady Hoke does not require $3 million (or whatever) per year, nor does the stadium require renovations, etc.  Those things are determined by a market; research is not.  

Football players happen to have chosen (or been blessed with the ability to be good at) a sport that just happens to capture Americans' interest.  That doesn't make football any more valuable in an educational sense (which is the expressed point of collegiate athletics).  In the idealistic world of collegiate athletics, the value is the lessons learned by the athletes, and for that, money should not be a factor.  

Right or wrong, the point of collegiate athletics is not to turn a profit, but to expose as many human beings as possible to the lessons that can be gained from the hardwood, gridiron, tennis court, etc.  Just because someone chose one of those sports over another at an early age should not necessarily entitle them to more money in college.  The melding of a professional world (coaching, construction & maintenance of facilities, etc) with amateur (18-22 yr old college students) is bound to create tension.  That's just the way it's always going to be.  But the point of collegiate athletics is to maximize exposure so as many as possible can benefit; not reduce that exposure to reward those whose parents chose wisely when they signed them up for pop warner.


December 16th, 2011 at 1:22 PM ^

I would have no problem telling any athlete that they are not getting a scholarship.  School should be primarily about academics yet there are few scholarships for top scholars - ironic since the word "scholar" is in "scholarship."  I'm in favor of well-rounded students but increasingly, academics is taking a back seat to other interests/endeavors.


December 16th, 2011 at 1:30 PM ^

So the additional $2000 to football players (in addition the scholarships they already receive) is preferable to more scholarships to non-revenue athletes, just because there "are few" academic scholarships?  So if "few" smart people can get a scholarship then just give the money to football players for pizza -- got it....


December 16th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

Assuming the scholarship softball player needs a scholarship to attend college, yes I'd feel bad. But statistically, a male football player is more likely to need the scholarship, wheras the female softball player likely would have attended college anyway.

Besides, I can turn your hypothetical around just as well: Would you be okay telling a male wrestler who worked hard etc etc etc "You can't get a scholarship or even play varsity because we couldn't find enough girls who wanted to be on the rowing team?" Or "We know you came from a broken home in the ghetto and would have dropped out of high school without wrestling, but you're male, so it's more fair to give your scholly to a women's lacrosse player with a trust fund"

Cock D

December 16th, 2011 at 2:50 PM ^

Afterall, recent tax poilicies (Bush tax cuts and subsequent extenders) tend to accomplish precisely the sort of transfer you hypothesize.

And to the point above about the non-politics rule here: While this rule is generally a great rule, it should be inapplicable here as this is a perfectly cromulent place and time to discuss.  Yes, it's politics but it's directly applicable to Michigan athletics.  Title IX had a good and valid purpose when it was created and continues to have a noble goal.  But if the mandate to create access has been fulfilled and continued use of the law has perverse outsomes (such as noted above), it's time to revisit.  I don't advocate repealing it, but something needs to be done re: revenue sports and non-revenue sports as well as profitable programs vs. un-profitable programs.  Identifying that and positing solutions is not "taking shots at Title IX".

All in all, a great post by Brian and certainly within his rights to bring up (especially on his own blog(!)).


December 16th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

But when you say "College athletics weren't designed as profit centers," it ignores the fact that some college sports make a lot of profit and that that profit often pays for women's sports. The Denard Robinson's of the world are being asked to shoulder more than their load in the system as it is right now.  They pay for their own sport and other sports too, but they aren't compensated for it. 


December 16th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

aren't particularly well-formed.  I think I'm uncomfortable with it, but it might just be an "old man yells at cloud" thing.  I'm mostly responding to Brian's point that Title IX doesn't make sense at big colleges, which is in line with several other posts he's made that have been very critical of Title IX.  

Mitch Cumstein

December 16th, 2011 at 1:04 PM ^

I'm not familiar with Brian's specific thoughts on Title IX, but I tend to think while it makes sense at big colleges, there needs to be some reform.  Look at what happened at Rutgers in the past 5 or so years.  The restrictions of Title IX hurt both male and female athletes. 

I don't know what the solution to the problem is, but I think it is counterproductive to say "hey football program, its your job to make all the money to support all other teams".  And then at the same time tell the coaches "well we're limited with resources b/c we don't have enough female sports teams and expenses to offset what you want to do to improve the program."  I think in a lot of cases Title IX hurts women athletics.  That being said, I am NOT in favor of doing away with it, just adjusting it.

Spontaneous Co…

December 16th, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

I think most people would be fine with that.  I think the real question is what if you aren't Michigan.  You are a smaller school that has a decent football team and an athletic department that does not turn a profit (which is the vast majority of schools.)  Doesn't this system either force you to match the big schools or suffer a competitive disadvantage?"

If that is the result, then I'll admit that I don't really care but it does seems unfair.  The system is moving in a direction that favors those who already are at a huge advantage based on popularity, resources, facilities, etc.

Interestingly, no one has commented on the proposed reduction in scholarships for football to 80.  I know what Hoke (and probably all football coaches) think, but I am not opposed to it.  Just in the B1G that would be 60 kids who are pretty good players who might end up in the MAC or C-USA.  Increased parity might make those Tues/Wed/Thurs Toledo v. Central Mich games more bearable.


December 16th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

So ok, Conference USA gets better players. But less of them. So the players who get bumped off their squads in favor of the better players, where do they go? The MAC? Then the lower tier MAC players...the playoff subdivision? And those guys? Wayne State...eventually, along the line, someone is getting bumped from playing completely.  And if the idea is truly opportunity for needy athletes, that's completely counterproductive. What's really inspiring the smaller schools is not the student athlete, but the chance for them to get better ones, closer to the level of the big boys.  And while I don't think the big schools want more scholarships for anything other than their benefit either, at least it aligns with greater, rather than less, opportunity.


December 16th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

I'll add this, too:  I originally posted that the big conferences should leave the NCAA.  What I didn' t state in that post is this: I was motivated to say that by the possibility of the scholarship reductions and the down-voting of the $2,000/yr proposal.  Creating a new NCAA-type thing wouldn't get you away from Title IX, but it would get you away from that. 

I don't see Title IX as being nearly as big a problem as is governing a system under the assumption that EMU is an equal to Michigan, because it's not an equal. 


December 16th, 2011 at 4:40 PM ^

The Toledo Mud Hens are AAA which is not the Major Leagues, so one wouldn't expect the Mud Hens to compete with the Yankees.  However you would expect them to compete with the other teams of the AAA.  A more apt analogy would be the Royals and Yankees since they are both in the Major League.

But maybe what is need is another Division above 1A.


December 16th, 2011 at 3:29 PM ^

I thought it was to allow someone to get an education who otherwise might not have that opportunity, not to more equally distribute athletes across a set of educational institutions without regard for their academic qualtiy. It seems inarguable that qualtiy of the education available to a student at Michgian is far superior to that at Toledo. Reducing access to a superior education in the name of improving MAC football games, seems counter the edcational goal of a scholarship program. 


Spontaneous Co…

December 16th, 2011 at 3:52 PM ^

it is your goal with football scholarships to get as many kids to top tier institutions as possible.  Let's be honest though, that isn't the goal with football scholarships.

The clear goal is to get the absolute best football players who can qualify to the University of Michigan.  Understanding that is the system, I don't feel bad if some of these kids who have 2.6 GPA's in high school have to go to Toledo for free instead of Michigan.

And you are making a massively incorrect assumption in believing that most of the top tier football programs are also of superior "academic quality."  Just think if a kid who couldn't get a scholarship to Auburn based on football talent ended up at Northwestern.  That is the best thing that could ever happen to that kid.

I think, as Erik pointed out, the loss, from an altruistic "benefit society" theory is that a reduction in scholarships flows downhill until it hits a few hundreds kids who are the least talented, from a football sense, and they lose scholarships and have to pay for college like I did.

I am not in favor of scholarship reductions, I'm just ambivalent about it.  And if it happens, I'll be excited to see if it increases parity.



December 16th, 2011 at 12:43 PM ^

plenty of athletes play football yet could be quite successful in other sports. Almost all highschool all americans play 2 or 3 sports. They could focus on something other than football in college if they chose to, but many choose football, partly because the public is interested in it no doubt. Unless by being "gifted" you mean "athletic" in general.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

When you say "you'd be hard pressed to find any women's sport that comes close to breaking even," I say "I don't care."

OK, but then you should not complain about football ticket prices being increased. One of the athletic department's biggest expenses is tuition and room and board for scholarship athletes.

I have no problem with us fielding women's teams, but I don't understand why players on these teams deserve scholarships.  Ditto for the nonrevenue men's teams.  If they want to play, great.  They can call themselves varsity athletes.  But there is no rational explanation for them getting to go to school for free (or at least at a major discount) when they bring in no revenue to the school (and actually cost the school a lot of money). 


December 16th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^

The rationale for giving non-revenue athletes scholarships is that college athetics (and college generally) is absolutely not supposed to be about "who creates a profit for the university."  If it were, we wouldn't have scholarships for art and music and theatre.  


December 16th, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

OK, but then riddle me this: why is it that universities around the world grant scholarships for art, music and theatre, but the United States is the only country in the world that does so for athletics?  You cannot get a free university education anywhere else in the world by being a field hockey player.  If every other society has decided that universities shouldn't have anything to do with bigtime sports, what reason do we have to act differently?

The giving of scholarships to football players was a natural consequence of the fact that they started bringing in a lot of money.  It began for no other reason than that (and at most schools, it didn't happen until the 1950s or later).  The giving of scholarships to nonrevenue athletes is completely illogical.


December 17th, 2011 at 8:30 AM ^

In most other parts of the West tertiary education is highly subsidized, and a college degree can be paid for on a waiter's the United States we've *ahem* gone the other way.

I guess what it really comes down to is, while you are holding true to the original spirit of athletic scholarships, most other people simply see them as a way to work around the prohibitive costs of attending a quality school.


Golly gee willikers, could it be that we've discovered a conflict of interest here?


December 16th, 2011 at 12:37 PM ^

But why can't you say the same thing about students who are on academic scholarships or those on scholarships because of unique talents (like music)?  Or to make the point even more emphatic, how are need-based students different from non-revenue athletes.  Both take money away from the University with no direct financial benefit to the school.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

It's not (nor was it) about discrimination. The reason there was poor equipment and poor facilities is that there was no interest from people to watch the women's sport or generate revenue for it. No interest, no money - this is how life works. In today's world, there is still no interest nor money going towards women's sports. And now we have two male sports generating billions of dollars for people, and we think they should get a infinitesimal fraction of that money back, and they can't. Because it's unfair to women.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:26 PM ^

that funding for amateur athletics should depend on how much profit any given sport generates.  I think that idea is antithetical to the very notion of college and high school athletics, which just aren't supposed to be about that shit.  The tendency to act like everything is a simple economic question is one of the major flaws of the way we talk about issues these days.  

We're probably gonna have to agree to disagree on this one.  


December 16th, 2011 at 12:45 PM ^

I don't think we're that far apart actually. I'm saying orginally the baseline funding was very disparate between women and men's sports because very few people had interest in women's sports. Society decided this was limiting opportunities we would like to give women and thus established a bare minimum set of requirements. In essence, when Title IX gave women disproportionate opportunity relative to interest. And that's fine.

Nowadays, the problem with Title IX is that it limits what can be done to even out other unfairness. The thought that we can't return a small amount of revenue to the players that generate because it's not increasing the disproportionality of what women recieve is not right. Or, a school like Illinois can't add hockey, which is likely to nearly break even, unless it elevates a women's program that is going to come no where near breakeven. In essence, there would be 0 cost to adding more men's programs, but since you have to tie them to high cost women's programs, the men get shafted. See wrestling programs across the nation.

I think we can agree that TitleIX needs to be updated so we can continue to add opportunities, especially in cases where it's a low/no/revenue+ opportunity for men, and not send women back to the stone age in sports.


December 16th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

This post flattens all history to the market. The reason there were gross funding disparaties was partly about interest and ticket sale. It was also about longheld beliefs that sports were dangerous to women's bodies, that they disrupted the potential for childbirth and menstrual cycles, that they were unfeminine, that women were not, in their nature, competitive, etc. Those ideas had little to do with "interest in women's sports," they had to do with ideas about women's physical nature that served as one of the major forces of female subordination, but they also underlay the reasons that there was little interest in women's sports.

Those ideas were unfair to women, they conscribed the choices available to them in college, and in the workplace, where they kept women out of jobs requiring physical labor, thus closing off a good portion of the well-paying blue collar jobs in the country. Title IX, along with other anti-discrimination legislation, has been very successful in countering those arguments, which now exist only at the political fringe rather than being assumptions held by all but a minority of women's rights activists.



December 16th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

I think (maybe I'm being naive) that we've reached a point where we're back to the fact that funding disparaties were, as you say, partly about interest and ticket sales.  The facts, of course, are that people pay to watch football and men's b-ball in a way that they mostly will not pay to watch women's sports. 


December 16th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

I can only say that it sure seems to me that women's sports are not treatedly differently than non-revenue-generating men's sports any longer.  I am, though, only really very familiar with one undergrad school - the Univ. of Kansas (which is far more liberal than the rest of the state) - but a good amount of people there would be forcefully against any attempt to favor, say, men's tennis over women's tennis...An interesting counter-example is that any attempt to equate either tennis team w/ the men's basketball team would be met by most with incredulity.  The men's basketball team at Kansas is an 8,00 lb gorilla that has no equal.   


December 16th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

to hamper interest, if it was only about whether the athlete has a penis or not, men's gymnastics and stuff would be selling out all over the Country, because, well, they're MEN.  But it doesn't, because there's just not a lot of interest in it, no matter what sex is doing it. (Might not have been a great example, because there are sex bias in how skating and gymnastics are actually more popular women's sports...but I don't see most wrestling programs making a profit either).


December 16th, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

I agree that the value of Title IX was instrumental in allowing young women to realize their dreams of playing collegiately and helped to grow and mature the international potential of US women.

BUT when you consider that the % of women currently enrolled in college is about 57% compared to 43% men, it becomes harder to argue that women do not have enough power and influence as a group to require universities to field competitive sporting teams for both genders.  Now, that doesn't mean that some schools would not abandon female athletic programs are a greater rate than men's if the Title IX requirements were dropped, but I'm fairly certain that most programs would remain, or at least the ones that are not so prohibitively expensive that they do not make financial sense for the school.  I mean, schools field track and cross country teams that have few scholarships and are a net loss to the university, but do so because they have strong support, tradition, etc.  The same would be true for those female sports with a strong enough presence on the campus.  But when a struggling AD is required to provide the same number of scholarships to female tennis players and swimmers as he/she does the income-producing football and basketball team, that doesn't make any sense and seems anti-competitive considering the usual rememdy is cutting scholarships/programs on the men's side. 

And with so many more women in college now than men, schools that did drop certain programs might be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to enrollment, as women interested in those sports would go to the supporting schools.  As it is, male athletes are seeing a shrinking pool of options for non-revenue generating sports while some schools are struggling to field and maintain female equivalent programs that are simply a money loss for the university. 

Title IX isn't a perfect corrolary to the ADA or Title VII because those were designed to address specific acts of discrimination against a group (typically protected) that have little means of opposition to those abuses.  There are more women in the US than men, they attend college at a greater rate than men, and have such financial, political, and economic power that it is hard to envision them still needing a federal law to make sure schools provide enough scholarships for crew.  Let them exert their influence in those circumstances, and my guess is that the overall athletic scene at colleges would not be adversely affected.