The Beginning Of The End?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) killed their football program. They are the first university to do so since 1995 when the University of Pacific in Stockton, California killed theirs. Scary thing is that this may be just the beginning but that may also be a good thing.

UAB football

Money and college football have become attached at the hip. While some want to pay players others point to how much it costs to run a program and to dress a team on Saturday.  Now we are seeing with the UAB case that costs truly do play a factor and that not all of the football programs are going to make it.

Sure the big programs like Texas, Alabama, Notre Dame and others will be fine but the smaller programs like Wyoming, UNLV, and Western Kentucky could face the same fate as UAB. In other words, as the rich get richer the poor get poorer.

Can Wyoming, UNLV and Western Kentucky really compete financially with Texas, Alabama and Notre Dame? Of course not but most aren’t trying to. They will always be second class citizens and everyone knows it. The problem with that is fans and alumni still want to win and winning costs money.

American sports fans don’t like losing. It doesn’t matter if their teams will never win a national title they still want to win. When teams don’t win money stops flowing. If smaller programs can’t stay above water then they will fold just like UAB. That means less kids playing football and for some that may be their only way to get a college education.

It’s not just the players. The coaches and support staff are out of work too. While these are not high paying positions there still jobs. These are by-products but it’s still a major change.

UAB killing their football program isn’t the most important thing in the world or even in the sports landscape for that matter. It is however a sign of things to come though.The smaller football programs are just not economically feasible. There may be some good news in all of this though. A side effect may be something that most college football teams want anyway, big teams playing other big programs.

Further reading from the Huffington Post.

 

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The University of Maryland is leaving their current conference, the ACC, to join the Big 10. The Big 10 will also add Rutgers University which will then bring them to a total of 14 teams. The real interesting point in all of this is the $50 million exit fee that Maryland is supposed to pay in order to leave the ACC.

According to some people the exit fee will not add up to $50 million but none the less it begs the questions 1) what will the amount be? and 2) who’s going to pay for it? 3) couldn’t this money be put to better use?

The $50 million dollar exit fee from the ACC was put in place after the ACC pried two teams away from the Big East Conference earlier this year, Pittsburgh and Syracuse respectively. The ACC appeared to be ‘having it’s cake and eating it too’ but in the end that plan didn’t seem to work too well. Even if Maryland doesn’t pay the $50 million they have to pay something. Even if it is only half that money has to come from somewhere and that’s still $25 million.

In a time when schools are raising tuition, student loan debt continues to climb at astronomical rates and a college degree seems to get you less and less shouldn’t this price tag, whatever it amounts to be, raise some red flags?

Yes the Big Ten will bring Maryland’s athletic department (which is financially independent from the university) an exuberant amount of money and allow Maryland to bring back sports programs that were cut in the spring due to a budget crisis but it doesn’t get Maryland any better on the field of play. It doesn’t make them a winner and it sure doesn’t lower the cost of going to school there.

Where is this money coming from? They do have a giant donor in Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank who recently sold 1.3 million shares of the sportswear maker for an estimated $64 million plus but is he really picking up the whole tab? Is taxpayer money at risk?

It’s a pretty certain thing that neither Maryland or Rutgers would make this move without having thought it all the way through but it should still give people pause. This is an awful lot of money for collegiate athletics. While the move made by these universities may be sound financially isn’t their mission to educate?
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