OK, so now it comes out that annual spending on sports by public universities in six big-time conferences, such as the SEC and Big 12, has passed $100,000 per athlete.

That, according to an Associated Press article, is about six to 12 times the amount those universities are spending per student on academics.

The article also stated that some of the figures may be misleading. For example, some figures that would, at first glance, appear to be spending on academics were not counted as spending on academics. Still, something is badly out of whack when it comes to athletics vs. academics spending.

Things have been out of whack for awhile, and it has been getting worse.

With tuition for non-athletes at some schools actually rising to cover athletics costs, I think the average student should stop and think, “What am I actually getting out of this?”

If he or she weighs tuition hikes against the thrill of seeing his or her school’s team play and think, “I’m getting enough,” I can understand. The break sports can provide non-athletes from the rigors of study, and/or jobs they have to put themselves through school, should not be under-emphasized.

And I realize there are schools such as Stanford that have academic programs to match their big-time sports programs. There are the Ivy League schools, some of which have basketball teams that show quite well in the NCAA Tournament. The Big 10 has a stellar academic reputation. A former colleague’s family member attended Iowa, which she said is an outstanding academic school.

Actually, I think the schools that should consider dropping out of the big-time sports arms race are not schools such as the biggest SEC spenders - they have the revenue base to cover all that spending.

The schools that should consider dropping out are the ones in the bottom half of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). They are the ones who, according to an AP story, rely on big subsidies from the academic side to fund athletics.

Has it reached the point where these schools’ academic missions are being compromised? I don’t know. If it has, then these schools’ pooh-bahs have some soul searching to do.

Look, I think any school, at any level, should drop, or de-emphasize, a sport only as a last resort. I don’t think that way just because I’m a sportswriter. My two sisters are veteran teachers who, though certainly not anti-sports, are not exactly avid sports fans. They are adamantly against dropping sports at youth and high school levels.

I wrote a column about a high school that did, briefly, eliminate sports because of finances. The result wasn’t good. The minority of the student body who were athletes were harmed and the non-athlete student body majority was not helped.

I doubt that the overall outcome of dropping sports at any university level would be grand. Still, I think more schools should look hard at how their athletics are affecting their academics.

Football subsidizes other sports at many schools, yet there are schools - Chico State, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara, to name a few - that dropped football and still have quite viable athletics programs.

One guy’s advice to those FBS schools that are getting hammered in the big-time sports arms race: Drop out of it. There’s no shame in that. Drop out while your dignity, and your academics, are still intact.         

  

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