Money, Money, Lots Of Money …

I’ve been thinking about collegiate athletics and the effect that college football has had on the overarching structure of collegiate athletics.  And I believe that what college football has caused to happen is not necessarily good for college sports.  I have no interest in posturing here about the wages of sin and how money is the root of all evils.  The folks who administer college football saw the opportunity to bring in millions and millions of dollars into their individual and collective organizations.  Naturally, they took that opportunity.

College football will have in 2024 nine conferences, one conference with only two members, and three “independent schools”.  What used to be the PAC-12 will now be more properly called the PAC-2 and the three independent schools are:

  1. Notre Dame – – just because they have always been an independent
  2. UConn – – who cares?
  3. UMass – – who else cares?

The addiction of American sports fans to American football provided the opportunity to make mega-dollars and with that incentive out there, the semi-logical geographically consistent football conferences began to expand and swallow up schools from other conferences creating geographically ridiculous conferences.

  • The Atlantic Coast Conference will include the California Golden Bears, the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Stanford Cardinal.
  • The Big 10 will have 18 teams competing stretched from Rutgers and Maryland in the eastern US to USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington in the west.

The CFP will expand to 12 teams this year and surely beyond that number after 2026.  Football will bring in truckloads of cash and will cause problems elsewhere in college sports.  I am not going to wail about the loss of traditional rivalries as rival schools go to different conferences.  Frankly, if the rivalry is strong enough to be a “moneymaker”, that rivalry will survive.  Rather I want to take up the cause of the college athletes in a non-revenue sport such as baseball/softball, gymnastics, swimming, et. al.

Just look for a moment at the two conferences cited above.  These non-revenue athletes will have travel schedules imposed on them that make no sense outside the Venn diagram that is dominated by a circle labeled “Football Revenue”.  Your average college gymnast or swimmer is not looking for a great NIL deal or a ten-million-dollar pro career in his/her sport.  Most of those athletes are using their athletic abilities to get partial scholarships that ameliorate the costs of a college education.  And that travel scheduling cannot be of assistance there.

College football changed the landscape of college athletics in the past decade or so culminating in the structure we have starting in 2024.  Not all change is for the better…

And speaking obliquely about NIL, here is another fallout from that money-driven sector of college athletics.  For athletes who are going to school with “six-figure” NIL deals – – or more? – – what does the concept of “eligibility” mean?  When there was the grand delusion of the “student-athlete” there was a logic to something like “4 years of eligibility” since that was the expected duration of the “student” portion of “student-athlete”.  Now, in the revenue sports – and particularly in football – there are few if any pure “student-athletes” so:

  • Why can’t a player stay as a “college football participant” for as long as any team will have him if he can find NIL deals to support himself?
  • Why can’t a player enroll in a grad school and pursue a legitimate advanced degree – – and play football at the same time?
  • Why does the player need to be enrolled at a school at all?

Just wondering …

And just as the pursuit of money has created seismic changes in college sports, there seems to be a similar pursuit that is getting underway in MLB.  Stories are beginning surface about the owners pondering expansion by two teams.  Let us strip away any PR nonsense here about the fervent desire for baseball in certain expansion sites; that was the narrative here in DC to get the Expos here and the Nats’ fans – – the ones who were starved for baseball for lo those many years – – only draw well when the team is in contention.  Many is the season, the Nats do not sell out Opening Day.

MLB expansion is about money and nothing else.  The carrot in front of the owners is the hefty “admission fee” they will charge to 2 new ownership groups.  To keep this in round numbers, assume the entry fee is $2B for each new team – – just a tad more than the last franchise sold for.  If the MLB front office took $100M off the top for its expenses, that would leave the 30 current owners with $3.9B to split up.  Here’s the math:

  • $3.9B  ÷  30 owners  =  $130M apiece

Obviously, that is enticing.  At the same time, there might be other consequences that are not so appealing:

  • Three franchises were ‘on the market” in the past couple of years.  Two came off the market when they could not attract what the owner wanted for the team.  In the Nats’ case, that number was reported to be $2.4B.
  • The third franchise on the market was the Orioles and they just sold for $1.75B.

That tells me there was no clamor of bidders driving prices upward for three existing teams in the near past.  Expanding the leagues will take two of the possible purchasers for baseball teams out of the marketplace; they will have their expansion franchises and cannot own two teams at the same time.  So, is MLB expansion an unalloyed good thing?  I don’t think so.

And by the way, the current CBA between MLB and the MLBPA will need renegotiation soon; the agreement expires in December 2026.  So, ask yourself this:

  • If you had something like $2B lying around to invest in owning a baseball team, would you buy one before you knew the terms of the new CBA?
  • If you have $2B just lying around, you probably have a level of economic savvy that would tell you to “wait and see”.

Finally, today has been about money so let me close with these items related to money and other things in life:

“Always remember, money isn’t everything – but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense.”  Earl Wilson

And …

“I learned in school that money isn’t everything.  It’s happiness that counts.  So momma sent me to a different school.”  Zsa Zsa Gabor

And …

“Money isn’t everything but it sure keeps you in touch with your children.”  J. Paul Getty

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Money, Money, Lots Of Money …”

  1. If the NIL collective at Alabama lures a football player away from Vandy and that player has an NIL contract with Vandy’s collective, is that Tortuous Interference in the Vandy contract? Could/should Alabama be sued by Vandy? Especially if the player was the star QB at Vandy. Hasn’t college sports become just another line of business?

    1. Doug:

      There are still plenty of unknowns to be sorted out in the world of NIL. Yours is definitely one of the, …

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