Archive for Sunday, June 13, 2010

Money game

Fans, students and supporters are getting lost in the money-driven atmosphere of college athletics.

June 13, 2010


It’s all about the money.

It’s not about fan support or how good a school’s athletic or academic programs are. It’s not about tradition, and it’s certainly not about the student athletes.

What’s happening now in the Big 12 conference is almost entirely based on money, the money that comes from big-time contracts to televise college football and basketball.

Much of the support enjoyed by Kansas University Athletic Director Lew Perkins has been based on his ability to raise money for coaches’ salaries and athletic facilities. That ability to raise money was largely credited for the recent success of KU’s athletic teams. It provided the coaches and facilities that created top teams in the revenue sports — football and men’s basketball — which in turn helped support non-revenue sports like baseball and women’s rowing.

However, as illustrated in the current upheaval in the Big 12, money also can have a negative effect on college athletics. Conferences with more major television markets can charge more for the rights to televise their games; joining one of those conferences means more money for your school. The University of Nebraska reportedly stands to double its conference revenue from $10 million a year in the Big 12 to $20 million a year in the Big 10. A similar increase probably awaits the University of Colorado in the Pac-10.

Talking to the news media on Thursday, KU basketball coach Bill Self expressed frustration with “how things are being driven so much by where you live or how many homes are in your state. … There are so many things out there that to me really don’t have much effect on how good your football program is or how your basketball program is.”

So even given KU’s rich basketball tradition, the school is located in a state with a relatively small population and no major media markets. The same is true for most schools in the Big 12 except those located in Texas. Regardless of the quality of the teams, the fan support or donor support the conference simply can’t pull in the big bucks because it doesn’t have enough people watching its games on TV.

Self also saw some irony in the move to megaconferences that force teams to travel farther and lose more class time: “… the NCAA has made a bold statement in the last 10 or 20 years to provide student-athletes with the best experience they can possible have. Conference realignment, I don’t see how that’s student-athlete friendly.”

It’s also not friendly to fans and college towns that support schools and teams in many ways. A horde of red-clad Nebraska fans no longer will be driving in caravans to Lawrence for a fall football game. Western Kansas basketball fans no longer will be able to drive to Boulder to see their team. Some of the potential new alignments for KU will make it difficult for fans who can’t afford a plane ticket to ever follow their team on the road.

Many KU supporters are becoming disenchanted with the emphasis of athletics over academics, especially during the current situation. When you take that one step further to how much money and television contracts dominate athletics at KU and other universities, the scenario becomes even more distasteful.

The money is pulling all the strings, and, so far, the nation’s universities are playing along. You have to wonder what it would take to make them drop out of the game.


anon1958 7 years, 11 months ago

The fans must also shoulder a burden of the blame. Fans in Lawrence have long had a see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil attitude toward their beloved Jayhawks and KU. If the situation was the same here as it is in Lincoln now, no one would be complaining (except me and damn few others) about the "evils" of big money ruining (college sports) their entertainment.

This is the same town that delayed building a second high school for years in order to preserve their precious football tradition. The sports apologists blather on about the "importance" of a basketball/football tradition to KU. What a bunch of baloney from a group of narcissistic knotheads. KU markets and developed its image on a sports tradition, it is of course a self-fulfilling prophesy that if sports decline it will have an impact.

The Bobble-head sports fans always respond with disdain when a comparison to elite education institutions is raised by myself or others. This just goes to show that they are afraid to compete in an arena that matters, or that they are just sod turning anti-intellectuals stuck in the populist morass of the mid 18th century.

In higher education, Kansans aim low.

Congratulations, you hit your mark.

LogicMan 7 years, 11 months ago

If the Big 12 and MWC have a friendly merger, the western Kansas fans will be able to drive to more games per year in CO and WY!

Don Whiteley 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm so glad to see someone finally write this article. This has been a truth that's taken a long time to be said. It has nothing to do with tradition, pride, or student athletes; MONEY makes NCAA sports go round just like professional sports. In fact, where we've come today there's not a thimble worth of difference between the two programs. And all this money has detracted major colleges and universities from their goals of education. If Nebraska was going to take the $10 million in additional revenue and use it to build their educational capabilities, then I'd be behind it; but they won't do that any more than KU would. It will just be another $10 million for the sports progams to use.

Darrell Lea 7 years, 11 months ago

What has happened with college athletics has happened in many other areas of endeavor in U.S. society in modern times. As unfortunate as it may all be, it simply reflects the ultimate outcome of a capitalist system. Money makes the world go 'round, greed is good. etc..

There's no need to worry about the communists/socialists/Islamists/etc.. We will bury ourselves.

beatrice 7 years, 11 months ago

So, will the Big 12 now be known as the Medium 8?

yankeevet 7 years, 11 months ago

Report: Perkins Gets $600K For Staying Kansas Athletic Director Will Retire In 2011 POSTED: 9:11 am CDT June 13, 2010 Email Print Comments (6)TOPEKA, Kan. --

Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins will receive a $600,000 retention payment if he stays through June 30, 2011, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported Saturday. Perkins has already announced plans to retire in September 2011.

Perkins' contract calls for him to receive the $600,000 payment Aug. 1, 2011, the newspaper reported.

Perkins, 65, announced his retirement plans Thursday, one day after he was cleared of accepting free use of gym equipment in exchange for favors and the same day the Big 12 began to break apart with Colorado's defection to the Pac-10.

Perkins' contract would give him another $600,000 if he stayed through 2013. The contract also says that if Perkins is fired before July 1, 2011, Kansas would owe him $300,000 for every year of service, beginning July 1, 2009.

Perkins has an annual base salary of $800,000 and earned $4.4 million in 2009 in salary and bonuses.

Besides a former employee's accusation that Perkins accepted free gym equipment, the university has been rocked by a federal probe into a widespread scam involving the sale of basketball and football tickets.

Five employees, including some of Perkins' closest aides, have been fired. An independent investigation commissioned by the school said the scam went on since at least 2005 and may have cost the school $3 million. The FBI is investigating the allegations and Perkins testified last week before a grand jury.

Perkins has not been implicated, but many have called for his firing for lack of oversight.

Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who has been a staunch ally of Perkins, said earlier that he led the school "during a time of remarkable growth and success" and called his decision to retire a surprise.

Former Kansas chancellor Bob Hemenway hired Perkins in 2003 to replace Al Bohl. Perkins' initial contract with KU was a six-year deal at a base yearly salary of $500,000, plus a potential $25,000 bonus. It also included a retention payment of $1.3 million, which KU paid Perkins in 2009.

A series of amendments in the next five years boosted Perkins' bonuses and retention payments.

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