I love college football, but I am very disturbed by what greed is doing to the sport (the physical and mental injuries are an issue for another time). I will concentrate here on the Big Ten — since I know this best, being a season ticket holder at the University of Michigan.
Last year, the University of Michigan charged me (or taxed me, or forced me into a donation) $250 for the right to purchase my two season tickets. For the 2014 season, the athletic department increased that to $400! A hefty increase.
Some schools charge as much as $1,000 per ticket for the right to purchase season tickets. Yes, most of this charge is tax-deductible, but I rather make my own choices of "charitable" causes, and I can think of much better causes than college football, e.g. The Salvation Army.
Where does this money go? Largely to the coaches' and athletic directors' salaries, and facilities — the arms race.
Al Borges, the offensive coordinator at Michigan, makes $709,300. Brady Hoke, the head coach, weighs in at $3.5 million. This is obscene for academic institutions, paying coaches far more than professors and even the president of the university.
The "student athletes" get none of this gravy. They get full-ride scholarships, but combining football and a challenging academic load is about impossible. So, schools have easy tracks for football players and other athletes. Jim Harbaugh criticized this aspect of Michigan years ago and got slammed. He was right on. I saw this myself as a student in the late '60s.
To get even more money from TV, the Big Ten invited Maryland and Rutgers to join the conference. What do these schools add both academically and athletically? Zero, in my view.
Tickets are now $75 to $90 per game. Want to buy mine for Maryland and Rutgers? The parking will cost you now about $40, water is $4 in the stadium, and the hot dogs ought to be a foot-long for what they cost.
TV controls the game. Michigan's bowl game started at 10:15 on a Saturday night. Great planning for kids and the Eastern audience!
Big Ten games are either too early, starting at noon; or they start too late, 3:30 or in the evening. Why? Greed!
Michigan is rated the 18th best university in the world. How many football players would get in if they applied like the rest of the human race. Perhaps a few, but not many.
The same holds true for most football factories. Football players take the place of a more qualified student. Why? Greed!
Universities and secondary schools in China and Europe put far more energy into academics than sports. We are wasting much energy on a sports mission at the expense of a school's academic mission. When students burn couches in celebration of a victory and start riots on a campus, no more proof is needed of misplaced priorities.
Recruiting has turned into an industry, where players are given stars and the hot prospects are often enticed through women and drugs — not to speak of money! — to attend a particular school. Some of these hotshots hold press conferences to announce their choice of schools, and sometimes put three or four school hats on a table before putting the hat of the lucky school on the head that will soon suffer too many blows in the next four years. Grown men are left in tears at the bridesmaid schools.
The doctrine of sin in the Christian faith teaches that human beings are capable of ruining anything good and turning it into corruption. The sin of greed has done that to college football.
Empty seats, fan anger, and perhaps the courage of university presidents and boards maybe can turn things around, but the Big Ten's greed no doubt will win out. Money does that to good intentions.
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist