IDEMA: The greed of the Big Ten

Like millions of Americans, I will light the fire and turn on the TV for the bowl games on Jan. 1, especially the Rose Bowl when this Wolverine will become a Spartan for a day.
Dec 31, 2013

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



I agree 99% with your analysis. It's not just the big 10 but all of division 1 schools. I too love college football and am a season ticket holder at Western Michigan Univ. I can get in and out of a home game for less than a $100.00. But we too pour millions into facilities and schedule big name schools like U of M and MSU so we can get close to a million for playing and get embarrassed for duing so. It's all relative. Until we all stop buying tickets and stop watching on tv this will continue...go MSU!!!


And yet you keep buying tickets. Maybe you're the problem.


I don't get why he's complaining. Spread the wealth dude, isn't that what you support? However you have an option, buy the tickets or don't buy the tickets. Now you know how we feel, however we don't have an option...


Boater is spot on.

Think about the real victims of this capitalist scam, those who can't afford to see their beloved Wolverines or Spartans. The right thing to do would be for the State of Michigan to tax all taxpayers a set amount to cover the price of tickets, and then set up a government run system that would take away the tickets of season ticket holders and put them all into a Ticket Exchange, where folks who didn't make enough money to afford tickets, or who decided they could survive without tickets, could purchase the tickets at a reduced cost.

The remaining tickets would then be available for sale at a higher price to subsidize the reduced cost of tickets for those who could not afford them. Younger fans would have to pay significantly more for the tickets to cover the costs of the old folks who want to see the Michigan games.

This would result in a far more "fair" ticket system, with those able to afford season tickets paying more for their seats (their fair share) than the rest of the fans, and their seats would be less desirable than the seats they purchased in the past. Michigan could promote this new system by proclaiming over and over again that if you like your season tickets you can keep your season tickets, and if you like your seat location, you can keep your seat location - period. Only later would fans discover this was a lie.

If the system were in place today, a number of fans who never bought tickets could be the beneficiaries of a season ticket for MSU games, and maybe be fortunate enough to travel to Pasadena, to see a homosexual "marriage" on the Rose Parade Float! Is this a great country or what?

Real estate maven

I love it Vlad. I have the perfect Commissioner in mind to oversee the program. He will be available in early 2017 unfortunately no sooner.


I see we are less than 24 hours into 2014, and you are loaded for bear. Your little story would be funny if only you weren't equating the purchase of tickets to see some guys running around a field with a football, piling up on top of each other and slapping their fellow team members on the back side, to people in pain and undergoing invasive treatments and testing, human suffering, enormous medical bills and subsequent bankruptcies, and death, often premature and unnecessary.

Tri-cities realist

Brilliant analogy Vlad, simply brilliant. Happy New Year!


chicken little rocks! Yell at the clouds little man!


Is a homosexual "marriage" different then an heterosexual "marriage"?Funny some people would say only a homosexual would watch the rose bowl parade...


People in the community are going without and the Reverend is spending thousands of dollars in tithings on football tickets, while complaining about greed? I vote for Reverend Idema to lead the County Democratic Party.

Tri-cities realist

Yep, no hypocrisy by the good reverend is there?


College sports has slowly been taken over by the US Big Entertainment Industry. Prices increase because they can - I would wager very few regular ticket holders bat an eye at price increases. The Sport/Entertainment Industry and related enterprises dominate society, and make the promoters and some players very wealthy. It's all about the money, the glory, the excess. The allure and seduction of Big Money College Sports trumps everything - education, academics, and even ethics and morals, i.e. Penn State.


Big Oil - Bad

Big Pharma - Bad

Big Agriculture - Bad

Big Insurance - Bad

Big Entertainment Industry - Bad

Big College Sports- Bad

Big Government - Another Helping, Please

Big Immigration - Another Helping, Please

Big Environmental -Another Helping, Please

And the Beat Goes On

La de da de de, la de da de da


I don't know whether you are referring to me personally, or just drumming about in a general sense, but if you are referring to me personally, I have to correct you. I'm not keen on anything 'Big'. In my opinion, once an institution gets 'Big', it seems to morph into a mere smidgeon of it's former self, loses it's grounding, purpose, and relevance.

If you were writing to the beat of an opposing drum, ignore this post.


Sorry, I didn't realize that you have joined the Tea Party limited government movement for the new year - Mea Culpa!


May I take a rain check on the Mea Culpa? I know how rare and highly revered a Vlad Mea Culpa is, but I'm sorry to inform you that I have not joined the group that was created by, is funded by, and is manipulated by, the Koch Bros and their Big Business cronies. Centrists have the ability to lean both right and left, depending on the courage of their convictions, and generally don't follow the diktats of extremists.

But I'm so pumped tonight after the HUGE Sport/Entertainment Industry Spartan Nation win, I will be magnanimous and allow you the misreading of my post.


Vlad, you left an important one off-BIG TEN-GOOD!!! Who rules the Big Ten-MSU!!! GO GREEN!!! GREEN-GOOD!!!

deuce liti

"God hates those loving violence." Psalm 11:15

¤downer face¤


Reverend, You seem to be confused regarding one key item. There is no such thing as "Spartan for a day". You are a Spartan for life-Go GREEN!!! Sorry to hear about the whole wolverine thing you got going on.


I fail to understand why someone claiming to be a man of Faith is commenting on football ticket prices? Your calling (if there was one) is to spread the Gospel to all creatures not to comment on football tickets or political issues. I suggest you start preaching the word as is or walk away from the pulpit before your “do your own thing” style of preaching sends any of your flock to Hell.
And being the Koch brothers were brought to the table; I've worked for and met them and knew of them for years, they employ a great many people in the breadth of their endeavors and to my knowledge have not used intimidation, legislation or illegal activity to extract money from anybody not wishing to do business with them unlike the self-serving political machines of today.
Many want to demonize anyone who possesses more resources or assets than they have out of jealousy and greed, these guys worked all their lives usually 7 days a week and saved money like hoarders and now that they made it suddenly they are evil and no good? Ever consider if they gave it all to the people claiming they are evil the following day there would be a new crop claiming the newly crowned rich people are evil…at least the Koch brothers worked for it.
I’m not saying they are without sin but if you think they cheated their way to the top you are barking up the wrong tree. The progressive attack machine orchestrated this illusion of the Koch brothers “invented” the T.E.A. party this has about the same level of truth as that idiot Gore and Tipper claiming they invented the internet and they were the couple that inspired Love Story. Don’t believe everything the media tells you as you may too end up falsely accusing your brother to their gain.

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