According to the New York Times, collegiate athletic costs are rising. On hearing this, you’re probably thinking of the Big Names like Michigan or Texas that are flush in TV money to spend extraordinary amounts of cash on sports. But that’s not quite it. You might be thinking of those just outside the window spending like hell to get inside, like East Carolina or UTSA. That’s not quite it, either. A lot of the growth is occurring at some of college sports’ lowest levels:

For years, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a watchdog group of academic leaders and others, has been documenting, and deploring, the race in sports expenditures at the most competitive level, Division I. But this report is believed to be the first that also compares educational spending and athletic spending, over time, at Division II and III schools and at community colleges. {…}

Using data from the United States Department of Education, the N.C.A.A., and its own surveys, the association paints a sobering picture in its report, titled “Losing Focus,” of a sector in which the growth in educational spending trails far behind that of athletic spending — especially at community colleges and Division II and III institutions.

Does every school need a football team? But that’s not exactly it, either:

The fastest growth in athletic spending was at Division III schools without football programs, where median inflation-adjusted spending for each student-athlete more than doubled from 2004 to 2012.

During discussions about whether college athletes should get paid, we often forget that the vast majority of them compete from schools we’ve never heard of. Few reports on college sports really surprise me, but this one actually does. The vast majority of the time D2 and (especially) D3 schools aren’t among those angling for more lucrative conference situations. They’re not caught in bidding wars for high-profile coaches. It seems to me the most expensive thing they can be doing is starting football, and those aren’t even the ones that are hardest hit.

Granted, schools at those levels have lower baselines from which growth can occur. In numerical amounts, the rises from Michigan down to Old Dominion down to Abilene Christian College are probably rising faster Louisiana Centenary (and probably rising faster in direct relationship to how familiar with them we are. Even so, it’s quite odd to me that there is a rat-race that far down. Then again, I regularly hear people express exasperation that colleges care whether they are in the Sun Belt or Conference USA which is a distinction that makes a huge difference to the schools involved. So maybe there is a rat race through and through.

Category: School

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